If Learning to Let Go Is the Key to Happiness, Lets Open the Door!
No one tells you in kindergarten that learning to let go is the key to happiness. Quite the opposite for most of us.
The seeds of determination are planted early:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Dream big! You can do anything you want, be anything you want.”
The world is competitive. It rewards winners, shakes off losers, and fuels the fighters who “never give up.” Right?
How, then, are you to make sense of your life, let alone live it, let alone love it, when things “just don’t go as you had planned”?
How are you supposed to know when not to give up? When to surrender the very dreams, ideas and desires that have been the driving force behind your life choices?
First of all, know that, while learning to let go is the key to happiness, it is not easy. Unless you were born into a Buddhist monastery, it is probably counterintuitive.
And, like all habits, “letting go” is learned by practice…and usually in the fires of difficult experiences that are outside of our control.
Life will sometimes lead you in a direction that forces you to question, if not let go of, the way you expected your life to go. And other times it will step in and take from you those things — even those lives — that matter most to you…no questions asked.
You could choose to hold onto what is no longer there or even possible, resulting in bitterness, anger, anxiety, and even depression. Or you could realize that true happiness lies in being so strong within yourself that the loss of even your most cherished attachments will not destroy you.
All desires are created out of beliefs about what you need to be happy. This delusional thinking is what leads you to covet your attachments in the first place. And it’s this delusion — the belief that you need the “object of your desire” in order to be happy — that limits your happiness.
Here, then, are seven reasons why learning to let go is the key to happiness:
- You don’t have as much control over life as you would like to think.Most of the control you think you have is an illusion. You can do everything in your power to “make” people like you, for example, but there will always be those who don’t see you the way you want to be seen. As the saying goes, “It’s none of your business what other people think of you.” You can’t control what others think any more than you can control other drivers on the road.
- Recognizing how little control you have calls out the one power you do have: to choose your attitudes and thoughts. In the same way that you can’t control forces outside yourself, outside forces can’t control your thoughts.No matter what your circumstances, your thoughts are up to you. Anne Frank and Helen Keller are glowing examples of people who chose their happiness in the midst of dire circumstances.
- When your perspectives change, your attitudes change, and then your feelings about yourself change…and then everything changes. Like the reason above, this one calls upon the power of choice that only you can control. Every life circumstance bears at least one seed of opportunity — to learn, grow, change, help someone else, or be grateful. By letting go of how you think things should be, you free yourself to experience what is actually happening.
- Letting go can be an act of self-protection.“You can’t lose what you never had.” A lack of attachment can protect you from manipulation and external control. Knowing that you don’t need the relationship, job or that particular thing and can walk away without a sense of loss is incredibly empowering…and potentially protective.
- Letting go opens your life to receiving new and good things. Change is a normal part of life. And holding on when life is urging you on can block you from receiving other things. (These new things could even elevate your life to a level you hadn’t planned on.)
- Letting go of what you can’t control leaves you with what truly matters: your integrity, your soul, your true self. If you were to lose everything, even everyone, important to your life, you should still believe you have “everything” that is essential. In this regard, happiness truly is an inside job.
- Sometimes what seems like the worst thing turns out to be the best thing. If the world can turn on a dime for the worse, it can turn on a dime for the better. No one wants to read a riches-to-riches story; but rags-to-riches? Now that gives the world hope…and reason to believe that hardship is just preparation for something great.Letting go of your judgment about circumstances being bad can help you find both hope and happiness.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
If learning to let go is the key to happiness, then let that be your purpose. As the Byrds sang in their famous song Turn, “I swear it’s not too late.”