Life is a series of stages.
What is suitable and appropriate for one stage of our life may no longer serve a purpose in the next.
So just like the annual spring cleaning for our house we clean or get rid of the things that no longer serve us, and the conscious act of release can realign us on life’s proper path, allowing room for growth.
Pinpointing, and letting go of, things or people who no longer serve you can be scary. It’s easy to stay in a “comfort zone”. But often, you have outgrown things in your life and you may not even be aware of it! What no longer serves you can prevent you from living the life you want to live. It can be a career path, job, relationship, friendship, family member, project, hobby, belief, behavior, or habit. Letting go of something that no longer serves you can be daunting, but the act of doing so frees up space for new, more beneficial things to enter your life.
The reminder to “let go of what doesn’t serve you” is everywhere. You’ve probably seen it floating around on your Social Media feed at some point.
But what does it really mean? How do we know what’s serving or not serving us?
If we use the definition of serve as “to be useful or of service to”, the advice translates to letting go of what’s not useful to you anymore.
Ultimately, that could mean things that:
- take away your energy
- drain you mentally and emotionally
- make you doubt yourself
- give you nothing in return
- serve no real purpose in your life
What Does It Mean to Let Go of What Doesn’t Serve You?
But what does letting go mean? It refers to clearing our lives of things, ideas, and people that no longer serve a positive purpose or have become an overwhelmingly negative influence.
But how do we know when something or someone is not serving us?
Things that no longer serve tend to:
- Leaving you exhausted.
- Wasting time and money.
- Creating self-doubt.
- Are emotional vampires.
Change is hard and, for some, all but impossible.
And letting go of items that serve no purpose in our lives is the epitome of change.
We often hang onto these things because they are familiar. They have become a habit, or we believe it will take a monumental effort to let go — energy we do not have.
It can be little things such as cleaning an overstuffed closet, moving, or even reevaluating a career or relationship.
Why You Need to Release What No Longer Serves You
Letting go of things clears out the bad habits that cause us to make the same destructive and unhealthy decisions that have created past pain.
But we may have to clear layer after layer of bad habits before the work is done. As you release those things that weigh you down — past relationships, possessions, and old fears — there is a sense of peace, making room for your spirit to soar.
Release what no longer serves you because:
- It no longer brings joy.
- It is not relevant.
- It doesn’t work.
- It is holding you back.
- The cost is too high.
- It is stifling creativity.
Most spiritual growth involves letting go of what no longer serves, exposing fresh new layers underneath.
Even in a simple outward breath, we release the bad air, which no longer serves a purpose, and in doing so, establish mindfulness. This exchange of the bad for the good, purposeful for the useless, centers our thoughts and increases worldly compassion. Strive to continue those things that bring you joy and happiness – through personal rewards.
How to Recognize What Isn’t Serving You
When we hold on to things, we begin to distrust, losing faith in ourselves and the strength and support of the Universe around us.
This loss of faith gives way to toxicity and feelings of unhappiness, both easy ways to recognize what isn’t serving you. And in comparison, things and people that create a sense of inner peace and happiness become essential for the next stage of life.
It feels wrong.
Intuition is instinct. It is also a gift, and we all have it. If we slow down and listen with a quiet mind, we can all hear those inner voices telling us when something is wrong. Some have a nagging feeling, and some have a visceral reaction — experiencing a pit in the stomach or feelings of dizziness. If we listen, this gut feeling will always tell us when to let go and when to hold on for dear life.
There is no joy.
Life is not all flowers. There is unhappiness and pain. But if the pain outweighs the benefits, that is a sign that you need to let go. Celebrating your passion is why we should get out of bed in the morning. And whether it is a book, a job, or a person, it should serve you well. Behaviors like drinking too much alcohol or a misplaced belief in an outdated need will drain your energy and cause stress and unhappiness.
You are avoiding it.
Everyone procrastinates. Some are masters at the craft. But avoiding something or someone is a tell-tale sign that it or they no longer serve a purpose in your life. Think of how much time you’ve spent in fear and dread. The level of stress and unhappiness generated. These are strong signs that something or someone is toxic – destroying your inner peace.
You wish it were gone.
We all have hope and dreams for the future. But as you think about the days ahead, who shares that time with you? What are you doing, and what habits define you? If all the boxes have been checked in your life, excellent. That is a good sign you are on the right track. But if your dreams do not include your current life, that difference may be a red flag that things are not serving you well. If something or someone is counterproductive to your authentic self, are you positive that you want them in your future?
It initiates self-loathing.
Relationships are essential to human nature. We need love and compassion. If those around you consistently cause you to loathe or question yourself, that’s a sign that these relationships are not in your best interest.
You might have outgrown those around you. Yes, it happens. Or the relationship might trigger past fears or reactions. Either way, it is a sign that it is time to move on and release those who no longer serve.
You are distracted.
Do you find yourself reaching for your smartphone more than you normally would, while working on a project or spending time with someone? That’s a sign that you’re looking for a distraction to take you away from the current moment. Activities and relationships that resonate with you should make you forget to check your notifications – or, at least, check them less frequently. If they don’t, it’s a sign that something isn’t right.
You avoid communication.
Communication is the key to any relationship. But when a person no longer positively adds to our lives, communication ceases, and we begin to look around for new people. That’s okay. This is when intuition kicks in, telling us something is wrong and begging us to listen. These are all red flags that the relationship no longer serves its purpose, and it is time to move on.
Ways to Let Go of What No Longer Serves You
Sometimes we adopt beliefs and habits because we grew up with them or because it will make someone we love and respect happy, like our parents or partner. Whatever the reasons, there is now a lifetime of things that need to be released. But the question is, ultimately, how to let go of what no longer serves the stage of our life.
1. Accept the situation.
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion causing you to rethink your choices — holding on tighter. It can be hard to accept outgrowing something or someone. It may be hard to acknowledge that it is time to let go or that it is the right decision for all concerned.
2. Honor the loss.
Loss is painful. Whether it is an object or a beloved someone, a current loss can be overwhelming. And there is nothing wrong with expressing sadness.
You have kept this item through life’s stages. Recognize and honor the contributions made at one point in your life. And give the time and effort necessary to achieve closure.
3. Embrace your inner spirit.
The first step in letting go is confirming that which no longer serves you. By meditating and turning our mind’s eye inward, we can find our inner voice and discover those things, people, and habits that no longer serve us.
Write them down. List them in a journal, allowing yourself to revisit and review them.
4. Trust the Universe will provide.
Most people are fearful of the unknown. Releasing our hold on familiar things, only to replace them with what is to come, can be the hardest part.
If our efforts to release that which does not serve us are honest, and we are patient, the Universe will gift us with something even more extraordinary. Faith is a powerful thing.
5. Thoroughly grieve.
Releasing aspects of our lives is sad. There is nothing wrong with this feeling.
Be honest with yourself and your feelings, and grieve if you must. Honor the places these aspects or individuals of your life have held – finding closure in the act of honoring.
6. Forgive yourself.
Walking away from something that did not work is hard, often causing feelings of guilt, failure, or even shame. Feel what you need to feel to find closure and forgive those around you.
Release those emotions, too. It allows you to move forward without resentment or regret. Regardless of why you are letting go, it is okay.
7. Compare desire to duty.
An effective way to let go of things that no longer provide happiness is to list them in your life. Write down for each if they are a desire or a duty. Define duty and look at its place in your life.
Does it serve you? This exercise is an excellent way to prioritize the items and relationships in your life logically. Another way to look at this list is to compare things that give you stress or inner peace.
8. Respect the situation.
Whatever you are letting go of was undoubtedly a significant factor in your life. Take time to acknowledge what you learned and how it shaped your life’s path.
9. Take inventory.
If the intention is to clean the house, there are ways to help. Some people need help knowing where to start, especially when dealing with material possessions or habits.
Ultimately, what we are letting go of can be placed in categories. Make a list of your physical possessions, habits, hobbies, and non-romantic relationships, and shed those that have not served you in the past year.
10. Only keep what you love.
One can flip the idea of letting go of things that do not serve to only keeping what you love. Whether it is a job, a jar of peanut butter, or an expensive outfit, it will become a burden if you are not passionate about it.
11. Be brave.
It takes courage to let go of people or things that do not serve you. Being fearless in the face of the unknown is the plot of many a book and movie and can be the plot of your life’s story as well.
Proper growth happens in the unknown. It is where our brain makes new connections and where humans discover who they are and what life has in store.
12. Strive for health and wellness.
Achieving inner peace is a step-wise journey. It is preferred. As we become accustomed to letting go of those things that would be a burden, our minds acclimate to higher states of wellness and peace.
And our bodies no longer seek or require destructive or toxic habits to provide fulfillment.
13. Reconnect with yourself.
Each time we let go of things that do not serve, we create the opportunity to reconnect with our authentic selves.
Take time to rediscover who you really are and what you truly want. Take a trip, get into shape, or move to a new place. Shed the baggage and become stronger and more mindful of your next steps and direction.
We spend a lifetime developing attachments to things, people, and places and become overwhelmed with the banal and the trivial.
Discovering how to let go of something is challenging. It takes time to learn that letting go is simply making a conscious decision to drop the item or belief of that which does not serve you, knowing that the space will be filled when needed.