New Year ahead: How to let go of the old to let in the new?
Last week of 2021. New Year’s has always been for me a weird rite of passage. In that moment we are living in a particular year to which we have been attached to for the previous 12 months; and suddenly, after a brief countdown, we are celebrating like crazy the arrival of a number ending in different figures. In a matter of seconds, we are in a new year almost as if we traveled forward in time.
As a kid I remember getting confused with the fact that not everyone would celebrate this transition at the same time. How could it be that some got there ahead, while others would get late to the party? It seemed somehow unfair that time was not happening simultaneously to everyone across the world.
I guess that is the beauty about time. It is not linear. Even though we are not popping champagne and eating raisins – or whatever tradition applies – at the exact same time, as you read this week’s blog post, we are all still in 2021.
If self-reflection is a key element of honoring the past, letting go of what no longer serves us is a way to celebrate the future. Every day, every week, every month we go through new experiences, we make mistakes, we overcome setbacks, we take in challenges. I believe you get the picture of how much is accumulated over a year!
Imagine that you keep adding to your personal baggage every year without throwing away or leaving something behind. How much weight can you carry after 3 years, 5 years…what about 25 or 40 years? And if you keep carrying that kind of weight, what will happen over time?
Each year is an opportunity for renewal. It does not mean you have to throw away the backpack you are carrying and buy a new one. Surely some of what is inside is useful as well as part of who you are. What about what no longer serves any purpose? Either due to its uselessness or its soreness.
Let us consider the following 5 strategies to help you look inside your backpack and let go of what no longer serves you.
1. Focus on the present: Reflecting about the previous year, preparing for the upcoming year. Sounds like there is a gap left to fill. One more reason for you to acknowledge your presence here, in this last week of 2021, and assess your current reality before moving forward. Take a moment to pause and look around. Listen to your surroundings, the smells around you, the sensations running through your body. Focus on what you are experiencing right here, right now. Open your eyes and observe. Identify what is the present moment offering you, what opportunities, what challenges are in front of you. Sometimes we are overly attached to the past or too anxious about the future, so much that we forget to recognize and be grateful for what we have. When you know exactly what that is, it becomes easier to keep what serves you and let go of what no longer fits. For now, honor the present with your presence!
2. Talk about it: Who likes to get all touchy talking about their feelings?! It may not be the more comfortable position you have been in, though a necessary one to move forward. We all have things we are ashamed or not so proud of, things we would prefer to pretend never happened. Not addressing them will not make them go away or get any less heavy. Whatever worries, disappointments, frustrations you are carrying with you, opening yourself about these feelings and experiences allows you to assimilate, digest and let go of. Maybe it is a talk to yourself in front of the mirror, a conversation with your partner or one of your best friends, a dialogue with a professional. Letting these feelings pilling up inside will only contribute to make your backpack heavier year after year. Take this last week of 2021 as a motivation to drop some weight of your personal baggage.
3. Stop the blaming: It is quite easy to point out fingers and blame others for our shortcomings. Acknowledging and owning our mistakes on the other hand takes courage. You can only let go of the past if you accept it as yours. Same with blaming yourself, it will turn into pain and regret getting you emotionally stuck. Often, we get ourselves immersed in guilt, chained to this feeling that brings nothing but ache and sorrow. Thus, whatever blame you are spreading around just halt. Be accountable instead. By doing so you are showing accountability, you are being responsible for yourself and for the decisions you make. When you let go of blame – the one you attribute to yourself as well as to others – you allow other emotions to surface, one of them being forgiveness.
4. Forgive yourself: We can be way too harsh on ourselves and incredibly critical of our own thoughts and actions. We linger over harmful thoughts and feelings whose impact on our well-being is everything but healthy, keep adding up to the pile of negative stories we tell ourselves. First and foremost, be aware of this heaviness you carry with you. Followed by that acknowledgement comes acceptance, your ability to embrace your shortcomings as part of who you are. Your mistakes and misjudgments do not have to be felt as a burden, but rather as learnings from your experiences. When you are ready, the ultimate step is to release all the blame, pain, regret and surrender to that sense of relief that comes from letting go of. Forgiveness is a gift that when given to oneself has the power of redemption and freedom.
5. Embrace your vulnerability: Being vulnerable sucks! – you might be thinking. It may feel extremely uncomfortable to expose our deepest thoughts and feelings first and foremost to ourselves. Before you even think about being vulnerable with someone you love and trust, you must be it with yourself. Embracing your vulnerability means letting go of self-judgement as well as self-limiting beliefs. In these moments, you are opening yourself up to complete honesty. You are committed to listen to yourself, to feel your feelings, to connect to your core self. And yes, you may find answers you have not foreseen or questions you did not expect. What will also happen is reconnection, a reminder of your ability to be with yourself. Your vulnerability exposes your authenticity, demanding you to stop hiding behind your fears and doubts, and facing them instead. Among this “clean-up” process, you realize that much of what you have been carrying has no longer space to stay. Then, you let go of.
Letting go is rarely a smooth process. It involves reflection, courage, action. Which seems quite a lot to ask, especially during this time of the year. Though the ask is not to let go of everything in the next two to three days. The real challenge is for you to take the time to acknowledge what needs to go and what gets to stay. And then, be brave to take the next immediate step and start relieving yourself of what no longer serves you. By letting the old go, you are creating space to let the new in. What better way to welcome the new year?