With 2016 behind us and 2017 fresh and anew, we're bombarded with messaging to take on the world, tackle our biggest goals - like weight loss, starting a business or finding love - and to forge confidently ahead into the new year. We barely make mention of what we must do to move forward, psychologically, physically and especially emotionally.
To bound into our new purpose, our new lives, we must first make the decision to let-go. And sometimes, letting-go happens without our consent, surprising us with divorce filings, company lay-offs, political upheavals or even unexpected family death.
Some people are good at good-byes, letting-go of the what could or should have been, what was and side-stepping the whys. They move to acceptance quickly and let their hurt or fear roll off their backs. Perhaps some of these people never really fully invested in the first place, staying emotionally distance all along, or they may have disengaged earlier over time so the final release was less taxing. Some people avoid their feelings all together, so letting-go is easier. Others remain present all along and unattached to the outcome, therefore making the what-is more tolerable.
For many more of us, letting-go is a real struggle. We may be fiercely loyal, too stubborn to admit defeat, blindly optimistic, see no ulterior options, or wedded to our anger or depression that the dream we fought so hard and long for never materialized or dissolved before it really even had a chance to flourish. We find comfort in the discomfort right where we are, resist change, fear the uncertain and the uncontrollable, or of making the wrong decision in saying good-bye. And so we remain stuck in indecision.
Many more of us desperately yearn for change, grappling with growing while waffling at the thought of saying so-long with such finality. So we cling to the ledge with our feet and bodies dangling over and our hands and fingers digging-in in hopes of holding ourselves right where we are. We fear letting-go. We may wish, pray, fight and plead for our bosses, partners, friends or country to just grow with us so no-one gets left behind! We try to stay squeezed into our tiny kindergarten desks where it's safe, despite we have outgrown the desk and all that's to be learned in the class.
With no K-12 program or parents dictating if we're ready for the next grade, self-directed adults sometimes need an unexpected push, shove or rejection to expand and live our truths. Managerial conflicts, dissolved business partnerships, health scares, break-ups, even societal and political shake-ups are gifts from the universe that happen for us, not to us. It's the universe's way of confronting what we ignore but which needs reconciling and made right.
If you're being bombarded by media to take a 30-day challenge to meet new goals, or you're feeling pressured to pull the trigger on a struggling relationship, health issue, career decision or a community proposition, stop and take these 9 steps first in January 2017 (barring a life-threatening situation):
1. Do not make a decision for up to 30 days.
Identify your feelings, and sink into them. Feel them. Allow yourself to wallow in the depths of grief, anger or tears for up to 5-10 days. Don't wash them out with substances, or escape them with mindless activities or zone out with endless checklists.
2. Have self-compassion.
Giving yourself the emotional space to accept your current place and the reassurance that you will be okay no matter what is critical to give yourself permission to ...
3. Root down and get centered.
Tune-out the outside noise, the unrequested advise, the unnecessary chatter from others and from within your own mind. This is achieved differently by each person, so find what works for you. For some it's yoga, self-help books, podcasts, running, hiking, a day-spa retreat and so on. The key is to quiet your mind and to center inside out.
4. Get off social media.
Rather than comparing and secretly competing with your buddies, business partner, kids' friends parents and even your own family, stay tuned into your own thoughts and feelings.
5. Make a mental map.
Take note of what your narratives are when you think about your future. Are you deep down your biggest naysayer? I remember feeling stuck and restrained at a corporate job and thinking, "They're holding me back." Until I got quiet and looked around and realized I was the only one holding me back. Expanding my professional wings was within me! When in doubt, seek support and guidance from a professional like an Executive Coach, Psychotherapist or Life Coach.
6. Take accountability.
You are where you are. Yes, we are not born into equal opportunity. Social class, race, gender, sexual orientation and more affect our start, not our outcome. Accept that while you may not have gotten to this point of discontent all alone- in relationship, education or business - you played your role. Once you've accepted you have participated in the life you've created, if even in silent agreement, then you can...
7. Acknowledge you have choice.
You have the power to have the life you want. You also have the power to prevent you from having the life you want. How you frame your life experience, historically and future experiences, drives the life you lead. Be the driver, not the passenger, on your ride. And finally...
8. Commit to letting-go!
Take a deep breath. Release. Set yourself free. Now that you've opened yourself up to new possibilities, collect the data you need to make an informed decision to create the life you want, set your long and short-term goals and priorities and make a reasonable plan with deadlines to achieving each of them!