In Zen tradition, there is a well-known tale that shares the idea of letting go. There are many versions of this story, but here is the gist:
Two travelers reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles, so she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silk robes. She just stood there, looking angry and impatient, upset that the rain might ruin her day. She was scolding her attendants, quite upset that they had not done a better job of meeting her needs. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the large puddle themselves.
The younger traveler noticed the woman and all her drama, said nothing, and walked by. The older traveler quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older traveler, but just shoved him out of the way and kept on going.
As they continued on their way, the young traveler was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up and carried her! She didn’t even thank you!” “I set the woman down hours ago,” the older traveler replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”
This story illustrates the fact that we either set things down, or we continue to carry them. Setting things down means a brief process of carrying in order to get to the other side, while continuing to carry means that many miles later, we are still burdened.
We either move forward, or we continue to carry. It could be an event, a relationship, a job, or a heartbreak. In the end, we all need to ask this: Are you letting go and moving forward in 2019, or hanging on and continuing to carry all the stuff from 2018?
5 Keys Letting Go and Moving Forward:
1. Identify your Feelings:
The first key for Letting Go and Moving Forward is to identify your Feelings. Not everything affects us in a negative way, and so it is critical to identify the events, relationships, and heartbreaks which have impacted you in an emotionally harmful way. When it comes to life, relationships, and events, we either identify the issues, or we suppress the issues. Suppressing leads to regressing; while identifying leads to progressing.
This is the principle of “Clarified Emotion”. Emotion that’s not clarified often lies in a state of negativity, draining our positive energy and inspiration. Find a safe place to identify your feelings, to clearly express and articulate the happenings which have impacted you in an emotionally hurtful way. It is difficult to live an empowered life without clarified emotions. Without identifying our feelings, we experience emotional blockage, and this is unhealthy.
2. Extend Forgiveness
The second key for Letting Go and Moving Forward is to extend Forgiveness. Forgiveness does NOT mean that the negative emotions go away, or that the pain instantly dissolves, or that the relationship and trust goes back to normal. Forgiveness is essentially a transaction where we choose to release another and wipe the slate clean. Forgiving someone may cost you your pride, but not forgiving them will cost you your freedom. To forgive someone else is to set a prisoner free, and to joyfully discover that the prisoner was you.
This is the principle of “Closing Accounts”. In this, we make a clear list of those who have hurt or wounded us, and the events. We then identify exactly how they hurt us, and understand that by forgiving them, we help ourselves. And in the end, we make the decision to forgive. We close the account and move on. Without extending forgiveness, we experience bitterness, and this hurts us far more than the person we do not forgive.
3. Forget What Disempowers You
The third key for Letting Go and Moving Forward is to forget the things that disempower us. Once we have made the choice to forgive, one of the healthiest things we can do is make the choice to forget. This is NOT about forgetting the event or the person, actually not at all. To forget what they did only gives them a chance to do it again, if we haven’t learned from what occurred. We don’t forget the person or event, but there is no value in dwelling in the past. When we dwell in the past too much, it becomes part of our personal story that we move forward with. And if that story is only filled with negative events, people, and relationships, it is easy to see how this can hold us back from moving forward.
This is the principle of “Closure”. In our story above, the older traveler made peace with the actions of the young woman, while the younger traveler continued to nurse what happened, and to rehearse it, and to continue to carry her. It is difficult for even the most talented among us to move forward if our personal story is mainly about the negative happenings, people and occurrences of our past. Find closure.
Without forgetting and healthy closure, we experience bondage. People who are trapped by the past live with a negative story that defines their future, disempowers their present, and constrains their possibilities.
4. Focus on What Matters
Once we have identified our feelings, extended forgiveness, and forgotten what disempowers us, the fourth key for Letting Go and Moving Forward is to focus on what matters. We cannot change the past, nor can we control the future, but in the present we can focus on that what matters.
Focus on the power of focus! What you focus on, you move towards, and ultimately, become. If I do not like my present outcomes, I need to adjust my focus, because I will move towards what I focus on. Tony Robbins said that, “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” This is so true, and to emphasize this, Bruce Lee said that, “The successful warrior is the average person, with laser-like focus.” Average people with above-average focus produce exceptional results. This is the principle of “Clear Vision”. A clear vision harnesses your potential, and helps you tap into the laser power of focus. You will surprise yourself when you focus like a laser.
So, what are you focused on? What is your vision statement for today? For this week? For this month? What is your clear vision for this year, and the next one? Spending time to ponder and reflect on those things is a far more effective use of your time than dwelling on the past and fixating on its failures. Without focus, things are blurry, and blurriness is disempowering.
5. Go Forward with Growth
Once we have identified our feelings, extended forgiveness, forgotten what disempowers us, and focused on what matters, the fifth key for Letting Go and Moving Forward is go forward with your vision. Zig Ziglar said that, “Lack of direction, not time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
This is the principle of “Consistent Personal Growth”. W. Edwards Deming established the Total Quality Movement. Deming’s contribution is historically so important that U.S. New & World Report called him one of the “nine hidden turning points in history” (along with the birth control pill and the Apostle Paul). After over 50 years of research, Deming pointed out that in every process there is a beginning and an end. When you focus on the first 15% of that process and get it correct, you insure at least 85% of your desired outcome. By focusing on the first 15% of anything, the remaining 85% will typically effortlessly flow. “Getting the process correct”, when it comes to you and I, is all about ongoing training, education, personal growth, and personal development.
Michelangelo said that, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”
See, when we stop growing, we start dying. Will Rogers said that, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Going forward is all about making choices and developing habits so that we consistently continue to grow and move forward as people. It is all about daily choices and daily habits which flow from an overall life focus of growth and personal development. Aristotle said that, “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Perhaps Joe Girard summed it up best when he said that, “The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs… one step at a time.”
Without going forward, we experience boredom, and bored people are typically not the ones who are empowered and serve, contribute, and add value.
The story of the two travelers illustrates the fact that we either set things down, or we continue to carry them. Setting things down means a brief process of carrying in order to get to the other side, while continuing to carry means that miles later, we are still burdened.
We either move forward, or we continue to carry. It could be an event, a relationship, a job, or a heartbreak. In the end, we all need to ask this: Are you letting go and moving forward, or hanging on and continuing to carry?