You don’t have to do more to grow and improve. You can add to your life by subtracting negative habits, and by eliminating mindsets and beliefs that are holding you back can have a massive impact on your life.

1. Let go of making life choices based on the expectations of others.

We’re influenced by friends, family, and society. TV shows, advertisements, and advice from others provide a steady stream of messages about the right way to live. Everyone has an opinion (usually unsolicited) about what you should do with your life. Each person has unique experiences, fears, and dreams. People with different beliefs and experiences shouldn’t direct your life choices. Ignore the expectations society places on you. Let go of living someone else’s life.

2. Let go of ignoring your intuition.

We instinctively know the right choice for most important life decisions. The instinct comes to us as a feeling, hunch, and pull towards the answer. We think making a big decision can’t be so easy. We analyze the situation from all angles, make pros and cons lists, and sift through all the reasons that support each option. We deliberate and procrastinate even though we’ve known the answer all along. All we have to do is tune in to the frequency of our inner voice.

3. Let go of questioning your dreams.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

—Eleanor Roosevelt

You don’t have to drop everything and take huge risks to follow your dreams. You can start by taking small steps in that direction. You put less pressure on yourself with incremental steps instead of trying to get from A to Z immediately. The lessons from your early wins and mistakes will inform your next steps. As you accumulate small wins, you can adjust your strategy and take bigger risks. Starting to move in the direction of your dreams fuels you with excitement and motivation.

4. Let go of waiting to take action until you’re confident in the results.

You have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. You don’t know how to get there. There isn’t a blueprint with step-by-step instructions to get to the finish line. Even if you create the perfect plan, there will be uncertainty along the way. You can’t remove all risks. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll change direction as you find that certain strategies don’t work like you envisioned. The road map will become clearer as you learn throughout the process. The uncertainty in the outcome will decrease. You just have to take the first step.

5. Let go of comparing yourself to others.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

—Ernest Hemingway

When we compare ourselves to others, we look towards more successful people. This leads to us feeling insecure and inadequate. We dwell on why we aren’t as successful as them. We feel envy. We blame ourselves for not having made better decisions. Instead of swimming in these negative emotions, we can compare ourselves against our ideal self. We can run our own race. As we turn our attention to what we want, we cultivate productive beliefs and thought patterns.

6. Let go of seeking validation and approval from others.

If you constantly seek the approval of others, you make decisions based on what others will like. Instead of thinking about what you want, you seek to please everyone else. In this frame of mind, your self-image and emotional state are outside of your control. Your emotions ebb and flow based on the opinions of others. As you become self-validated, you look within yourself for answers. You analyze each situation and simply do what you think is right. You stop worrying about how other people will perceive your actions.

7. Let go of looking for permission from others.

When you lower the volume of the opinion of others, you gain clarity on what you want. You don’t wait for the green light from others before you get started. You commit to goals that are meaningful and inspiring to you, regardless of what anyone else thinks. You stop seeking permission from others to do what you want.

8. Let go of complaining.

Many of the setbacks we face are unfair. Things go wrong for reasons that are out of our control. It’s not our fault. We can easily fall into a pattern of complaining about everything that’s not going our way. It feels good. Yet, complaining doesn’t change our situation. When we stop complaining, our mind switches gears to search for solutions instead of looking for problems.

9. Let go of focusing on the negatives.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

—Marcus Aurelius

What we focus on, expands. We can unconsciously train our mind to spot the worst aspects of each situation. On the other hand, we can train our mind to apply a positive filter to events through disciplined and consistent effort. We can change the way we perceive obstacles. We can spot opportunities where others see problems.

10. Let go of focusing on the way things should be.

Our co-workers should recognize and appreciate our hard work. Our family should see things from our perspective. Life is rarely the way we think it should be though. It’s messier and more unfair than it should be. When we accept the way things are instead of the way they should be, we move past being stuck in a state of frustration. We make better decisions about the next steps to take.

11. Let go of moving on before celebrating your successes.

We work hard to achieve meaningful goals. Then, we spend a few minutes enjoying the accomplishments before moving on the next endeavor. Looking ahead is a great habit to develop. Taking time to celebrate big wins is equally important. Take a step back to reflect on the journey. Toast to the rewards you’ve earned.

12. Let go of the need to win the argument.

We craft the winning defense in our head like lawyers. We replay the speech we’re going to deliver. Then, we engage in the heated debate. We imagined we were going to hear the satisfying “you’re right” at the end of the argument. Instead, we both leave the scene upset and frustrated. Each of us digs in more fiercely to our side of the argument. We both lose that argument. We can we win the argument by starving our ego from the satisfaction of proving our point.

13. Let go of the need to be recognized.

We want our contributions to be noticed and rewarded. Seeking recognition is similar to seeking approval from others. Your state and emotions depend on how you’re treated by others. Produce great work because it lines up with your values instead of being swayed by the opinion of others. The recognition may not come today. High-quality work sustained over time is undeniable. The applause from the outside world is inevitable.

14. Let go of worrying about the past.

The more mental real estate we give to our past, the less growth we experience in the present. The past can’t be changed. Worrying about the past doesn’t provide any benefits. We can’t improve our present position at the same time that we’re living in the past. It’s natural to recall past mistakes. We can’t stop those thoughts from popping up. We have the power to let those thoughts drift away instead of allowing them to draw us back to the past.

15. Let go of being overly critical of yourself.

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

—Winston Churchill

If you set ambitious goals, you’ll be at the edge of your comfort zone most of the time. You’ll fail over and over as you climb new heights. Failed attempts are part of the growth process. We can appreciate our effort instead of blaming ourselves for each mistake. We’re more likely to keep stepping up to the plate if we treat ourselves kindly.

16. Let go of failing to learn from mistakes.

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

—Napoleon Hill

Regardless of how many times we replay our mistakes in the theater of our mind, those moments have passed. The mistakes are etched in history. Instead of obsessing over the failures, we can draw lessons that we can start applying today. The mistakes provide feedback about how to improve. Each mistake is an opportunity to learn. With this growth mindset, there are no failures.

17. Let go of taking things too seriously.

We have the choice to build up every annoyance, setback, and frustration to a level 10 disturbance. Or we can diminish them as we leave them in our rear-view mirror. We have the choice to perceive each situation in a way that’s advantageous. We can enjoy the process. We can keep things light. We can laugh often. It’s our choice.

18. Let go of trying to do it all.

The options are endless. We can take on more projects at work. We can read more articles. We can learn to cook. We can do 1,000 different things. We feel productive when we cross off items from the to-do list. They all feel like accomplishments and progress. Yet, most tasks don’t move the needle towards our most valued goals. The more splintered our attention becomes, the less likely we are to achieve what matters most.

19. Let go of focusing on the urgent over the important.

We can spend most of our time putting out small fires. The urgent tasks will keep coming tomorrow and the day after. Life is an endless conveyor belt of small fires. Most of them aren’t important. When we build the habit of focusing on the important over the urgent, we make consistent progress towards meaningful goals. We create momentum towards the life we envision. That’s better than getting a lot done but not getting where we want to go.

20. Let go of feeling busy and overwhelmed.

We’re all guilty of telling our friends, “I’m so busy.” A part of us likes being too busy because it makes us feel important and valued. We also feel overwhelmed without realizing how it happened. We say “yes” to most invitations and requests without thinking about how they fit into our big picture plans. Turning down requests from our friends and co-workers takes discipline and commitment to our priorities. As we build the “No” muscle, we give ourselves the space to design our days to reflect a balance of work, play, and relaxation. We’re in charge of our time.

Featured photo credit: eflon via flickr.com

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