On my last post Preparing to ‘let it go’, I wrote about approaches to get a realistic assessment of a situation in preparation to let go of lasting regrets or self-recriminations.
Easier said than done
If I express regrets, friends often advise me to ‘just let it go’ or ‘move on’. Unfortunately, I have that suggestion rarely, if ever, is accompanied by any strategies for doing that. Those of us with the tendency to hang on know that ‘just letting go’ is easier said than done. It isn’t like you can hit the delete button or even more simply, just stop thinking about it. I wish that I could easily do that. Believe me, I have tried! But my success rate is, at best, mixed and usually short lived.
I have tried asking people what they do, how they ‘just let it go’. The usual response is “I don’t know, I just do”. Not really too helpful as a learning tip. My husband, who, at least on the surface, is able to put things behind him, expressed some confusion at the question. When I asked him how he moved on from something, he replied with “I don’t understand how you can’t.” He did have interesting observation though. He said the difference between the two of us is that I still think that I can fix it while he feels that it is past and finished. Hmmm. Actually makes sense, though might not get me closer to a strategy. I do hate it when he makes me think like that.
I did get some more direct responses to asking people what they do. One friend told me, she repeats this little mantra to herself: “quack quack – like water off a duck’s back” to help gain perspective. It might sound to simple but that is the beauty of it. It doesn’t have to be a complex solution, just something that reminds you of the goal to let go of the negativity and prepare to move forward with more positive energy.
Rewrite your story
I have used some of the information that I gathered to create my own simple 3 Step Strategy:
STEP 1: Describe the event. Be realistic.
Be realistic and objective about the event / issue / comment. Give it a name. Get more detailed steps in Preparing to let it go.
STEP 2: Replace regrets with positive action.
Can you ‘fix’ it? Should you try? Is there something that can or should be said or done now? Would it be possible to clean up or backtrack?
This is not the time to do something that will stir up old anxieties, regrets or rivalries so before you say anything, ask yourself is it true? is it kind? is it helpful? If you answer no to any of these questions, do yourself a favor and make it part of what you are letting go.
If you believe you can still do something positive, do it. Don’t hesitate. Take action now. Pick up the phone, write a letter, send a text or extend a hand. Make the first move. You’ll feel better for taking action, especially if it has the potential to make a difference. Even if you are not successful at driving change, you can tell yourself that you did what you could and accept it as done.
If there is nothing that can change the source of regret, learn from it. What will you do differently the next time or with the next person? How can you share with others and help them avoid the same mistake?
Replace regrets and self-doubt with something more positive. How can you break the pattern? Try to move from regret to learning, from a holding patter to action, and from recrimination to forgiveness -of yourself AND others.
STEP 3: Create a ritual.
Give yourself a signal that it is time to let go. Don’t worry if it seems silly or too simple or a waste of time. It is just for you and if it makes you relax, forget or laugh, all the better. Here are a few ideas.
- Write it down using the name you gave it in Step 1. Tear or shred and recycle it, throw it to the wind or burn it.
- Write your story in a journal – and literally close the book on it.
- Write it on sand and let it go as the waves wash it away.
- Talk or shout it away. Tell your persistent issues that you are through thinking about them and are moving on. You might want to do that on your own where nobody will hear you or you might decide to share it with friends. Maybe share a meal or a few drinks and make it an event. Needless to say, don’t make a public showing if it is later going to cause you regrets.
Today I close the door to the past,
Open the door to the future,
Take a deep breath
Step on through
And start a new chapter in my life.
Those are my three steps. The process is still evolving so let me know how it works for you. And please feel free to share any suggestions for modifications.
Good luck. And here’s to fresh starts and new stories.