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How to let go

Releasing your "old" story to create a better one

Holding on is a critical way that we keep ourselves from reaching our goals. Whether we are holding a grudge for a perceived slight from a friend, holding on to memories from a relationship or holding on to a negative experience that replays in our minds, we all do it. But why do we have so much trouble letting go? We like to hold on to things, situations and circumstances because in a way, it’s fulfilling. There’s comfort in familiarity and justification, even when it’s rooted in a negative experience. But, ultimately, not knowing how to let go has no real benefit – it only holds you back from achieving your true potential.

Sometimes, we use the past to justify our current decision-making, and that’s the reason why we don’t want to let go. Remember that nasty thing someone did to you years ago? That keeps you from going to that family gathering or from having an extraordinary relationship. Those memories justify everything for you. When you’re unable to let go, that becomes a part of your “story” and works against you, holding you back.

To focus your energy on living positively and proactively, you need to learn how to let go. One of the most difficult things for most people to let go of are relationships. Learning to let go of someone you’ve built a deep connection with and whom you’ve shared your life with is understandably difficult. However, in many cases, it’s necessary to let go in order to unlock an extraordinary life. Are you ready to change your story and let go of relationships that no longer serve you?

Image © Subbotina Anna/shutterstock

Will you live inside your story or let go and move on?

So, what is your story? Your story is what you tell yourself to justify your decisions. For example, you tell yourself you can’t have a successful relationship because of how you grew up. Your parents argued in front of you all the time and eventually divorced. You can’t let go of the belief that all relationships are bound to fail, and this is why you can’t maintain a healthy romantic relationship. You use this past experience to justify your current life state – even though your current state is actually a choice you make.

How to let go and move on doesn’t mean you have to negate the truth – if it is, in fact, true – but you shouldn’t let that influence your current path because you’re unable to let go of it. When the facts are terrible or heartbreaking, it is human nature to blame someone else or a past incident instead of ourselves. This is why you blame your significant other at the end of a relationship or another person for something terrible that happened to you. Letting go of a relationship can be one of the most difficult things you will do in life, but you cannot let bad experiences dictate your future. Instead, use your experiences as a tool to push you to learn and grow so you can create a healthy relationship with someone else.  

Not letting go of a relationship that has run its course only has negative effects on you – it has no effect on the person you blame. The energy it takes to stoke and maintain the fire of blame prevents you from moving on and connecting with others. The person you are targeting is gone, but still, you keep the blaze going at your own emotional expense.

The power of letting go involves controlling the meaning you attach to events in your life. If you can’t get out of the story you’ve constructed for yourself, then you cannot move on toward bigger and brighter things.

Letting go of a relationship

When a relationship ends, it’s common to feel incredible amounts of anger and resentment toward your ex – especially if you were not the one who made the decision to end it. Maybe, at first, you felt righteous about it, like the anger was helping you move forward. However, after some time has passed, you start to see that it’s unhealthy for you, and you’re not sure how to let go of someone you love and move on with your life. Many times, you feel this way because you want to have certainty in your life. After all, certainty is one of the six human needs and letting go of a relationship means dealing with a large amount of uncertainty. Even if your relationship had reached its conclusion or one or both of you were very unhappy, there was still an amount of certainty there that was comforting.

Negative feelings take a toll on your emotional and physical health – anger is even associated with heart disease – and will affect your future relationships. Recognizing this behavior as unhealthy is the first step in the process of letting go. If you’re looking for an answer regarding how to move on, you are already on the right path. The good news is that in the process of learning how to let go, you can also learn how to feel happier and control your emotions.

Once you decide to commit to learning how to let go of someone, you may discover other moments and situations you can afford to move on from as well.

Moving forward

Learning how to let go and move on from a relationship that once brought you joy can be very difficult. When you’re letting go of someone, it can be helpful to think of both sides of the story and try to see the situation from their point of view. Yes, your ex may have hurt you, but they likely did not do it out of malice. They felt their needs weren’t being met in your relationship and they decided to take action in order to improve their own emotional state. Try to look at this person from the same place of compassion and empathy that you did when you were happy together. Let go of the expectations of what you think needs to happen right now to ease your pain and focus on gratitude for what you once shared. This helps you reduce the anger you feel toward the other person and allows you to appreciate what you gained from the relationship.

Regardless of who initiated the breakup or the reason behind the split, you need to learn how to let go and move on. Don’t worry about forgiving them for now. Instead, work on learning how to forgive yourself for getting so caught up in the drama of your personal life and allowing your anger and resentment to hurt you and hold you back. Realize that this is a chance to grow and live in the mystery of what’s next.

Learning how to let go is not as hard as it may seem. It’s true that unwanted things happen, but you cannot change it and refusing to let go will not bring someone you care about back. Continuing to hold on only hurts your emotional and physical state, keeping you from fully enjoying life. Embrace living in the moment and understand that uncertainty can be beautiful if you look at it from the right perspective.

The key to letting go of a relationship is facing what has happened, accepting that you can’t change it and then moving on. Once you’re able to move on and appreciate the growth that came from the relationship, better opportunities will present themselves. You will have successfully learned the power of letting go and can begin writing your new story.

Header Image credit © MJTH/shutterstock

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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