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How to Let Go...of Anything

Updated on July 18, 2012

Knowing When and How to Let Go

The first time I tried a rope swing, I was terrified. On my first jump, I let go too soon, dropping into the lake without experiencing any of the flight. On the second attempt, I gripped the rope tightly, and was too scared to let go at all. By holding on too long, I started to swing back toward shore, missing my opportunity once again. My friend shouted out instructions to me on my third try. "HOLD ON!" she yelled from shore. Then, "LET GO!" when the time was just right. I listened to her, and it was a perfect ride.

Life is like that rope swing ride. At times it is important to hold on to things, but other times it is just as important (or even more important) to let them go. But when do you let go, and how?

What Letting Go Is and What it Isn't

First, it is important to understand what it means to let go. Letting go is by no means the same as "letting yourself go" or "letting things go by the wayside". It is not the same as giving up or giving in. It is giving over. It is giving over the control of a situation that you are struggling against and allowing the universe, or God (or whatever you feel comfortable saying) to sort it out as it should be. Letting go does not mean you stick your head in the sand while a freight train is coming at you. It doesn't mean you ignore your housecleaning until your surroundings look like the next episode of Hoarders. Life brings us obstacles and obligations and we need to take action on most of them. Letting go does not mean you never do anything, but it does mean sometimes you do nothing. By that I mean you recognize an opportunity to release the grip on whatever it is that is holding you back. You stop trying to force solutions, or force an outcome, or force anything. When you truly let go of something, you'll know, because all the worry, stress and struggle will go, too, and a serenity will take their place.

Examples of Letting Go

A scene from the movie Contact is a great image to keep in mind about the process of letting go. Jodie Foster's character, Dr. Ellie Arroway, tries to contact extraterrestrial life by travelling in a futuristic machine. The machine instructions do not include restraints, but the science team insist there be some. When the machine reaches top speed, something doesn't feel right to Ellie. She struggles against the forces in the machine and all seems doomed. Ellie decides to release the harnesses because they are holding her back and making everything worse. Once the harnesses are gone, Ellie is free and relaxed. And all systems works as they should.

I can pinpoint the exact times in my life when I have felt like Foster's character from Contact. I feel myself struggling---to not say something, to make a decision, to please someone else, or to be someone else. It is during those moments when I know it's time to release the harness (of fear, expectations, ego, perfection, etc.) that I am holding on to and just let the situation go. I stop trying to force a solution. I stop trying to control everything, or anything. I give it over, let it be, and let it go. Like when I was on the rope swing, I do hold on at times, but I also know when it's time to let go. And every time I do, the results are amazing. Things fall into place and seem to work out, despite my (or because of my) detachment to the outcome.

The opposite is also true. When you hold on too long to something or to something you shouldn't, nothing falls into place. Everything you are doing seems to backfire, take too much effort, and become a struggle. (This is not to be confused with joyful effort, when hard work pays off.) I definitely can tell when I need to let go, or when I should have. Small examples from my life include not having enough time to make dinner, and wanting to just do takeout, but instead forcing myself to cook, only to find I am missing ingredients, and burning whatever is in the pan. I end up in a very stressed out mood...when lo and behold my husband will come home with a pizza that someone dropped by his garage, meaning I didn't have to cook at all in the first place! Another example is making my son honor a volunteer obligation despite all signs pointing toward just saying no. It involved a late night run to the grocery store for supplies after his track meet when he was exhausted and really should have been studying. Turns out the adult cancelled out anyway, and thus my son wasted his time. Why couldn't I just let go, and allow myself to say no at these times? Answer in both examples: I didn't want to disappoint anyone. But the fact is, I could have skipped cooking, and I could have let my son skip the obligation----and all would have worked out anyway! If only I had just let go!

Some much bigger examples of letting go from my life include when I decided to leave my teaching job. It was a heart-wrenching decision and I agonized over it. I loved teaching and I worried about our finances. The decision was made even more difficult because I faced losing nearly ten years of retirement money. At the time, the rule for vestment was ten years, and I had been teaching for 9.78! My heart was telling me to be home with my kids, but I was holding on to that money in my mind. For months I tried to figure out a way to make it all work. One day my husband said (kind of jokingly), "It's only money". And at that moment I stopped worrying about it . I accepted having to lose the money. I truly let it go and eventually resigned from my job. And amazingly, just days later, the vestment was changed to five years. I got to keep all of my retirement money anyway!

I also know that whenever I fret over my husband's business and cling to bitterness about times he's been wronged by people or politics, the checkbook balance only gets lower and the budget only gets tighter. But when I truly let go of my anger or fear about the situation and just let the universe work it out, it never fails that the phone will ring and it's my husband, calling with some good news.

Try Letting Go

Letting go is possible with anything. You can let go of the little things and with the big things too, like weight loss (or the number on the scale), relationships, careers and even grief. There are many books and websites devoted to letting go, and help out there for letting go in any situation.

Letting go can mean saying no, or saying nothing at all. It can mean moving on, leaving behind, throwing away, or shedding a skin that no longer fits you. It is acceptance of what will happen, and detachment at the same time. In any form, letting go can often bring you the outcome you are hoping for, and is a much easier route to results. It can lead to a more peaceful outlook and in turn, a more peaceful you . So the next time you feel yourself swinging backward, check your grip. You might be clinging to something that's holding you back. Try letting go. And enjoy the ride.

Release Your Grip and Let Go



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    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Thank you Ruchira! You are right. Letting go can be a very healthy thing!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      attachment is not healthy and you have narrated it beautifully.

      many votes and useful button

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Thanks DreamerMeg! You are right. That's another aspect to it--not only letting go of control of your own stuff, but letting go of controlling others as well. I also thought of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" when I wrote this.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Letting go is VERY important. You cannot control everything and if you try, as you say, you very often lose it all. And you're quite right, this is NOT the same as putting your head in the sand and pretending everything is ok when it isn't. It's allowing other people to make their own decisions and choices and a lot of other things as well. It's also tough love. One good book that might be similar to this is "Don't sweat the small stuff: and at the end of the day, it's all small stuff". I think it's by Richard Carlson, though it's a few years since I read it. In fact, thinking back to who mentioned the book to me, it might be 10 years! Voted up

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Thanks tamron! I got shivers when you said the girl looks like you! Letting go is such a heady subject to put into words, but you worded it so well in your comments. Like you, my husband always says "when you don't know what to do, do nothing at all." It's good advice, and all part of letting go!

    • tamron profile image

      tamron 5 years ago

      The chic on the rope swing looks like me! Knowing when to let go is hard when your trying to control everything and everybody.

      I have learned if whatever you are dealing with is a struggle or stresses you out and you just don't know what to do. Its better not to do anything at all until the opportunity arrives to solve the problem.

      In most cases by doing nothing God takes over and the problem gets solved.

      It says in the Bible let go and let God. I believe that is in Proverbs not sure where?

      That is my experience anyway! Great hub! Vote Up & Share