When I look at people who have fulfilling lives, achieving what they want in work, enjoying satisfying relationships, and are just generally happy campers, they have something in common. They’re in a place of clarity which is so important to function at our best. What’s the difference between those who live in the space of clarity, and those who continue to feel stuck? They likely don’t carry around a lot of baggage, creating room for the positive mindset and energy that we need for a vibrant life.

When I work with someone to improve their lives, we start by figuring out what they’re holding onto that is weighing them down or holding them back. If we can identify what that “baggage” in our life is, we can start the process of letting go.

The trick is recognizing how this shows up in our lives, and what created it.

Baggage can be:

An unresolved issue with someone.
An emotional wound that hasn’t yet healed.
A disappointment: whether someone disappointed you, or you disappointed yourself.
A major loss or life transition, perhaps a death, or a divorce, your kids went off to school, and you haven’t “worked through that grief”. All of these things can weigh you down.
How do you know if there’s something in your life in need of letting go?

You may find you’re feeling down for a few days or weeks. You look around for something that is going on, and you don’t see anything obvious; nothing bad has happened recently, or
You’re stuck on something in your life. You may be feeling pretty good, but you’re not making progress on something that matters to you. Either you’re stalled on a goal, or you’re not starting something at all even though you said you would.
How do you work through it all?

When you dig deep, you’ll reconnect with your feelings around what’s holding you back. You may start to feel angry, sad, anxious, annoyed, or irritable. This surge of feelings is a gift to guide you to move forward. This is your signal that there is work to be done, and where you need to get started.

A note on death and letting go: If you’re thinking, “But I lost a person… I don’t want to move forward… that’s like forgetting them.” Trust me; it’s not. Notice I didn’t say “get over them” or “move on.” When you truly grieve a person, you can continue your life in a way that honors the relationship and them. That lets you redefine the relationship you have with them after they’re physically no longer with you. Because they wouldn’t want you to stay stuck or depressed because they died, right?

So how do you begin the process of letting go?

The first technique is to create an experience around the feeling. This is why different cultures and religions have established rituals when someone dies: like funerals and sitting Shiva. These rituals allow people to mourn, to let go of the deceased in the physical form in which they knew them.

Because we aren’t set up with similar rituals to cope with other types of loss, we have to create the experience for ourselves when we know it is wise to let go. While I’m going to give you some examples of ways you can start letting go, I want you to do WHAT WORKS for YOU. And if you start off doing something and it’s not doing it for you, be flexible. Your gut will often lead the way. Good places to start can include:

Doing something you used to do with that person. Go to a favorite place. Have a meal or cook a dish they loved.
Have a conversation with them. Take a walk in Nature, play some music that connects you to them. Let yourself BE with them… with the sadness, the pain, the beauty of memories, the joy! That joy that sometimes we only get to feel when we’ve opened ourselves up to the pain too. FEEL IT ALL.
If you were betrayed or have an emotional wound, there might be hurt, anger, or disappointment. It requires a different sort of ritual that allows expression of the negative feelings. Try journaling, or writing a letter to the person, whether you send it or not. The value for you is in you expressing your thoughts and feelings: not in the other person’s response. Tear it up or burn it! Release your frustrations on the paper. Remember: do what WORKS for YOU.

Forgiveness rituals can be very powerful. You may not feel ready, but I encourage you to be open to forgiving in the future. Forgiving is something you do for you: to free YOU from the pain of that experience. It’s not to let them off the hook or say what they did was okay.

Unresolved issues with people are a biggie in the unnecessary baggage department. You better believe they hold you back. Here’s the good news. Whether the other person acknowledges their part in it, apologizes or not, you get to decide whether you continue to let that experience affect you moving forward. Just choose. And then let it go.

My Life Rule of Thumb: Hold on to what fills you up: people, love, passions. And let go of what doesn’t. Because when we travel lighter, we can go farther, and the ride is much smoother.

By Dr. Lee Odescalchi

Author's Bio: 

Lee Odescalchi is a coach and licensed psychologist. She has coached and counseled clients, just like you, looking for more fulfilling lives. Her unique approach uses the most effective methods of personal development and performance strategies. She does this while addressing issues from the past that have led to self-limiting beliefs that get in the way of your success. Lee also empowers people to “get out of their own way” and maximize their strengths so they can produce extraordinary results… in any area of their life.