Most of us think that in order for us to be happy, we need to HAVE MORE and DO MORE.
But here’s a secret: happiness is a state of mind and it’s as much about what you let go and DO LESS as it is about what you actively pursue.
In this article, I will give you the top 8 things you should let go for a happier life.
1) Your impossible dreams
Some people go crazy chasing after their big dreams that they disregard their happiness. Don’t be one of them.
Dream big all you want—it’s good to have something to live for. But at the same time, you need to keep yourself grounded and make sure that your goals are actually achievable.
And not only that, it would be even better if you were to break your big dreams down into smaller goals that are easier to achieve.
Happiness is fleeing, and it’s much better to enjoy every step of the process—celebrating even “minor” victories— than it is to focus only on that one big moment when you have finally achieved your ultimate goal.
Let go of your attachment and obsession for the outcome and instead enjoy the time you’re working towards achieving your goals.
The journey is long… so learn to enjoy every step instead of waiting for the finish line to actually be happy.
2) Your impossible standards for yourself
You want to be the smartest, the fittest, the classiest, and the nicest person you know.
And again, while it’s a good thing to have personal goals and standards, it will do you more harm than good if you’re too hard on yourself.
You don’t have to be the best in everything. I repeat: You don’t have to be the best in everything. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to be the best in ANYTHING!
Being “good” is good enough.
For the love of all things holy, give yourself permission to just be “ordinary” or “mediocre”.
Sure, keep on working towards a version of yourself that you want but don’t get too crazy. You’re already awesome right now. Trust me—always wanting to be the “best version” of yourself can lead to misery.
3) Your expectations from others
We all know this—the less you expect from others, the happier you’ll be.
I don’t mean you shouldn’t trust others and that you shouldn’t be close to someone because it will just lead to disappointment anyways.
What I mean is that you should stop being too anal of how your family, friends, and colleagues act, talk, and think. You should stop policing their every move and assessing if they’re a good friend or not, a good parent or not.
As long as they’re not abusing you in any way, you should let go of how you expect others to live their lives, and how they treat you.
Instead of focusing on them, focus on yourself because it’s the thing you have control over. Pay more attention to how you are towards them, instead of how they are towards you. That way, you won’t be disappointed with every little “unloving” or “disrespectful” thing they do to you.
4) Your past
Whether you like it or not, it can’t be denied that the past sets the stage for the way we see the world in the present and future. And a lot of us are unlucky enough to have gone through some pretty screwed-up experiences.
Time alone isn’t enough to heal these wounds—my father, at his ripe age of 70, continues to talk bitterly of his childhood to this day and he has made plenty of bad decisions over the years because of that hurt.
I’m sure that if he only let go of his past sooner, he’d be much happier…and he might have even made better decisions.
Plenty of us use the bad things that happened to us in the past to justify the bad decisions we make in the present, and thus blame it for why we keep facing hard times in the present.
Now I don’t want to minimize those bad experiences you must have had, just as I don’t want to minimize my father’s suffering. And it’s not exactly easy to work through these issues.
But the sooner you work out your traumas—whether alone or with outside help—the sooner you can take charge of your life and heal. You don’t want to grow old, still bitter about your childhood.
5) Your perfectionism
If you’re like Monica from FRIENDS—which is to say that if you have a Type A personality—chances are you’re a lot more stressed than the average human being.
Type As are high achievers who want everything to be organized and well…just perfect (because why the hell should it be hard to do?!). This means you expect a lot from yourself and from others, and whenever someone is “slacking off” or “not doing their job well”, you can’t help but get very impatient.
Here’s what you should do: let go.
It’s exhausting to always want things to be perfect and orderly.
It will only lead to stress and exhaustion…and these two are definitely not a recipe for a happy life.
If you’re a parent, learn to delegate tasks to your partner or nanny even if they won’t be able to give “perfect” baths, and “perfect” meals, and “perfect” lessons.
If you’re an artist, don’t hate yourself for not making the “perfect” art that you imagined.
Let go of perfectionism if you want to be happier.
6) Your toxic friends
If a friendship has become sour—way too sour—then it’s probably time to give it a rest.
It will only make you miserable if you keep on trying to fix something that has clearly run its course.
While I’m not advocating that you just cut contact whenever you feel any slight inconvenience, you must learn how to identify if a relationship is no longer functional.
It’s not so easy to know when to cut-off a relationship, but I ask myself these questions as a guide:
- Are we generally happy together?
- Does their presence in my life make me a better person?
- Do I still genuinely like them?
- Can I still trust them?
- Do I still enjoy their presence?
If your answer to all of these is a hard NO, then let go. Start building new friendships instead.
Let go of friends who are not adding value to your life (when you’re clearly putting in the effort to add to theirs).
Let go of your idea of what friendship should be like instead and start forming new ones.
7) Your need to have a life partner
Yeah, I hear ya. We all want to be with someone who we love and who loves us back…someone who would make us feel less alone in this world.
It seems like everyone has this mission to find their “other half”.
And sure, having a partner could definitely make you happy and I encourage you to keep your heart open just in case the right person stumbles into you. But at the same time, fixating on this goal leads to misery.
How many single people cry at night, praying that they’d finally find their person?
How many people stay in miserable relationships just because they’re scared they’ll never find another one?
You don’t NEED to be in a relationship. You can want it badly, sure. But NEED? Nah. Let go of that and form many kinds of relationships instead.
8) Your guilt and deep-seated regrets
Guilt is not necessarily a bad thing—it’s a sign that you have a conscience. And it’s something that keeps you on the straight and level, helping you avoid committing atrocity after atrocity.
But sometimes, it can be so strong that it’s become all-consuming…and that’s where the problem lies.
Sometimes, you might be stuck feeling guilty about one particular mistake you’ve made ten years ago, or even good deeds you’ve failed to do when you had the chance.
But rather than let those shortcomings tear you down, you should instead try to keep your head held high and keep on doing your best—for the times when you failed, and for the times when you can do better.
There are lots of things that hold us back from being genuinely happy in life—from old wounds to high expectations.
Some of these are easy enough to handle on your own, while some need deep introspection and outside help to fully work them out.
It will not be easy and it might take some time before you actually feel the result (it takes years for most people), but you have no choice.
If you really want to be happier, you MUST learn to let go.