“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” John Lennon
Are you holding onto pain when doing so doesn’t fix a thing? Are you replaying the past over and over, even though you know it won’t change? Do you find yourself wishing things were different? At home or at work? When it comes to the past, all we can do is accept what’s happened… then let go of it and move forwards. But it isn’t always easy to let go, to change, to move ahead.
Do you expect too much of life?
What do you expect to get out of life, your work and your relationships? Do you expect too much? Are your own expectations holding you back? Sometimes unrealistic expectations – inaccurate ideas about the way something or someone should be – create a gap that we get stuck in. We hold up an idea or concept as the absolute ideal, and of course nothing ever matches up to that glittering prize.
It’s often a lot more productive to actually let go of your expectations. But letting go needn’t be a journey away from expectation. It can be a fascinating journey towards self empowerment and hope. It’s the productive side of letting go, and it means letting go with hope, not shutting down. You let go… then, you begin to open up.
You need to harness the power of flexibility
Flexibility is a must. Too much Inflexibility only means growing levels of frustration, anxiety and struggle in your life. After all, things constantly change. Life changes. Our context is in a constant state of flux. No wonder it’s so important to find the value in different ways to let go, to accept what is happening and move on. Finding ways to adjust, and ways to simply turn away and change direction.
Letting go can stop us getting stuck. It’s good to let go of the things we can’t control. In the real world things rarely happen the way you think they should. Meetings get changed, projects get shifted, people move jobs, colleagues don’t react the way you predicted, and the outcomes you expect just don’t happen. It’s impossible to predict the future, and it’s unhelpful to care too much when dearly-held expectations don’t bear fruit. It is about developing acceptance of how things are right now.
Heather Marshall says it’s time to let go of unrealistic expectations
Heather Marshall’s TED Talk from TEDxGreenville 2014 reveals her thoughts about letting go of expectations. Accepting that this may be what we need to do sometimes is a real start. We like her viewpoint. Letting go elegantly, or eventually, or even with a tussle at the time, is a muscle we need to flex, a capability worth acquiring if we want to remain resilient in this world.
Heather, who was adopted talks about finding her birth mother. It’s interesting, but it’s the focus on an expectation that’s relevant to us, and to you. She says unrealistic expectations, and the gap they cause in our experience of life, remove us from being fully present, from properly experiencing what’s happening. She talks about living in the reality of the moment, recognising that the person in front of you might never meet your needs or expectations.
Letting go enables you to move on, to only have expectations based on reality, and yet expectations that can still hold hope. Letting go isn’t about giving up. It’s a positive stance that helps us manage ourselves and own our own feelings, our own ‘stuff’. It helps us to know what is an impossible projection and what’s a realistic expectation. This can be true in all areas of our lives both personal and professional.
Never lose your anchors!
Some things, of course, are worth holding onto or even fighting for. We all need anchors in our lives. Without them we’re rootless, unstable and potentially far too vulnerable. For some people, anchors are their values. They trust their own voice, their own thoughts, their families, their friendships. They trust their determination to do what they say they’ll do in business, and communicate any changes positively and well. Because they know where they stand themselves, they are good at letting other people know where they stand in turn.
Letting go of what other people think
As Brene Brown said, “What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?”
It’s important to be able to let go of what people think, let go of their opinions and evaluations. It can be tough if you’re thin skinned, in which case this post about being thin skinned might help.
It’s good to let go of impossible standards too. If you tend to hold standards so high that there’s no way you or anyone else will meet them with any level of consistency, you’ll find our post about the perils of perfectionism helpful.
There’s another big bugbear – the fact that your expectations might be misguided because they are well past their sell-by date. Luckily there’s an incredibly positive, hopeful side to letting go of old habits that don’t work any more. For example, letting go of self-consciousness, leaving an outdated self-concept behind can be a struggle but in the end it brings freedom. While letting go of negative feelings and ancient grudges is never easy, it’s worth the effort. It makes sense when life moves on all the time, we get older, the kids leave home and new chapters emerge. Things keep changing whether we want them to or not. When we do let go of those outdated habits or long held grudges it releases energy, and can sometimes shift the course of your life dramatically.
Sometimes finding your own way to make peace with yourself and others frees you to move on. Forgiveness and compassion go a very long way towards loosening the process of letting go, moving you through or past old hurts.
Ways to let go
Talking things through with a trusted friend or coach, even someone you know will listen well, without judgement, is crucial, because letting go means first making sense of things and accepting how it is for you. The story we land on needs to hold real truth and meaning for us. We also need to then give ourselves more permission to live and let live.
Letting go can be a powerful way to allow enjoyment of life, rest and well-deserved treats. It isn’t about being reckless and throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, about doing anything you like. You don’t want to harm yourself or others, lose your moral compass, or bring about negative changes you later regret.
On the other hand, letting go and enjoying yourself, having some fun, having adventures, can be a real plus in life, adding back the sparkle.
It can mean things like seeing the funny side, not taking yourself so seriously, trusting yourself rather than feeling you have to comb through and weigh up every pro and con in a situation before you respond.
It’s actually all about travelling light. Letting go of things, the clothes, the attitudes, the fixed ideas, the old relationships that don’t work any more, even that old hairstyle you’ve had forever. It’s about a more flexible future, creating space for the new and making room for fresh opportunities.
We live more freely when we learn to let go, as long as we keep the things that have real, heartfelt value for us. If you would like to explore more of what this might mean for you, then contact us for a coaching session. We will be pleased to hear from you