The author Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” How I love that line, but how hard a concept it is to put into practice.
I think I was hardwired to be a planner and a controller, believing that the world spins because I make it do so. For more than 53 years, I have managed my life competently by always doing the next right thing: Checking all the boxes, and dutifully and responsibly undertaking what has been expected of me—both personally and professionally. While this system has served me well – allowing me to raise two wonderful sons and build a successful business – there were many times along the way that I had a nagging sense there was more to life than my limited and rigid imagination had a plan for.
So why is the concept of “letting go” important?
Well consider this: By continually following my “plan” with unwavering determination – even when I felt that there was something more or different I should consider – I closed myself off to the potential of obtaining that “something more”. Don’t get me wrong: I am grateful for all that I have in my life and would never change the outcomes. However, “letting go” and being more open to other possibilities along the way could have opened doors that made the journey easier or the outcomes even more abundant.
Why do so many people “hang on” to things that may not serve them best?
“Hanging on” is comfortable and safe—or at least it feels that way. When you hang on to what you perceive as “known”, you feel you have a greater level of control than you do of the unknown. In reality though, life still goes on around you, changing with every moment, leaving you with far less control than you realize—whether you hang on or not. In my case, I was hanging on to the influences of my own upbringing; the steadfast, rigid determination I inherited from my father. In my mind, to do it any other way would mean letting go of the only way I thought was possible or even allowable. The fear of what was around another corner left me paralyzed, hanging onto the wheel and continuing down the only path I knew.
We all have a vision or plan for our lives, yet so many “hang on” to things that no longer fit into that vision—or maybe it’s the plan that’s changed. So instead of letting go or accepting change, we find some level of false comfort in the inertia of remaining where we are—clinging to what’s familiar. Campbell’s mandate gives us permission to follow our bliss, perhaps feeling the fear, but doing it (whatever “it” is) anyway. Doing so allows doors to open and turns unpredictability into creative possibility.
I’m reminded of my friend Laura who took early retirement from her corporate job in order to turn her painting hobby and passion into a full time endeavor. Or my friend and yoga teacher, Jen, who left a high paying marketing job to teach yoga full time because she knew it was what she was meant to do. In both cases, they left great jobs and “threw caution to the wind” so to speak, and let go of what they felt was holding them back from actually living their best business lives.
But as Campbell stated, we must be “willing to let go”—and while it may seem easier said than done, it is far easier when you are aware of what you are actually letting go of and what potential waits on the other side. You can start to gain that awareness by taking your time, digging deep and asking yourself these 5 questions:
- What do you like about what you are hanging on to? You may find there’s actually nothing you like about it. Consider that old sweater that you’ve had for years. It’s been sitting in your closet, unworn for more than a decade, yet you just can’t part with it.
- How does what you are hanging on to fulfill you? About that job that you hate to get up for in the morning: Sure it’s a steady paycheck, but do you really think nothing better exists? Have you even explored what else is out there?
- What will you gain by letting go? So many people focus on what they’ll lose, when you should really be focusing on what you may potentially gain! Thinking back to that job again: you may not only gain a better role, you may find that better pay and benefits await you.
- How will letting go help you grow as a person? This is an important question that many do not consider. We have such a limited time in life to see and do the things that enrich our minds and bodies; living with a bad situation or relationship simply stifles oneself as a person, limits opportunity, and takes away your right to live a life that is fulfilling and joyful.
- What are you REALLY afraid of? What I’ve come to know is that fear, uncertainty and discomfort can be our best compasses for growth. Those emotions that I have always looked at as familiar foes can actually be my friend. What I accept, I can actually move beyond. To be willing to see these negative emotions as opportunities for growth, you can turn negatives into positives, and view them as a sign from your higher self, pushing you towards abundance.
Letting go may seem scary, but hanging on to the souvenirs of a life that no longer serves your best interest is even scarier. Your Best Business Life awaits you; be willing to let go, opening your heart and mind to the possibilities.