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April 2, 2018

What Happened when I Taught Myself to Let Go.

“What’s going to happen is going to happen.”

While growing up in India, I constantly heard this phrase from my parents.

To me, it sounded so fatalistic. As intelligent people, how could they give up their ability to control life’s outcomes?

Only much later did I learn that my parents’ philosophy means something far different from what I presumed. Allowing events to unfold isn’t synonymous with losing power; it’s ultimately a form of releasing resistance and focusing attention on present actions—not end results.

Consider it the equivalent of taking little steps toward success, rather than a giant leap.

For instance, if I’m trying to get noticed or promoted at work, I don’t focus on the long-term goal. I think about my next prospect call or the email I’m about to write. Being prepared and taking ownership over what’s happening immediately— not what might happen later—is part of trusting myself. This trust helps avenues open and relationships prosper.

If we’re resistant to change, we’re not open to possibilities.

Not sure what it means to resist letting go? Recognizing signs of anxiety and stress by understanding that we constantly fear what’s around the corner can help us better embrace the “now,” instead of being preoccupied by the looming “tomorrow.” These signs also indicate a need for stronger mindfulness so that we can enjoy more engaging, energizing days.

Ultimately, while we gain knowledge from others, we’re born with the wisdom we need to do this. Wisdom allows us to understand ourselves, our relationships, our careers, and our lives. It’s that special something that helps us read the universe’s signs so that we aren’t scared to know our limitations—or to explore our possibilities.

In my experience, people who learn to focus on themselves and lean on their own wisdom tend to be more optimistic and at peace. They nurture themselves by shedding all those false beliefs they absorbed in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. And they stop operating from their ego.

Of course, nothing’s wrong with ego. I have one, and so do you. But when we operate from only our ego, we demand respect, and the minute we demand something, we become dependent on that need. In other words, we imprison ourselves because every response to our ideas and our choices becomes personal.

We need to teach ourselves to embrace the present.

We think thousands of thoughts every day, but it’s possible to fundamentally reduce that number. Ironically, thinking less leaves us much freer to embrace the present by clearing our mental chatter.

But thinking less isn’t the be-all and end-all. To keep myself “in the moment,” I take a few other simple steps:

1. Contribute to others.

If I’m locked in the mindset of feeling stuck on a project or hitting a roadblock with a relationship, I reverse my thought process to focus on how I can contribute to others’ lives. I focus on what others may need at this time and how I can help them. Suddenly, I see the relationship as cooperative, not hostile. Additionally, I begin to develop a sense of organizational mindfulness.

2. Treat feedback as well-being.

I then use this mindfulness to concentrate on the other person’s growth and precipitate a nourishing relationship. Giving and receiving without tension is the ultimate goal, and over time, I start to see the other person as a teacher rather than an antagonist.

3. Listen, don’t just hear.

Even with these changes, I can still have the tendency to hear without really listening. When I find myself engaged in a lengthy monologue, I end my speech—unless it’s an actual speech, of course! I find that I get more out of life when I listen to others instead of simply listening to myself.

4. Practice authentic thinking.

All of the above tips promote positive thinking, but positivity doesn’t work in all situations. Part of not resisting is acknowledging what is still being resisted. Put another way, it’s filtering everything through an emotional lens without letting it overwhelm us. When I get angry or frustrated, for instance, I embrace that pain. It’s uncomfortable, but it passes quicker because I accept it for its authenticity.

How the philosophy of nonresistance plays out:

These tips have become beneficial in every aspect of my life. In my career, I’ve worked with some incredibly unpleasant colleagues, whose actions have upset me, until I started to breathe—yes, just breathe—through these difficult times. By connecting my breath to my responses, I could be more attuned to what was happening, avoid drowning in negativity, and receive criticism by focusing on what the other person is showing me.

I started asking myself: what was I not hearing or not paying attention to?

This allowed me to realign my thoughts and return to a state of well-being. Not surprisingly, this also assisted me when giving feedback. As humans, our mission is to be teachers, and I believe everybody has the potential to teach something. So I started using constructive language when dealing with others and treated the experience as a dialogue, not a diatribe.

By standing back and examining my life, I was able to dive in without the resistance I’ve felt in the past. It’s incredible what I’ve learned from this: who knew my 14-year-old daughter had such insight on life and relationships, or that my 12-year-old was a treasure trove of corporate wisdom?

Had I never had the epiphany to let go, I could have never benefited from their insights. And I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

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Author: Sona Jepsen
Image: “Sound of Music”
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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