This week, I made this illustration for the “Freedom” prompt of the 2017 Gratitude Challenge, and it really got me thinking about how freeing the act of letting go really is. But it’s also really difficult to do — at least for me it is. I’m pretty picky so when I let a person / thing / experience / idea / behavior into my life, I find it challenging to let it go (even when I know for sure it’s no good for me). But, as I say often, it’s often the most challenging things that are the ones worth doing.
Hanging onto the things you no longer need might feel comforting, but consider what would happen if trees clung to all of their dead leaves? Come spring, the brand new (alive!) leaves would have a pretty tough time finding room on the branches. Same goes for us. When we cling to what’s no longer enhancing our lives, we block off possibilities for new things to flourish.
Releasing our own dead leaves isn’t always a smooth and effortless process, the way it seems to be for the trees, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. If we want the freedom that comes with letting go, it’s up to us to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of letting go. Here are some of the best ways to get started:
- Determine what you value most. When you take a step back and think about you truly value in your life, you’ll realize that much of you’re holding on to isn’t as essential as you might’ve thought. What’s essential is being healthy, positive, mindful, and living your life to the fullest (or maybe some other things that matter most to you!). If you are clinging to things or people, you’re not experiencing true freedom. You’re restricted by beliefs that aren’t allowing you to thrive the way the trees do in the spring. Stepping back and assessing what really matters to you will make letting go a lot easier.
- Reflect on what you’re really receiving. We often hang on to things or people because we believe they’re add value to our lives, that we’re receiving some benefit from them (or providing it to them). But is that actually a fact? Are you actually benefiting from the clutter (emotional or physical) in your life, or do you just tell yourself you are because it’s easier than choosing change? Reflecting on whether or not a person / experience / etc. is making your life richer can provide you with a boost of motivation to let someone or something go. Of course, not everything in life is about what you get from it, but if something is taking more than it’s giving, it might not be worth clinging to.
- Take note of what you’re overvaluing. Are you placing high value on a person or thing you’re holding on to unnecessarily? Are you giving something way more value than it truly has? More often than not, we idealize people or things and tell ourselves that, for whatever reason, we need it/him/her. Needing something is kind of prison; it keeps you trapped in situations that aren’t necessarily beneficial for you. If there’s a voice inside you saying “let go,” it’s a pretty good sign that you should let go. What you truly need in your life is never going to be accompanied by a voice that urges you to let go. Listen to that voice — not the one that overvalues what’s no good for you as a way to keep you feeling the false comfort of not experiencing freedom.
- Be strong enough to release your grasp. It really does come down to two little words: let go. No matter how hard it feels, no matter what obstacles appear to stand in your way, if you want to experience true freedom, you have to be brave and release your grip. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but, honestly, taking action really is the only way to access freedom and make room for new growth. You owe it to yourself to be brave and release what you no longer need. And keep this in mind: the hardest part is the release; once you’re brave enough to take that first step, you’ll soon see that you’re fine without those dead leaves clinging to your branches.
As you’re learning to let go, also keep in mind that, deep down, you know what’s best for you. If there’s a voice telling you to let go, listen to that instinct. You won’t hear that voice when you’re doing what’s right for you, when you’re with people who bring you up, when you’re connecting with the very best parts of yourself. It’s hard to listen to the voice telling you to do the hard thing, but not listening often makes it harder — you’ll either remained imprisoned by what you’re clinging to, or you’ll drag out the letting go process, making it even more challenging when you finally release that grip.
Let the trees inspire you, and look to them way they let the dead leaves drop motivate you to release what you no longer need. When you let go, you might go through a tough time — a bare-branched winter, like the trees — but that pain will pass, and you’ll have made room for the bright, lively leaves of spring when they arrive (and they will!).