Step-by-step guide to “let it go”… Learn how to do it!
Sent on 20th May 2023
Do you prefer to listen? here's the audio version:
It's Bruna here; happy weekend!
In this week's issue, let’s talk about what “letting it go” means and how this not-so-simple act can create the mental space for new opportunities and positive experiences. Give it a go and watch your life and career literally expand!
It will take you about 6 minutes 47 minutes to read it, and you'll walk away with:
- A clear understanding of what “letting it go” means and how to concretely do it
- Instructions to release the burdens of the past and embrace change
- A pathway to unlock your full potential in life and career
Yeah, “let it go” sounds like good advice overall… except that it doesn’t explain how you’re supposed to do it. Nor when or why nor what.
That’s why I hated hearing it: it meant nothing to me when I was lost and couldn’t figure out how to move forward.
Over the years I found the answer and I hope it will help you get unstuck too.
First of all: what does it mean, technically speaking, “letting it go”?
From a neuroscience perspective, it means understanding how your brain processes and holds onto memories and then actively leveraging those mechanisms to open up new thoughts, attitudes, ideas and beliefs.
Why should you do it?
Well, first of all, because if you don’t, you’re stuck in the past. You’d keep living your life through old paradigms, frameworks, beliefs and views and no, there’s no way this can lead to fulfilment, aliveness or even genuine success.
So when people say “let it go", what they actually mean is: notice your old beliefs and thinking patterns in action here, and avoid that they impact your present and future choices - think out of your box and embrace different perspectives and opportunities so that you can enjoy them
Now that's a much better advice!
Why is it so difficult to let it go?
First of all because nobody taught us what it means, let alone how to do it so we're stuck. Secondly, because it requires working against the natural tendencies of the brain, requiring a significant amount of mental energy that we don't have when we're stressed.
Our brains are wired to hold onto memories that confirm pre-existing beliefs or biases - and that's good because we do not have to process every bit of information as if it was entirely new: it would be exhausting. But this mechanism doesn't work in our favour when addressing emotionally charged situations.
“Letting it go” means recognising and challenging these biases, allowing for a more balanced and open-minded perspective and therefore different, conscious actions.
Specifically, how do you let go? And what is it that you’re trying to let go?
"Letting go" means all that comes from the past and clouds your thinking about the present and the future. Some examples:
- Beliefs that come into your head in the form of voices or, sometimes, clear sensations.
- Ideas that served you so far but are no longer useful.
- Frameworks, paradigms and mental structures that you carried with you so far but no longer match with who you are today (thanks to all the books you’ve read, the interesting people you’ve met, the stimulating conversations you engaged with and so on).
- The perception that what happened in the past will repeat itself again in a similar, current or future situation.
- Emotional attachments to negative experiences, regrets, or grudges.
- Anything else that you perceive as a useless burden.
- The habit of seeing everything in black and white --> trying to see the shades and be less strict
- Striving for perfection --> striving for excellence instead, more fun and more dynamic
- Fear of being constantly judged by others --> embracing that others other busy with their own lives and their judgement (if any at all) comes from the lens they're using to see their world, it may have nothing to do with you
- The idea that we don’t have time --> making time by changing our internal rhythm through mindfulness practices
- Emotional attachment to places/people/situation --> be open to new emotions that may arise from those contexts.
Here's where you could start:
Accept impermanence as a natural (and healthy) fact of life: if you find it challenging, remember it’s not you being difficult… It's your brain that craves stability and therefore resists change. Accepting that change is a constant part of life will help you let go of the past more easily.
Shift focus to the present moment to reduce the impact that past memories on a similar situation may have on your perception. Here mindfulness practices can help you raise your awareness, presence, reduce rumination about the past, and increase your ability to make conscious choices. This free guided journal is the perfect step to start:
Now that the behind the scenes is clear, let’s look at the specific steps that will help you succeed at letting it go.
First, you need to reflect in concrete terms what “letting go” means in the specific context affecting you.
For example, I refused to go working to a beautiful, quiet and central co-working space because I have unpleasant memories from the early days of starting my own business where I spent there countless hours and struggles. I simply didn't want to feel those emotions again so I never went back there.
Still that office is relevant for my business and not working from there means losing opportunities to meet interesting people, grow and get more business: time to let something go!
So I asked myself: what would it mean here letting it go? What do I concretely need to let go?
The answer was simple: the attachment to my past feelings about that place and the idea that I would feel the same unpleasant emotions I felt at that time. If I let this idea go, I may experience there new feelings, including the joy of running a successful business from the same place where I struggled to believe this would be possible!
Bottom line: a place is just a place, keeping it connected with past feelings only prevented me from enjoying what life has to offer me today.
Back to you, you need to reflect in specific terms what influences your feelings and thinking, and rationalise ways to move it aside. If you don’t think about it in advance, chances are that in the moment you’ll be so overwhelmed by old thinking patterns that you won’t be able think, let alone act, differently.
Let's practice together
Think of a situation where you had the feeling that you should let go or maybe you've been suggested so.
Reflecting out loud will always help you do that, so if you can answer these following questions by talking that's great, otherwise you can do it in writing. A bit less powerful perhaps, still impactful!
- In that situation, what happened within yourself?
- How did you feel about the situation?
- What thoughts/voices came to mind?
- What was your immediate reaction to those feelings?
- How did you react?
- What decision/action have you taken?
- What belief/thought/behaviour/attitude/memory should you have let go?
- What would have been a more empowering thought/action?
- What could you have done differently not to be driven by past memories/beliefs/paradigms?
Once you're familiar with this method, you can reflect on scenarios you're going to face soon where you sense you might need to let go of something.
Reflect for a moment on what is that you're not benefitting from, right now, due to past conditioning?
Let it go by asking yourself:
- Does this thing from the past help me here?
- Am I 100% sure what I’m facing now it’s exactly like in the past?
- What evidence do I have?
- What opportunities and perspectives am I missing by analysing this situation from this old lens?
- What could be a more empowering lens?
- What does it look like through this new lens?
- If I let go, meaning I don’t think in these terms and I stay open to new perspectives and ideas, what could happen?
- In what way would this new attitude be beneficial?
This emotional and cognitive work requires a high level of self-awareness and ability to decode what you feel inside. How's your level of self-awareness?
If you feel you need to improve it, download the free "Guided journal to increase self-awareness" and increases your chances to notice when your past is conditioning your present and future.
Hit reply and let me know how you feel about today's topic. Are you going to let it go?
See you in two weeks, same place, same time.
Have a fab weekend,