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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?