Most people have a difficult time letting go.
Heck, listen to any sad pop song from the last 100 years and you’ll probably quickly find that many are about this very thing. The narrator can’t let go of a lost love. They can’t forget what someone did to them. That kind of thing.
I’m sure it’s a spectrum issue. Some are probably more prone to dwelling and holding onto the past while others are more laid back and easily forget and move on.
I just listened to a podcast with golfer Dustin Johnson. It reminded me that in 2015 he had a putt to win the US Open. He missed that putt. Then he missed the next putt, which would have at least put him in a playoff to continue to play for the win.
The next morning he was back home and his father-in-law went out golfing with a few buddies. He didn’t ask Dustin, figuring Dustin would be feeling pretty down. But after a hole Dustin came flying up in a golf cart with a smile on his face saying, “You guys left without me this morning…”
He was totally fine. He’d just lost the US Open, but he had already moved on.
Oh, and he won it the next year.
Why We Can’t Let Go
It seems there are a number of reasons why it’s difficult to let go.
Insecurity. Fear. Comfort. Overwhelm. So many.
I run into it in business every once in awhile when a client has an overdue bill and I can’t get ahold of them. Over the years I’ve had to learn that it’s a better use of my time to forget about it (after putting in a certain amount of effort) to delete the invoice and move on. Try to get the next customer.
A big part of letting go is realizing that you only have so much time and energy in this life. You can spend it chasing the past or you can spend it working toward a better future.
Each time I’ve deleted a well overdue invoice it’s like a weight has been lifted. I feel free from the burden. Obviously I realize I’m missing out on money, but the freedom almost always outweighs that unearned money.
What To Let Go Of
This is really also limitless.
We’ve had a couple examples already. A failure in sports. Unpaid invoices. It could be all kinds of things. In high school maybe it was learning to let go of your first crush when they didn’t return the feelings.
In business there are sunk costs. In life I think there are sunk costs. We put time and effort into something only to have it all come crashing down. All that time and energy gone.
But the key is realizing that you’re never going to get that time back anyway. You can only use more time even when you’re just dwelling on the time you’ve already lost.
Here are a few business-related things I’ve learned to let go of over the years. Some lessons have been more difficult to learn than others:
- Unpaid invoices
- Clients that aren’t a good fit
- Employees that aren’t a good fit
- Prospects that won’t ever buy
- Prospects that can’t afford to buy
- A skill I don’t like and am struggling to learn
All kinds of things.
When To Let Go
I think the key first step in letting go is knowing when to let go.
Dustin Johnson knew that the only way he could probably win a US Open is to forget about his previous close calls. Or to take away positives and realize that he couldn’t go back and rewrite history. He had to focus on what he could control and that was preparing for the next one.
A big key to knowing when to let go is when things are out of your control. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to control the uncontrollable.
How To Let Go
Again, focus on what you control.
I think a part of the process is also acceptance. Accept that whatever happened did in fact happen. You’re not going to be able to go back and change it.
A bad mistake. Even a crime. Letting someone down. A bad hire. A bad client. All kinds of things.
Accept what has already happened and then focus on what you control in the present and what you can work toward in the future.
That kind of reminds me of persistence, which is one of the traits I see in almost all those that are successful. They all fail. We all do, but those that are the most successful seem to be the ones that push through.
Heck, Sam Walton had his first retail store basically stolen from him after five years of hard work to build it. That would lead many to not let go, but he did and he went on to start Walmart.
The great Don Henley said that he felt the key to all of life was forgiveness. Or the ability to let go. Not having grudges. Doing things for yourself and not for others. Forgiving people that do bad things to you. Forgiving the universe when bad things happen for seemingly no good reason.
If you’re looking for a better life you have to let go of the past.