Let go to level up
Let go to level up
A bad habit. An abusive relationship. The pants you haven’t been able to button since 2004. Sometimes in life, we have to let things go.
Letting go can be difficult, scary, and even painful at times, but it is a necessary part of leveling up. When you hold on to things that no longer serve you, you create unnecessary friction, tension, and struggle in your life. Letting go allows you to live with greater ease and peace.
Here are a few examples of things that may no longer serve you:
In my second TEDxTalk, I quoted one of my favorite lyrics from singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard. He sang, “The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations – well, I have really good days.” I have found that when we feel frustration or disappointment, it is often because our expectations and reality are out of alignment.
Let’s face it. We have a lot of expectations. We have a picture in our mind of what ____ (life, love, relationships, success, etc.) is supposed to look like. When those expectations are not met, it is easy to feel deflated, disenfranchised, and disappointed.
What expectations are no longer serving you? These can be expectations of yourself or others. Anytime you feel disappointment, it is most likely because an expectation is not being met. You can’t always change reality, but you can shift your expectations.
What are the stories you tell yourself about your life? These stories shape our brain and body’s response. I told myself for years how unfair my life was. I compared my situation with Evan with all of my friends who had happy, healthy, neuro-typical kids. I told myself all kinds of stories of how hard my life was. That may have been true, but if your story isn’t serving you, it’s time to let it go. Instead, how can you move to a neutral version of the story? For me, my daily mantras became, “It is what it is” and “I’ll figure it out”.
Notice, I didn’t go from a negative to a positive story. When we try to trick ourselves, our brain doesn’t play along. Our narrative, or the story we tell ourselves about our situation, is the way we make sense of our lives. These stories are also ways to justify our behavior. The way we narrate our story shapes what we become. If your story is no longer serving you, it’s time to let it go.
If you’ve ever tried to adopt a new habit or quit an unproductive one, you know how hard it can be. If you have a habit that is no longer serving you, create friction between you and the behavior.
I have a bad habit. After dinner, my family and I love to plop on the couch and watch a show. Unfortunately, that’s about the time I become a grazer. What would make this show better? Something salty, of course. But then, something sweet, followed by something salty. I love to munch. Here’s where friction comes in… I can’t graze unhealthy food if we don’t have any. Not buying junk has been harder than I thought, but it certainly makes it easier not to eat it.
If you want to form a new habit, try stacking it with one you already have.
For example, I brush my teeth twice a day. When I started my gratitude practice, I “stacked” it with brushing my teeth. Behavior change is easier if you tie a new habit to an existing one.
Letting go of unhealthy relationships is not for the faint of heart. Vulnerability and authenticity are about becoming more of who you already are and tapping into your unique strengths, not molding yourself into the person you think others want you to be. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are able to address core emotions and belief patterns that may be keeping us stuck.
You are a representation of the people you spend the most time with. When those relationships cause you to question yourself or your values, there’s a good chance they are no longer serving you. If you can’t let go of the relationships, create distance. This might be a physical boundary, but it can also be psychological distance. Social connection and community drive long-term happiness and resilience, but toxic relationships wear down your emotional reserves.
Whenever possible, surround yourself with people who lift you up, celebrate, and laugh with you (or at you), and distance yourself from people who add negativity to your life. When that’s not possible, practice emotional awareness, acceptance, and gratitude. Your brain will thank you.
When you find it difficult to let go, start with a few questions:
- Can I control it?
- Is holding on to this good for my well-being?
- Am I limiting myself?
- Is this serving me?
What are you holding on to that is no longer serving you? Pick one thing and start here:
Today, I am choosing to let go of _____________.
Letting go is a skill; start with your breath, exhaling deeply when you’re feeling challenged or pushed beyond your boundaries. You’ll begin to realize how many times you’ve been holding on to something as simple as your breath.
You may not be completely ready to let go, and that’s okay. Part of learning to level up is giving yourself grace and practicing self-compassion. We are all a work in progress. Be kind to yourself.
Stay brave and resilient,
Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.
Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.