Last year, to celebrate another trip around the sun, I wrote a birthday blog called "37 Life Lessons in 37 Years." It was reminiscent of my life's biggest successes, "failures," learning experiences, and opportunities for growth condensed into little life-lesson nuggets. To my humble surprise, it went on to be my most popular blog ever, read by hundreds of thousands all over the world. (It was even translated into several other languages including German, Romanian, Spanish, Bosnian, and Russian.) Emails poured in from readers who felt a deep connection and resonance to those words. It spoke to the ability to connect deeply with others by expressing ourselves straight from the heart, showing vulnerability, and finding the lessons in our deepest struggles. It also spoke to the universal desire to dig deeper and become more conscious.
Now, as my 38th birthday is here, I am feeling reflective once again. Lately, I've been thinking about all of the positive changes in my life and things that I do differently (that my younger self didn't quite understand). As each year passes, I've learned to dive deeper into the person that I am meant to be. As a result of this passionate pursuit of truth and spiritual growth, many layers have been shed along the way, gratefully releasing what no longer serves me.
In the essence of growth and transformation, these are the top 38 things I've learned to let go of in 38 years:
- Make-Up Every Day. There was a time in my life when I wouldn't even go out to the mailbox without full make-up. What if I ran into somebody? Or, you know, maybe the paparazzi were hanging outside my window (ha! You never know, right?) -- so silly. This was a security blanket that I held onto forever. Now, I happily run errands all over town in my yoga pants, hair pulled back in a ponytail, with fresh face (and maybe just a dab of organic lip gloss). In doing so, I feel more beautiful than ever. Real beauty radiates from within.
- Other People's Acceptance. Being a people-pleaser is exhausting work. The day I realized it was mission impossible to even try to do so, I began to feel so much lighter. I still love being good to people, however, I do so in a way that honors my own true desires first. After all, when we take care of ourselves, we can better serve others.
- Perfectionism. The need to be perfect stifles our creativity and drives us batty in the process. It's not even an obtainable goal. As humans, we're built to make mistakes. Besides, there is much beauty in owning our imperfections. It's the tiny little cracks and dings in our armor that let the light in.
- Being right. Somebody once asked me, "Would you rather be happy or right?" After thinking about it for a moment, I declared, "both" (duh!) But, upon further consideration, I realized that the need to be right to be happy was actually the cause of much unhappiness. (Debating, arguing, stooping to someone else's level to prove a point -- I feel heavy just typing these words.) Sometimes it's better to just let things go, choose happy and be light.
- Obsession disguised as fitness. There was a time when I'd go to the gym six days a week (and it was tough taking that seventh day off!), restrict calories, and generally obsess over body image. In the personal growth and spiritual work I've done, I realize that these obsessions were coming from a place of not feeling good enough. As I've learned to love myself from the inside out, these unhealthy habits have faded away. Sure, I still eat healthy, love my daily green juice, run a good 12-15 miles a week, and get in some yoga every day. But, now I do it because I want to take care of my body and I love how it makes me feel. Gone are the days of shame and not feeling worthy enough.
- Being cool. I think at some level, we all want to be cool. But, what is cool, anyway? It's such a relative term. Fifteen years ago, I used to DJ and get paid to play music, and travel, and dance. Now, my idea of a rockin' Friday night is writing a couple chapters in my book (and if it's a real party, I will get in some yoga handstand inversions first!). The bottom line: Doing what you love is cool. No outside opinion needed.
- Seeking praise. It's easy to get caught up in the reward or recognition side of things, but that can be a distraction from our life's true mission and leave us feeling empty (especially when the outside praise fades away -- and it always does). Do it for the cause, not the applause. Keep working hard and stay true to yourself and know that everything will unfold exactly as it is meant to be.
- Holding grudges. If you're a human being on this earth, than at some point some other human has probably done you wrong. It might have even stung pretty badly. Probably even pissed you off? But, the worst thing to do is hold onto to that toxic anger and those feelings of resentment. Instead, choose an enormous act of self-love: Forgive, let go, and set yourself free.
- Comparison. There is no easier way to lower our own vibration than to board the comparison train. When we start putting ourselves up against others, we can either feel totally inadequate or totally vain. Neither of those emotions are empowering. Instead, we should celebrate our own diversity and honor where we are on our current path. And, be happy for others when they have success. There's plenty to go around and it feels good to celebrate others.
- The outcome. Attachment to a specific outcome (the dream job, perfect mate, etc.) can set us up for much suffering. It is the Buddhist belief that letting go of such attachment is key to feeling content and happy. It's important to have vision and dreams, but we must hold on to them ever so loosely and be open to whatever twists and turns life brings to us. In these moments of surrender, we not only feel lighter and free, but may even find that something better was meant to be.
- Drinking. I still have my occasional glass of wine, but long gone are the days of chugging tequila shots and dancing on bar tops. It's not so cute when you're in your late 30s, ya know? Besides, there's just something about waking up feeling good, remembering the night before, not poisoning our bodies, and keeping our dignity. (It's the little things, right?)
- Putting self-care on the backburner. I used to feel it was selfish to take time to pamper and care for myself. Now, I realize that it's crazy not to. In both my professional and personal life, a lot of people rely on me (as so many others can relate to). When we don't take time to love ourselves and recharge our own batteries, we get sick and burnt out and are absolutely no use to anybody else. Pencil in that uber-important soul-soothing time and flourish in all areas of life.
- Fueling my body with garbage. Visions of former self with sugar-free Red Bull and vodka in hand come to mind. Uggh! There is an old computer idiom "garbage in, garbage out" referring to the quality of data entered and what the computer spits out. The same is so true of our bodies and what we decide to fuel them with. Learning to read labels and knowing what each ingredient really does to our bodies is game-changing.
- Toxic products. Over the years, I've managed to "green" most of our house. Realizing how many toxic chemicals are in the products that we use on our body and to clean our houses every day and knowing the effects they have not only on our own health, but also the environment has been eye-opening. It takes some planning and research to start switching over to all-natural, but well worth the efforts. (I just wish I had started sooner!)
- Choosing fear. Ego likes us to feel separate, anxious, not good enough, lacking -- all fear-based thoughts. Once we learn that we can actually choose love in any situation instead, miraculous shifts occur. It takes practice (and I'm still a work in progress some days myself), but we always have the ability to tap into love and turn those fearful thoughts turn into empowering ones.
- Putting dreams on hold. The time to live our lives is now, but so often we put our deepest passions on the back burner to deal with on some later date when the timing is right and everything is perfect. (Guess what: That day may never come.) Nobody said it would be easy, but instead of tapping into the hundreds of excuses not to start, we must take action to live in our truth today. Even if they are small baby steps, just get moving.
- Being the (perceived) center of the Universe. Getting over ourselves and in to our purpose is one of the most rewarding shifts we will ever make. Living our lives in service to others and thinking about the impact we can leave in the world (rather than how much we will personally benefit), pays back in more love and fulfillment dividends than our ego could have ever imagined.
- Giving from an empty cup. Being born with an oversized heart, I've had to learn the hard way that we can't give away what we don't have. As obvious as this sounds, it's a common mistake we make. Instead, we must learn the golden rule and make sure our own cup is full first. Then we can give wholeheartedly from the overflow and not skip a beat.
- Taking blessings for granted. From the moment we wake up in the morning and take in that first big breath of air, we have endless blessings to be grateful for. But, it can be super easy to take these things for granted: our health, food in our belly, a roof over our head. By learning to express gratitude often (and really feel it in our bones), we raise our vibration and increase our abundance. Winning!
- Looking outside. "You are the guru" is the most precious piece of wisdom. I keep this for myself and share with my tribe, often. We're so accustomed to going outside of ourselves and looking for the answers. But, deep inside, we already know. Our inner-guru is infinitely wise. It is up to us to learn how to tap into this innate wisdom by being silent, going inward often, and listening deeply with our heart.
- Logic. Don't get me wrong. I love science. My mind is constantly asking: Why? How? What if? But, more recently, I've been blessed to begin to understand that we don't always have the answers. Now, I believe in magic, miracles, higher powers and energy that are beyond our five senses. It can be beyond measurement, beyond modern science, and still absolutely exist. I believe. Be curious. Stay open. And, imagine the infinite possibilities.
- Looking over the ledge. Fear can easily paralyze us into not taking that first step with thoughts of: "It's not perfect yet." "What if I fail?" Change that to, "What if I fly?" and take the leap! Things may not end up exactly as envisioned, but the key is to make the forward motion. You will learn and grow so much on the way. This is the resonating truth of "leap and the net will appear."
- Silence. We must be brave enough to speak our truth, even when it makes our heartbeat speed up and our voice shake -- no, especially when it does. I continue to dive deeper into finding my own voice each day. And, I will continue on this journey until you find me yelling from rooftops!
- Drunk dancing in public. Sober dancing is actually a ton of fun (who knew?) It's about letting go, feeling elevated, being completely in the moment and setting our spirits free. Giving a shit what anybody thinks of you while doing it is completely optional and actually a total buzz-kill.
- Other people's drama. The beautiful thing is that no matter how much drama someone is bringing to our space, we actually get to choose not to participate in it. It can be so easy to get sucked in. We want to stand up, defend, shut down. But it's totally not worth the energy it sucks from our soul and sacrificing those precious happy life moments we'll never reclaim. Run, don't walk away! (And never look back.)
- Holding my tongue. This one is still difficult for me because I don't like conflict or hurting people. But sugar-coating or holding back instead of giving honest feedback is never a good idea. In fact, it's a disservice to all when the direct and sincere feedback could have been of benefit. Besides, feelings held back will eventually manifest themselves one way or the other (and often it's not pretty). Instead, it's best to get the truth out there in as thoughtful and gentle way as possible.
- Saying yes. We already have crazy lives and overbooked schedules. What sense does it make to say "yes" to doing more when we really don't even want to or have the capacity? It sucks to feel like you're letting somebody down, but it sucks even worse to max yourself out to the point of exhaustion and then harboring subconscious resentment as a result. Say no with love.
- Judging. People are doing the best they can with what they have. No matter where we are at on our journey, it's important to respect where others are on theirs, even (no, especially) if we don't understand or agree. We need to just love them people they're at. It's always okay to love from a distance, if necessary.
- Gossip. Unless it's to say how awesome they are, it's best not to talk about others when they're not present. I've been on both sides of the gossip fence and it just feels icky all around now. There are too many opportunities to hurt feelings or misconstrue facts. There are so many better things we can talk about than each other, anyway. Change the subject, say something nice, but just don't fall into the gossip trap.
- Ego. Our ego mind thrives on feeling special, cool and important. It doesn't take too kindly to change, either. When ego's calling the shots, life can be difficult, tense, and unhappy. However, realizing that we are not our thoughts and to just be the observer (instead of the reactor) to that crazy little voice is the most liberating thing ever.
- Forgetting to take it all in. There is so much freaking beauty all around us in this world, but how often do we really take it all in? Each sunrise or sunset is a potential masterpiece of art to drink in with our eyes. We can see the whole Universe inside one single flower. When we tilt our heads back and look at the sky, there are infinite possibilities to ponder for eternity. Dive into all that yumminess and be marveled with the world.
- The end goal. Goals are great and having vision is super-important. But, putting blinders on to become completely fixated on them is not at all healthy or productive. In fact, it can be pretty soul-sucking and we miss out on some beautiful opportunities to live fully. Enjoy the journey. It is the destination, after all.
- Being the expert. The expert already knows it all and isn't allotted much room to make mistakes, but everybody wants to be the expert, anyway. Did you know that beginner has more fun? With beginner's mind, anything is possible. The beginner can do no wrong. Explore. Make mistakes. Be open. Have fun.
- Forgetting to pause. It's important beyond words to take the time and create the space to pause and just breathe. We need to feel our own heart beating inside our chest and take in the awe-inspiring beauty all around us. Life can be hectic and we get in the mode of go, go, go, but that's a toxic pace to keep up. We must remind ourselves of the exquisite magic in slowing down.
- Taking life too seriously. We're all here for a limited amount of time and nobody has all the answers. In fact, most of us are just chugging along and trying the best we can. The point is: we might as well have a fun go at it! Laugh often. Be totally random and crazy. Love life and it will love you back.
- Stifling creativity. Deep down, we are all creators. And, when we don't find outlets to express those creative juices, we are essentially suffocating our souls. So, paint, dance, write a book or a poem, sing, draw, cook, or build a business from the ground up. Just follow your heart and do what you love, but for goodness sakes create something and do it often!
- Hiding behind the layers. We all do it. Posturing. Pretending. Being in such a way that other people will like and accept us. But, at some point, we hopefully realize that it's such much easier and more fulfilling to just be ourselves. You are enough and perfect the way you are, so start peeling those masks away and let your authenticity shine.
- Settling. Life is too short to be anything less than ridiculously happy. If something no longer serves you, move past it. If a friendship becomes toxic, leave it. If you're not happy with something in your life, change it. Our time is limited, so make the absolutely freaking best of it and be able to look back with no regrets.
I hope you enjoyed this list! If you were to write your own, what would you add? Share in the comments below! Wishing you all the love and happiness your heart can hold. xx
(Dawn Gluskin is the author of forthcoming Type-A Zen, a former 7-figure CEO, founder of Zen Rebel, and self-proclaimed business yogi. She teaches a unique mix of business & spirituality to those with big dreams who wish to live a purpose-driven, mindful life. Stay connected and inspired on Instagram and Facebook and get weekly soulseeds here.)