I’ve noticed a pattern with myself and some of my clients. We want to add new things to our lives and we’re excited about that. But our current lives are so full that there literally isn’t any space for that newness. We try to stuff the newness into the cracks in our current lives, but our lives start to feel like they’re bursting at the seams. Ouch. The newness can’t truly take root and grow because there’s no rich soil for it to anchor itself to.
We need to actually make space in our lives for the newness. We need to create room where the future can enter. If we keep ourselves constantly busy and scheduled every day, if we choose not to notice our need to let go of something which no longer feels good or serves us, we spin our wheels.
I know, this sounds mildly upsetting and maybe even scary. Change can suck, even when you desperately want it.
But you can open up this space in your life, this space in which to allow for the new, bit by bit. You don’t have to do a massive overhaul of your entire life.
One of my clients who felt ready for change but completely burdened by her schedule had been taking a weekly Pilates class for more than two years. It wasn’t feeling great to her anymore, but how could she let go of it? It was Pilates, and therefore, good for her! Right?
After some poking around on the issue, we realized that the energy of the group in the class had shifted significantly and it didn’t resonate for her anymore. What had once felt like a supportive habit no longer did. She quit the class, and just that one open evening a week began to pave the way for change. She found herself using the open time to sit quietly and within a couple of weeks she started cleaning out a closet and packing up some very old stuff to donate to charity.
Sometimes the “one thing” might just be a one-time letting go, too. A friend of mine who never, ever takes a day off work recently decided she would take just one day off. She’d been convinced that things would “go to hell in a handbasket” (I love that phrase! — what does it mean?) at her office if whe wasn’t there.
As it turned out, everything went smoothly in her absence and it occurred to her that she could loosen her grip on things around there a little, delegate more, and maybe take a day off here and there in the future. (If you have perfectionistic tendencies, you are likely addicted to “showing up”. See what happens when you don’t. Just once.)
So, I know you’re thinking, what if the one thing you choose to let go of is on a grander scale, like a job, a relationship, a project near and dear to your heart? I know. That is so, so hard. But, while there’s no denying letting go can feel utterly crappy, the way we think about letting go can make it either harder or easier.
Letting go happens in layers. You don’t have to do it all at once. Even the big things we let go of are full of tiny things you can let go of one at a time.
Years ago, I left a job I’d been at for a long time, and it was hard. I knew in my heart that letting go was the thing I needed to do, but the thought of it was so overwhelming. The change! The massive change! For several months, I spun around in this cycle: I want to leave. But it’s so hard. It’s so overwhelming. I can’t do it! I won’t. But I want to leave. But it’s so hard. I can’t do it!
Then one day it occurred to me that I could make the decision to leave without having to act on it. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, right? But that’s what I did. Making the decision to leave was my “one thing.” And as soon as the decision was made, my entire body felt lighter. I didn’t actually give my notice at the job until almost a month after I’d made the decision to do it. Giving notice was another “one thing” in a series of “one things” that needed to happen for me to exit the job.
Note that my making the decision to leave — even before I’d actually given my notice at work, before I’d actually physically left the job — created space for newness to enter. Because I was no longer spinning my wheels — do I or don’t I? — my energy was freed up to magnetize itself to my not-yet-created future. And because I could see a finite end to the work situation, it became far more bearable for the remaining time I was there.
As I write this, I remember, too, that another “one thing” that helped me make the decision to leave was that I had decided to sit on the blue chair in my apartment instead of the couch where I usually sat. Yep, that was it. I looked at the chair and thought, I’m sitting here while I write in my journal today. Not there. And from that journaling space on the blue chair came my decision to leave my job.
Do not underestimate the power of letting go of one thing. Even if it’s only for today.
For a variation on this theme, check out my previous article, “The power of tiny new things.”