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Recently, I saw this Facebook video by Power of Positivity called the 10 Things to Let Go of to Be Happy. In the video, it lists the following things to be let go of:

  1. Let go of toxic people in your life.
  2. Let go of regretting past mistakes.
  3. Let go of the need to be right.
  4. Let go of feeling sorry for yourself.
  5. Let go of negative self-talk.
  6. Let go of the need to impress others.
  7. Let go of limiting beliefs.
  8. Let go of the need to please everyone.
  9. Let go of gossip and complaining.
  10. Let go of worrying about the future.

I agree with most of the points in the video. But I wish to elaborate a little further on each and change some of the items on the list.

Here are my 10 things to let go of to be happy.

1. Let go of judgment.

If there are “toxic” people at work, how do you let them go in your life? You can change your job, but that doesn’t guarantee there won’t be any “toxic” people in other organization. And what if those “toxic” people are your family members and you need to stay with them? How do you let them go?

Instead of labeling others as toxic, let go of judgment.

Whenever you use the words “toxic”, “bad” or “negative” on others, you are judging the other person and creating a negative image for them. It’s not about being spiritual, kind or compassionate. Anytime, you have animosity with another person, there will be no joy. 

Realize that it’s their behaviors and actions that you don’t like or make you uncomfortable. It’s not that the person is bad. I’m not saying you should stay in an abusive or controlling relationship. But when you give your mind someone to make an enemy of, it will.

Instead, stay neutral. If someone’s actions harm you, just remove yourself from the situation. You don’t have to judge the other. Even if it isn’t possible to remove yourself, don’t react to their actions.

You can’t control another person’s behaviors. But when you allow the other person’s behaviors to affect your happiness, then you are being controlled by the other person, aren’t you?

2. Let go of the past.

The reason why I say let go of the past instead of letting go of past mistakes is because it doesn’t matter if your past is good or bad, it’s best to let them all go.

The past, be it a happy past or an unhappy past, is still the past.

You can’t hold onto it. Holding onto good memories is also resisting what is. Not that you cannot reminisce about the past. But when you are too attached to the past, you can’t help but compare it with your current situation. And comparison comes dissatisfaction.

That was one of the triggers which started my depression. I had an inspiring time in Bali for a month. Then, I came back to Singapore and found out that I was jobless. The disparity was so great that at that time, I couldn’t accept what is. I kept wanting to go back to my time in Bali which is impossible.

Everything that happened in the past is perfect as it is. There’s nothing you can do to change and there’s no need for you to change it. No matter how bad a childhood you have, it’s perfect because it contributes to your growth.

[Read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.]

3. Let go of the need to be right.

Everyone is right.

Even those people you called “toxic” in point number 1 is right.

People perceived information differently. Our decision-making criteria and beliefs differ too. Therefore, our conclusion will also be different. When you say that you are right and the other person is wrong, what you are really saying is that your perception is different from theirs.

Both are right based on their perceptions, values, and criteria. Someone who cares about efficiency is right that people pleasing is a waste of time. Someone who cares about group harmony is also right that criticisms can be conveyed to others nicely and indirectly.

People have different levels of information.

One reason why people’s opinions are so different is that the amount of information they receive is different. For example, others might think you are shy because from what they see, you don’t talk much in groups. But from your perspective, you are not shy, you are just cautious. You are observing the group and deciding who is worthy of your time to invest in a friendship.

The other person has limited information about you. You didn’t disclose the key information about yourself. And that’s why their opinions are different from you.

Needing to be right doesn’t help the situation. Forcing your perspective on others who aren’t willing to accept or aren’t able to see at the moment is pointless. It just creates arguments, conflicts, and wars. And if you truly believe you are right, why is there a need for others to agree with you?

4. Let go of being a victim.

I’ve combined the number 4 and part of number 9 from the Power of Positivity’s list because I felt that they are similar. Feeling sorry for yourself and complaining are essentially the same thing. It’s about self-pity and being a victim.

When you complain or blame someone for your misfortune, you are giving your power to someone else. The number one principle in Jack Canfield’s book, Success Principles, is to take 100% responsibility for your life.

Sure, unfortunate things do happen. You lose a job. Someone rejects your love. You are diagnosed with an illness. You can either:

  • accept, learn from it and do something about it, or
  • you can be a victim and whine about it or feel sorry for yourself.

Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, focus on what needs to be done to change the situation. Instead of complaining, reflect on how you contribute to this situation.

You can’t be a victim and be happy at the same time.

Victims are never happy. They believe they deserve better than what they are given. Happiness comes from being grateful for whatever you have no matter how small or insignificant it is. And that’s why victims can never be happy.

5. Let go of identifying with your thoughts.

It’s very obvious why letting go of negative self-talk can help you be happy. What’s not obvious is we are unconscious that we are talking negatively to ourselves most of the time.

Instead of letting go negative self-talk, let go of identifying with your thoughts. Create a space between your thoughts and you. Realize that you don’t have to follow every stream of your thoughts. It’s endless.

Be the observer.

Some thoughts are helpful, some aren’t. You don’t have to believe everything your mind says. “Ugly”, “lazy”, “evil”, “bad” and “unworthy” are all labels produced by your mind. If your mind were to say that you are an alien, would you have believed that to be true? The mind loves to make up things, so don’t take it too seriously.

All you need to do is observe and let the thoughts come and go. When you stop believing in everything that your mind says, you will find yourself happier and more peaceful.

6. Let go of the need to impress others.

Does impressing others make you happy? Perhaps for some. But this type of happiness doesn’t last long. When the good feeling wears off, you will start looking for others to impress.

If you know that you are worthy and good enough, you don’t need to go around impressing others.

Real successful people don’t care if others are impressed with them or not. 

They just do what they love. They know that admiration and respect are fleeting. So they don’t depend on others for happiness. It’s only the unsuccessful who needs to impress others to feel a false sense of success.

Furthermore, when you are impressing others, you are projecting a positive self-image for others to admire. With this self-image comes suffering. Because now you have to uphold this self-image and prevent yourself from making mistakes. This fear of not living up to your identity is a fear of shame. It will stop you from making the best decisions and taking the actions that best serve you at any given time.

[Read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth to learn more about our attachment to self-image.]

7. Let go of all beliefs.

Letting go of negative and limiting beliefs are useful when you have low self-esteem or wanting to achieve success. I started doing self-improvement courses when I was in the early 20s and they helped me gain confidence and improve my self-esteem. But now that I’m in my 30s, I realize that:

All beliefs are limiting in nature.

Whenever you have a belief, be it positive or negative, you are restricting yourself. Beliefs are created by the mind to help process information faster. The mind doesn’t like to waste calories thinking about things that it had processed before. Sure, this is helpful in many ways.

However, it can also be very limiting and frustrating at the same time because all situations are different. Sometimes, you need to base your decisions on what is. You may believe that everyone is good-natured, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remove yourself from harmful situations. You may believe that money can’t buy happiness, but that doesn’t mean you should give away all your money.

It all depends on the context. Whatever you believe you need to do or get in order to be happy is just a belief. It doesn’t guarantee you happiness. And that includes all the points I wrote here!

Believing that happiness is something you need in life is already limiting in itself.

8. Let go of the need to please everyone.

Some people believe that pleasing others would make themselves happy. But it doesn’t work that way.

We can’t make someone else happy by pleasing them. They are happy because they choose to be happy. When we depend on external factors like this for our happiness, we are setting ourselves to be unhappy.

Pleasing everyone is impossible and exhausting.

Everyone wants different things and most of the time their needs are conflicting with each other. So how are you able to satisfy everyone’s needs? And most people can never be satisfied. Serving other people’s needs over your own is tiring and stressful.

I know you don’t want to appear uncaring and self-centered to others. You might be afraid that you will be excluded from the group. But if you really want to be happy, you have to stop seeking approval from others.

9. Let go of gossip.

There are many reasons why people love to gossip:

  • Judging others make themselves feel superior.
  • It’s easier to talk about others than themselves.
  • They are envious of the other person.
  • They become the center of attention when they share a gossip.
  • It makes them feel like part of the group when they have something interesting to share.

There’s nothing wrong with talking about others. But you have to realize that whatever opinions you have on the other person is merely a one-sided commentary from you. You don’t have a full picture of what the other person is going through. So what you say could mislead others.

And are you merely stating the facts or are you adding fiction to make your story sounds more interesting?

You have to bear responsibility for what you say.

It’s never a good thing when others discover that you talk behind their backs, especially if it’s someone you know. The awkwardness with the other person and the guilt for hurting someone are not worth the rewards you get from gossiping. And don’t think that other people don’t know. If you can gossip about others, others could gossip about you too.

So like what the book, The Four Agreement, states as the first agreement, “Be impeccable with your words!”.

10. Let go of the future.

Letting go of the future shares the same purpose as letting go of the past.

The future is the future. It will come when it comes. Leave it alone for the moment.

The reason why I write “letting go of the future” instead of “letting go of worrying about the future” is because attachment for the future, even if it’s good, doesn’t help you to be happy.

Fantasizing about the future only provides fake happiness for the moment. When you come back to reality, it usually doesn’t make you feel good. Again, the keywords here are “compare” and “non-acceptance”. People fantasize because they don’t like their current situation now. So they project a beautiful future to escape from the now.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t set any goals in the future. But when you set a goal for yourself and compare your current situation with your future projection constantly, it makes you suffer. Instead of being a motivation, it might be a discouragement for some. Some even feel stressed and beat themselves up for not achieving their goals fast enough.

After you set your goal, the wise thing to do is to let it go. Focus on what you have to do now and not think about the goal. Every second you spent fantasizing about the future, is one less second to build the future you desire.

[Read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.]

Featured Photo Credit: Man Feeling Happy Outside / Ed Gregory