Letting go is easy to say, but hard to do for many people. We can drag our feet, make up excuses or refuse to deal with the reality of change and transition. The reality of change is that 1) it happens ALL THE TIME and 2) it won’t ever stop happening.
After experiencing all of my own life’s changes and helping clients transition through some of their most difficult life stages, I have come up with 5 infallible steps for life’s transitions. As long as you are mindful of the process and stay present, these will work for you every time.
Step 1 – Love The Experience
So often in life, the focus is on the future and living for the next day rather than taking in the current moment. To some, the past is pointless as there’s nothing that can be changed about it…only learned from it or we want to hold on to it and not let go.
Love the experience by being grateful for it. Spend time writing down everything you are grateful for from the current experience, then meditate on it, and then answer a couple of questions, such as:
1) What was amazing about this experience?
2) What was the purpose of this experience?
3) What can I take with me into the future now that I’ve had this experience?
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
Step 2 – Say Goodbye
Change is a process of moving beyond where you are now; that can mean leaving things in the past and forging on without them. Accepting the change is similar to playing on the monkey bars; to move ahead, you need to let go of the bar behind you, to grab on to the one in front of you. You need to say goodbye to the now so you can grab the future with an open hand.
Clutter is a burden that keeps us confined and tied up in things that suffocate rather than free us. This clutter can be physical, mental, or emotional. We need to declutter our emotional and mental space during change and transition. To do that try this activity:
Tear scraps of paper into 2” x 4” pieces (so a standard 8.5” x 11” paper should get you about 10 pieces).
Draw a line down the center of each piece – on the left, write down what you’re going to let go of and on the right, write down what you’re going to be able to accept because you’ve let go.
Use as many sheets of paper as you need.
Once you’ve written everything down, tear each 2”x 4” down the line. Throw away the left sides (throw out, shred) and keep the right sides…be creative with it – frame them or make a collage!
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Step 3 – Explore the Possibilities
You know how you feel when you’re embarking on a moment of greatness – the butterflies in your stomach, the ants-in-your-pants dance you do, the surge of energy reeling through you?? Well today is that day friends! Through the other two steps, you’ve practiced gratitude for what you’ve been given so far and have made space for the new things you’ll be given by letting go of what wasn’t working for you. Now we get to explore!
Openness & exploration are key to making this step meaningful. We’re going to start with brainstorming and a free write – let the thoughts flow; review your “keep” pile from Step 2. What are you able to accept and be open to starting today? Group your thoughts together and then make a list of priorities based on your thoughts and groupings.
If you’re getting stuck here, complete a values assessment for yourself. If your priorities and values are not in alignment, where did your priorities come from? Where did your values come from? What opportunities are there for you to make changes and bring them into alignment?
“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.” Kristin Armstrong
Step 4 – Make Decisions for You
In Step 3 we delved into what values and priorities have been making your life decisions for you. Now, YOU get to make choices through a dress rehearsal of sorts…you’re going to “try on” different choices by making decisions to see how they fit for you, envision how they may realign you to your ‘true self’ and decide if you’re going to keep the choice, toss the choice, or play with it.
First, envision the life you truly desire – where your passions, abilities, strengths, uniqueness, and values all come together in a beautifully-combined reality. I want you to close your eyes and picture yourself in that reality – what do you and your surroundings look like, feel like, smell like, taste like, and sound like? What are you doing? Who are you with? What colors are around you? What makes you satisfied, content, and peaceful in this reality?
Then when this picture is crystal clear, write it all down – every detail that you can remember; every thought, feeling, action and sense you had while envisioning this new reality. Work with this new reality by figuring out the opportunity within it, flesh it out, take action with it, and then decide to toss it, keep it or replace it.
“The decisions you make are a choice of values that reflect your life in every way.” Alice Waters
Step 5 – Say Hello
Energy is powerful and being open to more energy, more positivity, and more blessings is always a good place to be! You started out in Step 1 at the EFFECT of life events, decisions, and others’ values for your life. CAUSE is based on planning and make a decision with awareness; EFFECT is allowing yourself to be a victim to the circumstance. Assuming you’ve done the work of Steps 1-4, in Step 5 you begin at the CAUSE of your life.
Your choices/decisions that you made in Step 4 are the strategies to get to your goals of how those accomplishments make you feel. So for example, working backwards, if the goal is to be content and the strategy is to love your body by eating healthier foods; how are you going to move your strategy into action? What’s one thing you can do in the next two weeks? The next month? The next six months?
Take four of your choices or decisions and identify:
A: the Emotional Goal – How will you feel when you reach it?
B: the Strategy – The choice or decision you made
C: the Actions – What will happen in the near future to support your strategy?
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Alan Lakein
These steps are infallible when done in order and with some time.
If you want to go more in-depth into these steps and how they can impact your transitions, you can purchase the 5 Day Self-Guided Personal Transition Retreat at www.janesecarstens.com.
May you let go and grab on with less stress and more excitement!