When I talk with people about the idea of making the rest of your life the best, whether through changes in work or doing something new and different in their free time, I always get an enthusiastic response. It is when the conversation moves onto the part about actually doing it that attitudes become less “can do!”
Not surprisingly people raise some very practical considerations about making big changes in life – with obvious concerns being financial issues and time commitments. A far less obvious concern, but one that does ultimately reveal itself as a major factor, is a reluctance to let go – to let go of things from the past and to move on.
To be fair it is something which I have not been good at, and it took a recent event to point this out to me.
I finally sold the old Lexus 300. There were of course several sensible reasons why I should: Expensive to run, and with a home based business these days, not much of that expense was allowable to tax. Awkward to park, I never mastered it. Hopeless on snow covered roads, now a regular feature of our winter.
Yet all these reasons were suddenly questioned the day the old boy was traded in for a used but un-abused VW Golf. An unexpected moment of sentimentality came over me as I thought about losing some of its comforts and indulgences. But more than this, it was the thought that I was giving up my symbol of success, my big executive car.
Just how big an issue this was, or how it connected with a 20 year old grudge only fully emerged a few days later. By now I was happily enjoying the benefits of the Golf. It is easy to park. The fuel gauge needle does not plummet to empty. But it was when a business colleague said “You have come down in the world a bit” that I discovered the biggest benefit. His comment triggered memories of redundancy 20 years ago. Of the blow at losing a big job with all the disappointments that meant. He caused me to see that the Lexus was my way of denying all this, and dwelling unwittingly in the past. Suddenly I not only felt good about driving the Golf, I felt relieved of a hang up. I had finally let go.
A short guide to letting go
- Be alert to the problem:There are certain to be events in your past that have caused embedded feelings of regret, injustice, disappointment, even shame. They work away in the background distracting and nibbling away at your attitudes towards life.
- Look out for the clues: The habits and routines that are the ways you have always done things. The mementoes of the past that on reflection you now see to connect with these events.
- Create your hang ups inventory: Write them all down. When you plan to commit yourself to goals or actions then writing them down adds to their reality and the intent that you attach to them.
- Have a mental de-clutter:Remember the old adage that everything starts with a thought? How you feel about anything and everything happens because of a thought. I get anxious when up a ladder because I think about falling. All those things from the past you feel angry, sad, ashamed of, tell yourself you are not going to feel that way any more. Tell yourself you are moving on.
- Have a physical de-clutter:Take that hang-ups inventory you wrote out and ceremoniously throw it away. Put it through the shredder. Roll it up into a ball and chuck it over your shoulder into the wastepaper bin. Burn it on your stove. Do it with purpose and feeling!
- Have a behaviour change: Change those “old way” habits and routines. Get rid of those mementos.
For many people making the rest of your life the best of your life can mean making one or two major changes.
For some, making the rest of life the best simply means letting go of things from the past.