Let It Go

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No, no, this isn’t about the movie Frozen.  However, these three words, “let it go” hold a lot of power.  There are times when the greatest act of love can be to let someone or something go.  There are times when the ability to let things go can also improve health, clear the mind, improve quality and efficiency of work, and set loose the imagination.  On the flip side, letting things go can have an equally negative effect.  Letting go of opportunities, relationships, potential, belief, etc. can in some cases be very personally detrimental, sometimes to multiple people.  It takes wisdom and discernment to know what is good to let go, and what would be a mistake to let go.

For now, I want to focus on one thing that is very good to let go.  One of the best things we can let go of is WORRY.  As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, Identity, I have begun listening to successful authors and publishers for a Self-Publishing Success Summit in order to give insight into tips and strategies that can enable someone to begin writing their first book and get it published.  According to what I heard on the first day of the online seminar, approximately 80% of people have at least considered writing a book or wanted to, but only about 8% ever do.  I don’t know whether or not that is accurate, but it is believable.  I am finding, however, that many of the principles that are encouraged by these authors to accomplish writing a book are also very applicable to multiple other areas of life, and to most other endeavors and goals.

Worry is an unproductive and crippling emotion.  Worry and fear prevent people from doing amazing things and reaching expanding their potential all the time.  Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, artist, entertainer, scientist, teacher, engineer, home maker, parent, or anything else, worry will always hinder your ability to be highly effective in any role.  Fear (in a controlled portion) can occasionally be good for helping us avoid dangerous situations or initiate the fight or flight response.  However, worry is good for nothing.  It is fear of things that may not even exist, or if they do, are beyond your control.  It does nothing to help the situation and most often causes responses that make the situation worse.  It can be harmful to health, detract from clear thinking, hinder good judgment, lead to panic or loss of control, and ultimately create more chaos for a situation that may have been far more manageable without the introduction of worry.

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One of the authors presenting during this online self-publishing summit is named Mitch Matthews.  His lecture was about overcoming worry about book writing and publishing.  Of course, whether choosing to write a book or not, I believe his advice is applicable to any area of worry.  I’d like to summarize a little bit of what he said here in hopes that it may be helpful if you find yourself frequently worrying about things.  There are three main steps he recommends to overcome worry.

  1. Identify and acknowledge your worry.

Figure out what it is that is preoccupying your thoughts and emotions and ask yourself a better question.  Worry creates tunnel vision.  We see less visually, and mentally we also see less options available.  It inhibits our best thinking.  If you are worried that you can’t do something well, or that people may not like your work, then ask yourself, “What if what I’m doing helps even one person?  What if someone needs what I am about to give?”  In that case, would the rest of the critical opinions matter?

  1. Replace it.  Don’t just try to forget about it.

Once you’ve identified what you are worried about, don’t just try to put it out of your mind.  Replace it with something better.  Mitch Matthews shared a story about a professor that went to his class and instructed his students that they must NOT think about purple cows.  After this instruction, he went down the line of students and asked them what they were thinking about, and almost all of them said they couldn’t stop thinking about purple cows.  Then he came to one student and asked her the same question and she replied, “I’m thinking about pink elephants.”  The rest of the students tried to put the thought of purple cows out of their minds, but in attempting to just forget the subject, they kept bringing it back to their minds.  The only way one student was able to effectively not think about purple cows was to intentionally start thinking about pink elephants instead.

  1. Take action intentionally.

Make a plan of action to counter your worry and carry it out.  The example that Mr. Matthews gave in his lecture is a common excuse for many people.  Worry about having enough time to devote to writing, or doing whatever is your goal or dream.  So, he made a plan to devote 15 minutes a day just to write (or do something that moves you toward your goal).  He made a list of topics he could write about for 15 minutes, and he gave himself permission to skim books and podcasts that would help him learn about things that would help him toward his goal.  If he didn’t have time to read, he would skim for basic concepts at least.  Time can be a difficult resource to manage sometimes, but if it is important enough to you, you will find a way to make time for it, even if only a little.  A little time working toward a goal is still forward motion.  Slow progression is still way better than standing still.

A few other tips that he recommended which are very important are to have an idea of what success looks like so you will recognize it when you reach it, and give yourself grace.  Define short term and long term success and put a time limit on reaching it, step by step.  Is your dream to start your own business?  Then describe in detail what you want that to look like long term.  What kind of business?  What’s the name?  Will you have employees?  Will you have your own building space?  What will customers say about your business?  What will you offer?   After you have an idea of what the long term success looks like, then define the short term success stages.  What is the first thing you need to do to start your new business?  How long would it reasonably take to complete that first step?  How about choosing a name for your business, copyrighting it and choosing a logo.  Maybe you could get that done within a week, so you might set that as your time limit goal.  If you successfully complete that goal then reward yourself somehow.  Then do the same thing for the next step.  Identify and celebrate the small successes that bring you closer to your big success!

Don’t forget to give yourself grace.  No one is perfect and mistakes will be made along the way, guaranteed.  Let your mistakes go!  The worst type of rejection is rejecting yourself.  Another author and speaker at the summit named Marisa Peer also mentioned that psychologically we start to believe what we hear the most.  So, if you are constantly telling yourself that you are no good at something, that you can’t, that people won’t like it, that you don’t have the time or resources, then you will believe those things and they will dictate your actions, and being negative, they will crush your dreams.  So, she recommends constantly giving yourself praise and support in your own efforts.  Look at your work and say, “this is amazing!” or “this is brilliant!” or “this will be so helpful to people!” or “people are going to love this!”  Positive reinforcement of what you are doing is going to build confidence and relax worries which will in turn free the mind and imagination to reach new heights and enable higher quality of work.  She also mentioned the basic concept of “fake it ’til you make it.”  If you don’t have the belief in your abilities, skills, ideas and work you’ve created yet, then pretend that you do until it starts to feel like you really do see just how wonderful it is.  We can choose what we believe and we can take action to fight lies and negative feelings.

One last thought from Ms. Peer was to give yourself grace because if your efforts don’t work out, at least you’ll know that you gave it your best shot.  More than likely though, it will work out.  She said, “I’ve never regretted doing something, I’ve only ever regretted NOT doing something.”  No one can reject you unless you let them.  If you have a skill, you should share it!  You never know how much time you have in this life, so use today wisely and don’t miss your opportunity to take your best shot!

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One thought on “Let It Go

  1. So much of what you said really resonated with me. It may be because I am a worrier. Not in the classic sense that I can get paralyzed with worry, but because I am an analyzer. I am a very curious person and so I always like to know more about something. How it works, why it is shaped the way it is, why it acts a certain way when something is done to it, etc. This flows into my interactions with people. I find people fascinating and spend time understanding the people I am closest to in order to know them better and form stronger deeper bonds with them. However with this analytical approach, it becomes very easy to over analyze something and begin to worry about how my input in the relationship may have produced certain results. So talking about reducing worry is very helpful for me and I have actually seen many of these concepts in action in my own life. Some positive and some negative.
    For example, I have mentioned before that I am also writing. However, most of the time when I write, I spend far too much time going back and reading what I wrote and correcting it. Partly because I worry about it not being accepted by others, but partly because I enjoy what I wrote so much that I like to go back and read it. Then I find myself correcting spelling and grammar mistakes because I just happened to notice them. I still feel like I am probably the only person who will like this book, which discourages me from writing. However, when I think about how much other people will like it I get excited and want to stop writing this comment and go write more in my book(and I did try what you suggested about defining success and thought that if I saw one person who I never knew and never knew me or any of my family or friends reading my book, I would see that as a success. That was exciting to me)!
    However, I have come to the same conclusion as you quoted from Marisa Peer: “I’ve never regretted doing something, I’ve only ever regretted NOT doing something.” I figured that out for myself a little while ago and it has opened so many wonderful opportunities for me. Every time I wonder if I should do something I always say to myself that I have only ever regretted not trying or not doing something. I usually end up doing it then. I am not always successful, but I am always glad I tried. I thank you once again for lending insight into life and encouraging myself and hopefully others to go out and live their dreams. The tools and skills you talk about will make success much more likely.