That’s a great question! It is often easy to identify the things we want to change about our personality, habits, thoughts and behaviors. When asked “what do you want to let go of in your life?”, most people can quickly answer. Anger, laziness, mindlessness, overusing technology, distrust, worry, there are so many things we all want to let go of.
In my experience though, it is hard to let go of maladaptive or unhelpful patterns of behavior without deeply considering what you want to cultivate to replace it. For example if you want to let go of over planning and rigidity, it’s helpful to focus on creating more spontaneity and flexibility in your life.Remember that the things we need to let go of most are often also the things we hold on to the tightest. The reason it’s so hard to let go of self-sabotaging your relationships is because if you don’t engage in that behavior you are vulnerable to rejection. We have to bravely confront the truth that our knee-jerk reactions and habitual behaviors kept us safe in some way and that’s why it’s so hard to release these behaviors that no longer serve us.
Therefore, instead of continually focusing on what you need to shed, flip the dialogue by asking, “what do I need to cultivate more of in my life in order to let go of rigidity/anger/isolation/etc.?” Maybe you need more self-love or self-compassion, maybe you need a greater sense of acceptance or more flexibility. Let your energies lie there- with whatever it is that you need to foster in order to have the strength and courage to finally let go. By actively cultivating new ways of being, you are much more likely to be able to let go to the habitual reactions and patterns that no longer serve you.
And if you need a little more inspiration, Pema Chodron has your back.
What I’m advocating here is something that requires courage — the courage to have a change of heart. The reason this requires courage is because when we don’t do the habitual thing, hardening our heart and holding tightly to certain views, then we’re left with the underlying uneasiness that we were trying to get away from. Whenever there’s a sense of threat, we harden. And so if we don’t harden, what happens? We’re left with that uneasiness, that feeling of threat. That’s when the real journey of courage begins.
— Pema Chodron in Practicing Peace in Times of War
If you need help figuring out what you want to let go of in your life, try this activity!