We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
What is it they say about hindsight? That it’s 20/20? Every year as we get older it is easier to look back on our lives with the perspective that only comes with aging. We can see decisions we made in our teens, our 20’s and realize that in some cases they were the best thing we could have ever done. Our lives are still fuller because of the relationships we formed, and all the memories that have been created. Other choices we look back on with regret, perhaps even anger, knowing that we chose poorly. We took a path that has brought pain and suffering. It’s hard not to beat ourselves up with the “why’s” and trying to understand where we went wrong.
But to live our best lives, we simply have to be willing to let go of those regrets and move on. As Joseph Campbell reminds us above, we’ll never know the life that is waiting for us if we don’t. Living your best life often means we need to let go of the past, but it can also mean we need to let go of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fears of loss—when we focus on these things we are restrained from living our best lives.
My mother-in-law has had a life-long fear of flying. She literally had never flown on an airplane because of it. She’s not alone of course, but it limited her from visiting her family on the East coast, and from seeing her grandson play collegiate football. Being a former travel agent and someone who doesn’t “love” flying, I tried to entice her with free travel, bored her with safety data and even offered to take her to the doctor for tranquilizers. After losing her husband in 2014, she started to realize that she wanted to change. She wanted to conquer this fear and start living her best life. In the summer of 2015 we planned a trip that took her from Pennsylvania, to Florida, to Baltimore and back home. At the age of 75, she not only flew for the first time, but had several take-offs and landings! She reveled in the view from the window above the clouds and looking down on “heaven”. She recently completed a trip with my sister-in-law and her husband “across the pond” to England, meeting extended family and seeing the land of her family’s origin. None of which would have been possible if she hadn’t let go.
That is why our fifth daily action is LET GO . At this stage of our lives we’ve had time to build up resentments, regrets and sometimes outright fear. Whoever it is or whatever it was, let it go today.
Beyond the many stories I have heard while researching grandtoGREAT about the power of letting go, it’s actually been proven to be scientifically important for our health and to help us age better.
"People with severe life regrets had more cold symptoms, such as nasal congestion, coughs, sneezing, fever and headaches," says Concordia researcher Isabelle Bauer, now a clinical psychologist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
Bauer also found an increase in depressive symptoms — such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating — in those with unresolved regret. "Obsessing or ruminating over regrets can also lead to depression and anxiety as you kick yourself over and over," says psychologist Neal Roese, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.¹
In a 2012 German study, Stafanie Brassen and her colleagues looked at how healthy young participants (mean age: 25.4 years), healthy older participants (65.8 years), and older participants who had developed depression for the first time later in life (65.6 years) dealt with regret, and found that the young and older depressed patients seemed to hold on to regrets about missed opportunities while the healthy older participants seemed to let them go.²
In grandtoGREAT’s plan of five daily actions, we encourage letting go during the “Morning Meditation”.
Spending five minutes in the morning to release fears, let go of worry and resentment is a practical and proven method for relieving stress and improving health.
There’s also the suggestion that meditation helps us age better. Nothing holds back the wrinkles forever, but meditation keeps us healthier by – a stress hormone which in high levels can contribute to aging, poor heart health and weight gain. The University of California, Los Angeles found that long-term meditators have better preserved brains than those who do not meditate, with the usual loss of grey matter reduced in older meditators.³
I’ll leave you today with one final quote on “letting go”.
We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.