Reading time: 8 minutes
Do you think letting go is the same as giving up?
You may see letting go as quitting or giving up what you should be pursuing. Or you’re reluctant to say goodbye to the comfortable, familiar ways of life.
But the reality of giving up is simply closing the door on what you thought you wanted. Letting go is acknowledging that you wanted yesterday is not what you want today.
How easily do you let go of old desires and the emotional baggage that’s been holding you back?
Many of us struggle and wind up giving up on letting go.
We stick to old habits because change is hard.
We keep clothes we haven’t touched in years because we might need them one day.
We suffer through a dying relationship because we’ve invested too much time, energy, and love to surrender now.
And the list goes on.
Try as we might, we can’t release certain ideas, patterns, objects, or people, because letting go means facing emptiness.
The reality is that it’s the fear of the unknown that stifles us.
If this is you, it’s time to get a new perspective, to see that cutting yourself loose from those things that weigh you down means so much more than giving something up:
To let go is renewal.
To let go is innovation.
To let go is aspiration.
To let go is growing up.
So have courage and try again:
Here’s 15 ways to let go without giving up
1. Accept your fate
Many times, acceptance is mistaken for passivity. Instead, accepting your circumstances means liberating yourself from imagined obligations.
So stop reacting to what life throws at you and just be. Accept that the relationship is over, so you can move on. Accept that you need to give away 80% of the stuff you’ve been hoarding.
Right after my leukemia diagnosis, a friend gave me the right advice at the right moment. She said, “accept it.”
Those two words released me from panic, denial, and a victim mentality. Fighting cancer wasn’t the answer, loving life was.
That acceptance mindset created the serenity and level-headedness I needed to face one of the hardest moments of my life.
2. Tune out the inner critic
Most likely, if you’re having a hard time letting go, your inner critic might be holding you back. She’s the one yapping away about how worthless you are. The one reminding you how difficult it is to let go without giving up.
There are two ways to control this voice. Stop listening to it or befriend it.
To stop listening, replace the voice with a positive version, rewriting the narrative you’ve been telling yourself.
When you befriend it, you create a dialog. Imagine you’re talking to a friend who plays devil’s advocate to your worries. She pushes you to be the best you can be, or she forces you to reassure her that everything’s fine.
Let’s say the voice demands you stay in that sick relationship because “no one else will ever love you.”
You can replace it with a more constructive phrase, “I will find someone else because I am worthy of love and a healthy relationship.”
Or debate the voice. “That’s not true, I’ve been in a loving relationship before this.” Or “You’re afraid that I won’t find someone else, but I will. Besides, being alone for a while will be good for me.”
You decide which angle to take, but both are liberating.
3. Mindfulness allows you to let go without giving up
Many times, we cling to the past or obsess about the future.
Maybe you’re stuck in memories of former loves which prevent you from seeing fresh possibilities.
Or, if you’re future fixated, worst-case scenarios may nail you down.
You might worry so much about landing another loser relationship that you take no action at all.
To get out of this rut, stay in the moment.
When you’re present, you’re no longer rooted in yesterday, which prevents you from appreciating life now. And you’re no longer fearful of the future, because you’re living for today.
Practice mindfulness to remain present.
One mindful method is labeling, which allows you to sit with and notice your thoughts.
If they stray to the future, say “future” and come back to the present. Do the same when your mind dawdles to the past.
Mindfulness shows you how to appreciate life, notice opportunities, and deal with the challenges instead of escaping them.
4. Create mental space
Another mindfulness technique is meditation, which also plays a huge role in letting go of the restless monkey mind.
This Buddhist metaphor differs from the inner critic as it refers to a confused mind, burdened with the chaos of life. Constantly switched on and busy, our minds seemingly cannot function in any other way.
Does your confusion cloud your attachments?
Meditation teaches us that a calmer mind makes space for clarity. You let go of the anxious stream of thoughts to find an inner peace you never knew existed. So if you need to let go of a mental rut, turn to your breath.
To meditate focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Make this a daily 5-minute routine for a week and notice any changes. For more powerful results, combine this breathing exercise with labeling. In a few weeks you’ll understand what you need to release and why.
5. Play like a child
If you’re having trouble letting go, some healthy play can help.
In the book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, authors Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan say that play is the catalyst that turns life from mere survival to rich civilization.
When you play, you can cultivate the mental flexibility needed to change perspective and loosen your grip on your mental fixations. Problem solving, creativity, and grace are some benefits of play.
So when you’re struggling to let go of emotional hang ups, try sports like tennis, volleyball or ping pong. Or learn origami, do Sudoku, or break out the card and board games to release your mental grip.
6. Free the artist in you
Where fear stifles – creativity frees.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never painted, written, or created anything before.
Now is the time to start because the creative act shifts your focus and keeps your mind engaged. You will achieve flow, that state of being so immersed in action you lose all sense of time.
And when you’re in the flow, you surrender yourself to the creative act, letting go of self consciousness and drama. As a result, you make room for increased satisfaction and happiness.
So dive into drawing, painting, or writing. With so many creative acts available, you can take your pick.
When you free your mind through art, you’re capable of freeing your fears too.
7. Be imperfect
Stop striving for perfection and make mistakes. If you don’t, you’re holding on to a perfect illusion.
In fact, studies show that perfectionism is becoming the bane of our times.
Once considered a healthy outlook, the strive for perfection is now unmasked as destructive, creating mental and emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.
You might suspect that letting go of your perfectionist tendencies is a mistake. This is denial talking. You’re trying to avoid criticism and win approval.
Yet, perfectionism, the desire for external gratification, only leads to frustration, low self esteem, and stagnancy.
So stop fearing failure and bring your mistakes to the table because you are worthy of love and acceptance. Settle for being the best you can be today and nothing more.
This isn’t throwing in the towel.
This is allowing yourself room to grow and learn from life. Slipping along the way is part of the learning process. Remember, you are loved.
8. Release the need to be right
It’s time to let go of your ego.
When you’re so attached to being right all the time, how do you expect to let go of frustration, judgment, and blame?
Just like the perfectionist, your actions stem from fear. Inflating your own self importance avoids facing the fear of seeming weak and insignificant.
To let go, you must open your heart and give your attention to others.
For example, try listening to others without having to say anything. You can learn much more about a beloved, and yourself, through deep listening.
No one and nothing belongs to you. Attachment to a certain person, people, or ideal hinders you more than you believe.
Instead, equanimity leads to non-attachment.
With equanimity, you can love without possessing.
You can admire without jealousy or envy. You can live understanding that life is transient. In this way, even-mindedness is not indifference, but liberation.
To develop equanimity, adopt an observer’s mind. Detach yourself from your environment and view your world as if you were looking through a window.
When you do this, you see the person you love as separate from you, and no longer an object or thing that defines you.
You will discover many facets of life unfolding and morphing into possibilities you never imagined, such as love without attachment. Life will be balanced.
10. Lower your expectations for how to let go
Do you expect letting go to be a miraculous cure-all?
Your expectations may be too high if you’re aiming for the total spiritual meaning of non-attachment.
Instead of seeking a total life changer, change your perspective.
For example, if you’re clinging to a memory of someone hurting you, imagine that person growing smaller until they become a speck. Then flick them away.
When you mentally free yourself from an image of suffering, and expect nothing in return, emotional release arrives.
11. Give instead of giving up
Attachments might prevent you from seeing the bigger picture.
Many times, we believe to be the only ones stuck in our ways, attached to an idealized version of life rather than appreciating the current one.
For example, when you’re single but desperately want to be in a relationship – this causes suffering and increases your sense of isolation.
But, if you look around, you’ll realize you are not alone in being alone. And when you open your heart to this truth, you connect with your fellow humans and are more apt to give love, instead of waiting to receive love.
And this is the most empathetic way of letting go without giving up.
When we are grateful for what we have, our attachment to desires dissolves.
Gratitude is like a baseball slugger.
When you practice being thankful for your life today, you can finally slam the idealized picture you cling to out of the park.
Before leukemia, dissatisfaction with life weighed me down.
But when confronted with death, I realized how gorgeous life was.
Yes, I aspired to more, but taking for granted what I had only created anxiety and unhappiness.
Imagine you wake up tomorrow and you’ve lost everything.
What would you miss the most? I bet it wouldn’t be your car, your house, or maybe even your job.
You’d miss the people and the life you’ve created.
When you are grateful for meaningful connections and life itself, you realize the futility of clinging to superficiality. Only then can you aim higher, but with detachment.
13. Declutter and dispose
We live in a consumer society where marketing giants seduce us into buying more things than we need.
So how can you let go when you desire so much?
Check your wardrobe and garage. How many objects do you own that you haven’t used in years?
Many times your outer world reflects your inner world.
The next time you’re cleaning house, keep this connection in mind. Ask yourself this, “are the objects surrounding me helping or hindering me.”
You might cling to a piece of jewelry from a past relationship. But if it evokes terrible memories, get rid of it.
Attachment to material objects is material proof of how we cling to thought patterns, destructive habits, and the past.
So, instead of giving up, give your attachments away.
14. Be whole
Integrity, authenticity, and honesty will put you on the right path to letting go.
Walk your talk and say what’s on your mind. When your actions and values are misaligned you are a walking incongruity.
Sometimes, we bottle ourselves up for fear of being misunderstood or judged.
But that’s like clinging to the safety net before you’ve even approached the trapeze.
Yes, life isn’t easy and you will screw things up sometimes. And that’s okay.
But to be whole means to live your life according to your principles and no one else’s.
So all you can do is leave that comfort zone behind and move forward, correcting yourself when you stumble.
Forgiveness is the greatest release of all.
Put aside anger and mistrust to forgive others for the wrongs done to you. You have an opportunity to move on.
Forgive yourself for your own wrong turns, hateful talk, and destructive habits. Only then can you let go of shame and guilt.
Forgiveness paves the way to a more compassionate life.
Personal growth, inner peace, and a meaningful life are possible when you release your grip on who you think you are and what you think you need.
This release opens a door you’ve kept closed for ages, where bliss awaits you on the other side.
Yes, you may stumble and fall along the way, but there is no positive change without some pain.
And, if you continue to cling to what no longer serves you, then your path will be a hard one, anyway.
So take a chance today to release what no longer serves you.
Being willing to let go may frighten you at first, but it’s an empowering and necessary means to a more joyful, fulfilling life.
Trust your gut and do whatever it takes to squeeze all the joy out of life you possibly can.
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
- What’s one joyful activity you haven’t done for a while?
- Tell us your own story of where you switched out a dream for another one. In effect where you let go without giving up, and hit the jackpot, so to speak!