Shola’s Note: Hey Solutionists! In my effort to introduce you to some amazing people who are working hard to make this world a more positive place, I have a treat for you! On this month’s Solutionist Spotlight, I have the honor of presenting (for the second time!) career strategist, positivity enthusiast and corporate trainer extraordinaire, Sherry Dodge. Her first guest post was so good, that I had to ask her to come back. So, without further ado, here’s Sherry!
Sometimes, holding on does more damage than letting go.” -Unknown
A few days ago I saw this quote on a friend’s Facebook feed and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The message had come at just the right time.
In the weeks prior, I had been struggling with an unfortunate misunderstanding that had occurred with a close friend, and I was right in the middle of over-analyzing, second-guessing and dealing with all kinds of emotions (namely–sadness, bitterness, confusion, guilt and disappointment.)
Maybe you’ve experienced something like this too.
The incident had seemingly destroyed our friendship overnight and, rather than accepting how things were, I fought with every fiber of my being to hold on to how I thought things should be. How the other person should react. How we should be able to find a resolution because that’s what rational and reasonable people do.
But something happened to me the tighter I grasped.
I thought that if I fought harder to make things right, this person would eventually see my perspective and everything would return to “normal.” But it didn’t quite work out that way. In fact, the opposite happened.
It was like I was playing a game of tug-of-war where the other end of the rope was firmly attached to a fence post. The efforts were futile. All I was doing was tiring myself out, losing sleep and further alienating my friend.
“Sometimes holding on does more damage than letting go.”
In this case, most of the damage was being done to me.
Knowing When to Let Go
Our culture has taught us to value tenacity, persistence, determination and a “never give up” mentality. We equate these values with strength. While these values have served me in many, many situations and have their time and place, they have been a disservice at times as well.
Think about all of the things that we hold onto:
- Feelings of regret and guilt for things we’ve said or mistakes we’ve made
- New Year’s Resolutions that we didn’t take the time to fully think through and plan out
- Relationships that no longer suit us and start to become a burden
- Expectations for ourselves and others that are unrealistic
- Jobs that are not fulfilling
- Habits that we are just too lazy to change
- Ideas about who we are supposed to be (either self-imposed or imposed by others)
Sometimes we become so attached to these things that we forget why we are doing them in the first place. Many times, we’ll stick with what is familiar and comfortable, even if it is painful.
It’s time for the pain to stop.
It may not be easy to accept, but what serves us at one point in our lives does not always continue to serve us as we grow and change. Sometimes being strong and being resilient means finding the strength to let those things/people go.
Maybe it’s not how we planned it. Maybe it’s not how it should have been. Even so, there is great freedom in letting go of that control, accepting what is without resistance, and discovering the lesson that is lurking just beneath the surface.
Here are three things that have helped me to come to terms with “what is” and to be more accepting and resilient.
1. Forgive Yourself First
If you’re like me, when you make a mistake you might tend to replay it in your head over and over again, beating yourself up and forcing yourself to relive the painful experience time and time again, usually long after everyone else has forgotten about it.
To an extent, we are processing what happened and are learning from it, but at a certain point it becomes a form of self-torture that really isn’t necessary.
Sometimes you can’t turn back the clock, you don’t get a “do-over” and you must learn, forgive and move forward. You can take accountability by recognizing your role in the problem and doing something to address it, but you don’t have to take all of the depressing emotions with you. They only keep you trapped in the past.
When I was a little kid and made a mistake my dad would always say, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about what happened in the past, so let’s focus on what we can do going forward to make this better.”
I was always so thankful and relieved when he would say this because it let me off the hook. It allowed me to forgive myself and to focus on something more productive. Ruminating over the negative serves no useful purpose and takes a heck of a toll on our health.
Your mistakes do not define you, but they do teach you something of value, if you are open to the lesson.
By forgiving yourself, you give yourself a fresh start, incredible peace of mind, and the permission to focus your energy on the present.
2. Most People are Doing the Best They Can
Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of others and this sets us up for some serious disappointment.
At the end of the day, we all make mistakes, do things we regret, or act in ways that we shouldn’t have. The truth is that most people are doing the best they can.
If we choose to hold a grudge and not forgive others for hurt they have caused, we are only hurting ourselves. Like Buddhist scripture says “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Why would you do that!?
There is a general misconception that forgiveness is being done for the benefit of the other person. The truth is, you can forgive someone who you feel doesn’t deserve it, who isn’t sorry for what they’ve done, or who you feel has wronged you.
Forgiveness is ultimately for you.
It allows you to free up your thoughts and your energy and move on with your life. It’s up to you to decide whether someone or something deserves your valuable time, energy and attention, but no matter what you decide, remember that forgiveness is a powerful act of strength.
3. View Life as Your School House
When we think about life as one giant school house, as a place to learn, try new things, put ourselves out there and take risks, it only makes sense that we will make mistakes. Lots of them.
I love the perspective that says, “There are no mistakes or failures in life, there are only lessons.” When we stop assigning labels to things (good/bad, success/failure, right/wrong), we see that from every “mistake” comes an opportunity to grow and to come out stronger on the other side.
This isn’t easy, but try to see everyone and everything as your teachers, and see the people and circumstances that come into your path as opportunities to learn.
Sometimes we learn how to better communicate, sometimes we learn how to empathize, sometimes we learn that it’s time to move on from something that we no longer need or that is not healthy for us. Things are not always as they appear. Sometimes, what we perceive as “huge mistakes” end up being the best things that ever happened to us, as they change the course of our lives for the better in ways we never expected.
Sometimes letting go is the way that we propel ourselves forward.
Are You Ready to Let Go?
Letting go isn’t easy.
It takes a huge amount of strength and a lot of guts to say, “This no longer serves me.” But letting go of something often brings us renewed energy, greater strength, and an amazing sense of freedom.
When you give up your expectations of how things should be, you open yourself up to experiencing your school house of life in an entirely new way. Letting go of something that no longer serves you leads to change, and that change has the potential to transform everything.
Are you ready to let go?
Sherry Dodge is a passionate corporate trainer, coach and positivity enthusiast based in Los Angeles, CA. In her work at UCLA, she aims to empower and inspire individuals to achieve their full potential, both personally and professionally. She loves outdoor adventures and spends her spare time surfing, rock climbing, swimming, white water rafting and seeking new travel adventures.