Have you ever been at a place in your life when you needed to “let go” in order to move forward? It’s interesting how we cling to jobs, relationships, possessions, memories, and the way our lives used to be. Certainty and sameness are indeed safe, yet they can lead to staleness and disengagement in our work, relationships, and with life in general. What if when a change or new opportunity presented itself, you could approach it with passion and excitement instead of focusing on your fears, doubts and the way things used to be!
Right now I’m in a place where “letting go” is huge in my life. I’m soon moving from a beautiful home and location that my partner and I chose to move to for lifestyle 8 years ago; from special friends, colleagues, and a home we thought we would live in forever. Now due to an employment opportunity for my partner, we’re putting our house on the market and moving to a new place and home that we hadn’t planned on. We’re also downsizing from a 5-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment, which has its challenges.
How can you approach life changes with an open heart, excited about a new future, and let go of negative emotions and “stuff” that no longer serves you?
William Bridges in his book Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes differentiates between “change” and “transition”. He views change as situational and external, such as moving to a new city or becoming a grandparent. Transition, he emphasizes, is psychological and internal. Transition is the internal “work” we do to help redefine and reorient ourselves and incorporate external changes into our lives.
Based on over 30 years of research and work with a variety of individuals and organizations, Bridges identified 3 phases that are common to all life transitions. The 3 phases are: 1) Ending; 2) Neutral Zone; and 3) New Beginning. In each phase there are opportunities to learn and grow, and work to be done in order to move forward. This post will focus on endings and the “work” associated with the first phase. See http://creativelivingcommunity.com/life-transitions-turning-challenges-into-opportunities-2/ for details on the other phases.
According to Bridges, the “work” associated with the initial transition phase/the ending is “letting go”. Here are some strategies I, and others have found useful in “letting go” and embracing an ending.
Strategies for “Letting Go”
- Write a letter to the person (partner, employer) or location you are leaving, outlining a number of positive things that you have learned from that particular job, relationship, place. Then burn the letter ceremoniously. At the same time, feel the positive things about the experience and release any resistance you may have to moving forward.
- Go back over your life and think about your experiences with endings (the death of a pet, the loss of a loved one, a move or a friend moving away). Reflect on these experiences and notice if there is a pattern in how you deal with endings: Do you avoid saying goodbye? Do you quickly move on and try not to think about the experience or the feelings associated with it? Ask yourself if you are comfortable with the pattern. Has it been serving you well or would you like to change it?
- Take a moment to think about one particular ending or loss you have experienced in your life. Feel it. What did it feel like for you? How has it affected how you have dealt with other endings or losses in your life? Write down your thoughts and feelings.
- If you’re downsizing, moving or decluttering, a helpful strategy is to pull out all of your clothes (for example), hold each one, and notice if it brings you joy. If it no longer does, thank it and then let it go and give it to someone you think may enjoy it or to someone you don’t know (e.g. women’s shelter). If it is particularly challenging to let go of something that has been gifted to you by someone special in your life, imagine someone else wearing the piece and feeling so good and special in it.
Letting go is truly an art; the more we practice it in our lives, the easier it becomes.
What strategies have you found helpful to “let go” of possessions, relationships, jobs … . I welcome your experiences and comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.
 Condo, Marie. Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying up. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2016.
Two months ago, I felt like my life was turned upside down. My partner, Alan, was headhunted and offered a position in another city. When he received the “hard” offer, they wanted him to start in 2 weeks! I’ve moved and gone through many changes in my life; however, this particular one that came “out of nowhere” really shook my foundations. I felt discombobulated for a couple of weeks. Alan and I had moved to the beautiful Okanagan Valley almost 8 years ago for lifestyle, and we thought we’d be here forever. Now, that might not be the case.
How many times have you envisioned that you were “settled”; that no other changes were going to happen in your life? I coach clients how to deal with life changes with “ease and grace”, and here I was going through one and experiencing a fair bit of turmoil!
So what was the silver lining in this change?
1) It made me reflect on what is most important to me in life. I realize and have known for some time that relationships and connection are most important. Being in nature and close to water also help ground me. I appreciate the beauty in nature.
2) It created an opportunity for me to go through my material possessions and decide which ones to keep, sell, discard or give away. After sorting through many of my clothes last weekend [and I have quite a collection ☺], as well as courses I’ve designed and reports I’ve written, I felt lighter and reconnected with my belief that “stuff” isn’t what is most important to me. Rather it is the people and special relationships in my life.
3) It opened me up to new adventures and possibilities.
What helped me regain my balance and get clear on what is most important?
1) Spending time in nature. Going for regular walks and taking the time to reflect and “be” rather than “do”.
2) Meditating daily and asking for guidance.
3) Sharing the news with family and close friends and realizing I will stay connected to them regardless of where I live.
4) Viewing the potential move as a new adventure; an opportunity to make new friends and be open to new possibilities.
5) Communicating openly with Alan and envisioning what is important to us in a place to live and during this time of transition. Sharing what we would like in our “new” life together.
How have you regained balance in your life when a change “caught you off guard”? Please share your thoughts and comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.
In a previous post I shared the attributes of a Balanced and Mindful Leader, one being “Understands the importance of work/life balance and models it for others http://creativelivingcommunity.com/balanced-and-mindful-leadership-what-do-you-think/. So how can you integrate work-life balance into your own life and model it for others in the workplace?
Here are some suggestions:
- Count up the number of hours you typically work in a week. Is it more than 50? (Obviously sometimes)
- Make a commitment to reduce the number of hours you typically work weekly (choose a realistic number to begin with)
- Experiment with a work week when you reduce your hours. Then notice how you feel. You may wish to journal about it.
- Begin incorporating mindfulness practices into your personal life; e.g.
- on awakening while lying in bed do a body scan from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet noticing any tension, discomfort, heaviness. Breathe into those areas of tension, discomfort or heaviness and set the intention to release and let go of them.
- Start doing mindfulness walking meditations 3 times/week for 30 minutes each time.  Some of my clients do this at lunch hour. Others after work. Notice how you feel before, during and after. Is there a cumulative effect?
- Unplug at least 90 minutes before retiring and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
- At work, encourage people to take breaks
- Set clear expectations with your direct reports and colleagues related to NOT checking emails and answering texts on evenings and weekends. Share with them the importance of them taking time for themselves and their families
- Have short meetings (up to 60 minutes max) with clearly defined agendas, and expectations so people know why they’re there, how to prepare and the expected results.
- Encourage people to take lunch breaks
- Support people to take regular vacations and to NOT check their emails while on vacation (set up a buddy system so staff and managers can feel that the key aspects of their positions are being covered while they are away)
- Have yoga classes and/or a gym on site and participate in the classes/use the facilities yourself.
What two actions will you begin integrating into your life tomorrow? Please share those actions and any related comments below. Feel free to share this post with a friend, colleague or family member.
 A tool from Easter psychology that I have found extremely useful for getting “out of my head” and into my body is Mindfulness Walking Meditation. Mindfulness practices focus on the senses and feeling sensations and emotions in our bodies. When we do a mindfulness walking meditation we feel the ground beneath our feet, we feel the breeze against our face, we feel the cool air going from our nostrils down into our lungs. We smell the scent of salt or the aroma of lavender in the air and observe the scenery in front of us. We try to stay out of our minds and experience our senses. Rather than spend a walk in nature constantly thinking and processing all the things we have to do, instead we stay present and experience nature and all of its beautiful sights, smells, sounds and sensations.