Want to Be Happier? Letting Go of These Will Make it Happen

Want to Be Happier? Letting Go of These Will Make it Happen

Happiness is as much about what we do as it is about what we don’t do.

We were born to set the world on fire. To live, love, learn, fall down, haul ourselves back up and do it all over again. Above all else, we were born to be happy. Everything we need to do that, is in us. 

There’s a trap we humans fall into a little bit. Actually a lot. I’ve done it myself once or a thousand times. We make the mistake of thinking the things that are completely within our control, aren’t. We fall under the spell of these ‘things’ and they become automatic, unnoticed and powerful. We don’t realise the damage they do – or that we can put an end to that damage as soon as we make the decision to.

When times get tough, it’s human nature to hang on harder to what’s familiar, even if it’s something that’s doing damage. We don’t realise it’s a choice. But it is. Here is a list of the things that hold us back. The more you let go of, the more things will change, and the more you – for the better:

  1. Other people’s opinions.

    You’re enough. You’ve always been enough. Good enough. Wise enough. Strong enough. Brave enough. Enough to decide who’s right for you, what’s right for you, the best way to be, the best way to live. Your wisdom gets lost when you listen too much to other people and not enough to yourself. People will doubt you, criticize and try to change your mind. Often that has more to do with them than you. Bend and flex when it feels right – if you feel like you’re doing it to keep someone else happy, leave it alone. 

  2. Having to please other people. (Oh those expectations!)

    This life is yours to live and it’s up to you to cherish the opportunity that comes with that. It’s the space you’ve been given to learn in, to love, be loved, flourish and sometimes, to fall. Don’t let anybody take that away by trying to control what you do with it. 

    You will disappoint people. And they’ll disappoint you. But live to please everyone and the person you’ll be hurting time after time is you. Let your decisions be guided by your truth and your wisdom and not someone else’s conditions of acceptance of you. If those conditions are designed to suit anyone else but you, then it’s not acceptance, it’s manipulation. Every time you change for someone you move a little bit more away from your authentic self and that wild open heart of yours becomes a little more tamed, a little more contained and you become a little more removed from your true self – that one that was born to set the world on fire.

  3. Saying yes to everyone. And their cousin’s neighbour’s mother.

    If you’re saying yes just to avoid saying no, it’s probably not the right thing to say yes to. The more things you say yes to the things you don’t want, the less room you’ll have to say yes to the things that actually matter.

  4. Anything that stops you asking for clarification, time, help, patience, understanding, space. 

    You’re human. You’ll need all of these things at some time or another. Sometimes you’ll need all of them at once – and you’re entitled them. Remember that. If there is shame around asking for it, whose voice is telling you that you shouldn’t need it? A parent’s? Someone you’re comparing yourself to? Someone you’ve been compared to? Who? It doesn’t matter if you can’t figure it out, what matters is that you recognise it as not being your own. Let it go. It is a sign of great strength – and wisdom – to be able to ask for what you need when you need it. If you’re not used to it, it will feel awkward at first, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right. And the more you ask, the easier it will get.

  5. Judging, criticizing, complaining. (And if you’re about to skip this because ‘you’d never do that to anyone, it includes doing it to yourself, too!)

    We all get it wrong sometimes. You don’t want to be one of those righteous, jugdementals who criticize and condemn someone because their faults are different to yours. If the urge is there, and at times it will be, check in and see where it’s coming from. Are you comparing, feeling insecure, jealous? All of those are okay to feel, but be careful how you act on them.

    We’ve all lost, loved, wanted and been bent over with grief. We’ve all been hurt, misunderstood and rejected. For some people, it’s been too many times and it’s changed them. That doesn’t mean you have to like them or accept them, but don’t add to the punches. Step quietly around and remember that we all want to be accepted, understood and loved. And if that someone you’re criticising and judging is you, then this all goes double. You can’t expect to set your world on fire when you’re smothering your spark with trash talk.

  6. Excuses.

    It’s our right as humans to stuff it up, fall apart and get it wrong sometimes – you don’t need to make excuses. An apology perhaps. Maybe an explanation. But never an excuse. You’re better than that. Don’t shy away from your own humanity, by pretending you don’t struggle with the same things we all struggle with. 

  7. Letting idiots, jerks and toxics change who you are.

    There will always be those who will try to dim you – and that will have nothing to do with you. If you find there’s someone in your life whose words or actions lead you to doubt that you’re good enough, smart enough, capable enough, beautiful enough, then it’s time to let go – of them, what they think, and what they mean to you. Don’t feel you have to justify or apologise cutting anyone from your life if they’ve handed you the scissors. 

  8. Thinking only the big things should be celebrated.

    Life happens in moments. It’s never about the big things, but about the small things that add up to something extraordinary. Celebrate those moments, however small. You’ll know them because they’ll leave you feeling inspired, hopeful, excited, brave or strong. You won’t always see the importance straight away, but you don’t need to see the final picture in its splendid completion to appreciate the parts that add up to make it happen.

  9. Talking, shutting down or getting busy – when it would be best to listen.

    Every single person you meet knows something you don’t. Even the idiots who would sooner see you fall. Listen to everything before you decide that none of it’s worth knowing. You’ve got nothing to prove – you don’t need to be smarter than, better than, bigger than, funner than, wiser than. You just need to listen. The rest will take care of itself. You’ll always have more influence with people if they feel as though you’e heard them. That alone is a good reason to pause and listen before you decide what to do with what you’ve heard.

  10. The need to be right.

    There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. Who had us believing there was anyway? Sometimes it’s the only way you can know what’s right. Better to put it out there and test it out than believe in the nonsense long term. Have faith that even if you’re wrong, you had a good reason for believing it in the first place. Then, be comforted by the fact that you were brave enough to let it go. It’s the fear of making a mistake that keeps us stuck in bad jobs, bad relationships, and around people who are bad for us. Don’t worry about being wrong. Worry that you’ll hang to ‘wrong’ for so long that you’ll never realise how ‘right’ things can be.

  11. Holding back.

    Vulnerability is the key to great relationships and a wonderful life but too many times we hold back. With people. With ideas. With ambition. With a ‘what if …’. We don’t take enough chances and it’s the fear of shame that holds us back. That fear is a dirty little liar. The truth is this: When it’s that thing or that person you can’t stop thinking about – you know the one – you’ll always have more to lose by staying safe than by taking a chance. By staying safe you’ll never experience shame, but you’ll never experience how great you could have been – and that’s a huge loss. Be daring. Be open. And don’t hold back. You’re here to fly – to love, to be loved, to flourish, to succeed, to grow, to knock this world off its feet with what you have to offer – and none of that comes with holding back.

  12. The need for control.

    I heard something once – don’t know where – and I draw on it often when I need courage or the strength to take a risk – ‘Fall back and let the universe catch you.’ By needing to control things, you’re missing the opportunities that show up spontaneously and unexpectedly. Let go, and see what happens. This has become my mantra is because I’ve seen what happens when I do. Doors open, paths widen. When you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, things open up. They just do.

  13. The Resistance to Change.

    Our paths are never straight. They’ll be sometimes bendy, sometimes smooth and sometimes clear. Sometimes the pot-holes will be so deep that you’ll fall into them in glaring sunshine and hit the bottom in the dark – but there’s always a way up. One thing is for certain, at times the direction of our path will change and sometimes this will be unexpected. If fighting it keeps pushing you backwards, try going with it and see where that takes you. Change is the fuel for growth and flourishing. The scariest part of making a change is that moment just before the leap, but once that leap is taken, you will be surprised with the doors that will open and the opportunities that will find you. I’m not saying that it will always be easy – things that are worth it rarely are – I’m saying that it will be worth it. When the path keeps getting blocked, your heart keeps getting broken, or the things you do keep pushing you down, it’s time to let go of trying to control or change whatever it that’s hurting you. You can always change direction – or change the path you’re on.

  14. Regret

    At some point in time, every decision you made felt like the right one to be making based on the balance of the information that was available to you. That doesn’t always mean it was the right one, so learn from it, move on from it and decide not to go back there. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in it by regret – it will chew you from the inside out.

  15. Blame

    Sometimes people do awful things, but they can’t control what you do from here on. Forgiveness isn’t about making everything okay but about letting go of someone’s control over you. Still despise them, what they did, and shut them out of your life – absolutely, but just don’t have them standing there by your side while you keep moving forward.

Letting go of those things can be hard, and there’s no need to let go of all them all at once. Start with one. Just one. And see what happens. Only good things can happen when you kick the stuff that weighs you down, not the least of which is freeing up energy and options for the things that will flourish you – and there are plenty of those waiting to take hold as soon as there’s space. 

What would you add to the list? 

9 Comments

anonymous

These articles are no doubt helpful and eye opening but one big thing you could add as you tell people don’t hold back, take a chance because you don’t know what else is out there for you is to never ever ever hurt anyone to do this, never take advantage of anyone, use anyone, manipulate anyone, con anyone to get what else might be out there for you. Having been on the receiving end of that kind of person I was in a relationshio with for over ten years, such inhumane treatment is life destroying. Yes the average good person should know this already but those who abuse a person’s goodwill need to hear this. Then again those people would probably never read this type of writings.

Reply
Brigitte

I subscribed to Hey Sigmund because I have a son, who is incredibly anxious due to a lot of awful things happening in his life, totally out of his control. It is very hard being the parent of a child like this because when he is happy, he is a real charmer but that doesn’t happen much any more and he’s only 11. I always find something relevant in your articles to think about and try to apply to him. I also send them through to his teachers so that they can have a better understanding of why he is the way he is. He is severely dyslexic and incredibly intelligent. Just those two combined are frustrating enough. Throw in a dead father, a mother with cancer and an anorexic sister and life is just very very tough.

Thanks for your articles. They are the first I’ve found in 9 years of searching that make sense to me for him.

Brigitte

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Hi Brigitte. I’m so sorry to hear that your family is going through such a touch time. I will never understand why some people get hit with so much all at once. Your little man will get through because of you and because of how much you believe in him and love him and support him. You sound like you’re their rock and I hope there is someone looking after you too. I’m pleased the articles are able to help you. Much love and strength to you.

Reply
Wendy

This goes straight to my core. I need to do all these things. From what source should I seek professional help? What sort of doctor? My brain is exhausted and it’s difficult to recognize truth and when I do, I feel like I don’t have the courage to make the necessary changes. I wish I had a monitor in my thoughts to help guide me, to learn from by example. Oh well…thank you for spelling out such clear truth.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Hi Wendy. Everything you need to make the changes is in you. The courage, the strength, the resilience – it’s all there. It might be buried under your struggles and history and heartache, but it’s all there. When it’s buried too deep, you might need support to reach it, in which case a counsellor will certainly be able to help you. The other thing is that you don’t have to do it all at once. When you change one thing, you would be surprised with what else will fall into place. Changing too many things at once would be overwhelming for anyone and would likely send you straight back to old habits, so if you can, start with something easy. With regards to finding a counsellor, a doctor can help put you on to one, otherwise ask friends if they know of anyone. I’m not sure what country you’re in, but you’ll probably find that for a counsellor or psychologist you won’t need a referral. I hope this helps.

Reply
Alex Schiavo

Ideas presented here are remarkable in their
similarity to Buddhist teachings!

Reply
Allie

These articles always have a way of finding me when I need them. Thank you!

Reply

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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