Try making a single change in your outlook

Having a ball!

Regular readers will know that I am not much attracted to the type of article that can be summarized as “x simple ways to do y.” I distrust overly simple responses to life’s endless complexity, just as I distrust simplistic ways of thinking.

However, I can think of one — just one — simple action that will make 2008 perhaps one of your best years ever.

This one action is so far-reaching in terms of creating well-being that I felt I had to overcome my distaste for the format and share it with you.

It can be summed up in two words: “let go.”

Let go of the past

It’s over and done. Whether you relish or hate what you did back then, nothing can change it. Worrying about it is useless; replaying it over and over in your mind merely prolongs the emotions to no purpose.

All that will happen is that those feelings will reach forward and poison the present and the future. People caught up on past obsessions are unable to respond to what is happening now; they’re too busy revisiting and trying to revise what happened then.

Let go of guilt

Guilt is a totally useless emotion. All it does is make you feel bad and tempt you into ill-chosen actions to try to drive it away. Feel remorse by all means, since remorse leads to resolution not to repeat past errors. But guilt? That’s merely a negative kind of self-indulgence, focused totally on yourself, not those who suffered from your mistake or bad actions.

Let go of resentment

Nothing corrodes your happiness, your relationships, or your ability to act sensibly as easily as resentment. So someone hurt you? Let it go and focus instead on what you are going to do either to make things right between you or walk away and make sure that person won’t hurt you again.

Resentment is like guilt: it’s all about you and your own self-righteousness. It tricks you into replaying that past hurt over and over again in your mind, as you keep the resentment alive. The single hurt then becomes a constant repetition. If you fell down and cut your leg, would you keep doing it, just to recall how much it hurt? That’s resentment: a continual, needless reminder of how much it hurt.

Let go of revenge

There’s an old saying that revenge is a dish best eaten cold. In truth, revenge is a dish best thrown away.

Was getting even part of your original dreams of how your life would turn out? Did you sit day-dreaming, maybe years ago, and envision a golden future filled with revenge on anyone?

All revenge does is reinforce the original hurt, create another enemy, warp your judgment, and take your focus away from where it should be: on doing what it will take to fulfill your dreams. Oh . . . and often create a long-lasting vendetta, that will pull you into worse and worse actions, until you likely hate yourself and suddenly notice that all the time you have been getting further away from where you really wanted to be.

Let go of joy

This may sound foolish, but think about it. How many times have you devoted enormous effort to trying to recapture some moment of joy, only to find it impossible? How much effort have you wasted on trying to reproduce some past moment of happiness?

Joy is a beautiful butterfly. It floats into your life, filling it with beauty. But if you grab at it and try to hang on, it gets crushed and dies, leaving little behind but a rotting corpse.

Many of life’s miseries are due to trying to cling to something good; to prolong a moment of joy long past it’s due time, instead of letting it go and looking for another one.

Let it go. That way, you’ll never poison it with your vain attempts to revive it.

A single resolution

That’s it: my suggested recipe for a great 2008. Make it a year of letting go and moving on. No regrets, no guilt, no resentment, no revenge, no pointless clinging to the good moments.

Breathe. Let it go.

Life is motion and it’s better to go along with it, unfettered by the past, that try to fight against it and drag a whole lot of useless baggage along with you.

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