To let go is often much easier said than done. But doing so can be immensely important, and therefore the extra effort to do so is definitely worth it. We all more or less know this, but do it rarely. How may we change that?
Personal Investment Theory
Most people are really familiar with the personal investment theory in practice, maybe less so by theory and definition. Well, this theory explains why we have difficulties of letting go of things or situations we have invested in. The more we have invested, the harder it is to let go.
And no, we’re not solely referring to “financial investments”. Instead, these personal investments come in many shapes and colours. Money. Time. Energy. Pride. Emotions. Honour. The list goes on and on.
To many, personal investment is the reason why it is hard to let go of things such as old relationships. The more time, energy and feelings that we’ve invested in it — the less willing we are to leave it all behind, no matter how bad it might currently be.
And… once we’ve managed to leave it we are often left longing back to it — even though we are fully aware of the fact that it wasn’t the right relationship to be in.
But it’s not just our relationships that are affected by the personal investment. It works its dark magic on everything we do. On everything that encapsulates our lives. And this is the substantial reason to why we have difficulties letting go of the small things.
The small things
Because how often have we not let minuscule stuff affect us loooooong after they were done? The frustration over a friend who said something stupid. The disappointment of a lost opportunity. The regret we feel when we’ve done a mistake. The embarrassment when we’ve made a fool of ourselves.
We’ve probably laid awake some nights and thought about small stuff that doesn’t mean a thing in the grand scheme of things. Or relived uncomfortable feelings from the past just because our thoughts don’t want to stop focus on them.
The problem is not that it happens. Because… it happens. And there’s little we can do to ever stop it. However, the problem is when we tell ourselves that we can’t or won’t let go of these things.
When that happens it leads to something typically referred to as a negative feedback loop. It ensures that we repeat negative thoughts and emotions so often that they again inspire new negative thoughts and emotions. And so it goes.
You probably know a few people who come across as bitter, sceptical or negative towards things, activities, places or humans, just based on a single (or two) negative previous experiences?
Even though thoughts like that are created in our very own minds, and not externally around us, we have a tendency to tie them to something external. We blame the external factor for how we behave, and we refuse to let go of these emotions because we have invested so much energy and effort in them.
So, how do we let go?
So how do we really let go of the small things?
Well, there are especially two well-established approaches. These will help us when we remember that it is not the external factors or things that make us “have to feel bad”, but rather that it is what we think about what happens/happened that is the source of the problem.
1. Develop an “abundance mentality”
Abundance mentality is the attitude that “there’s plenty of fish in the sea”. It’s a cliche often used in regards to relationships and dating, but it is equally relevant for tonnes of things.
A lost opportunity. A ruined occasion. A dreading experience. None of this means that we can’t find other opportunities, other occasions or other experiences that are better. That will be great. That will be exactly as we want them to be.
When our attitude, on a fundamental level, is that there will always be more opportunities and chances, then it will be way easier to let go of the personal investment we ought to let go of.
Whether we are talking about other people to date, other jobs to apply for, other friends to spend time with, and everything else, then an abundance mentality will help us downplay the impact the misfortune incident have on our lives.
And when the role of the incident is diminished, then our personal investment will be perceived as smaller. As a result, our brain will have less reason to focus on what didn’t go well — and we can let go and move on.
2. Seriously, don’t take your thoughts so seriously
Most of us have a tendency to believe that if we are thinking a certain thing then it has to be true. Because… we wouldn’t lie to ourselves, would we?
Well… We lie to ourselves all the time. We make up truths. We believe other’s lies. And we conclude based on lacking information and understanding.
What we think is often far from accurate and true. And so we don’t always need to believe ourselves. By training, we can start to choose what thoughts we would like to believe in, and what thoughts we choose to be sceptic about.
And when we have recurring negative thoughts about something that didn’t go as we had hoped — then we can simply opt to not take the negativity too seriously. We can choose to put on a smile about our silly dire thoughts and keep in mind that we are often far from correct anyways.
And when we stop to take our own negative conclusions as absolute facts and instead realize that “there’s plenty of fish in the sea”, then the personal investment will lose a lot of its power, and it will be easier and easier to let go of the small things.
And many of the big ones as well 😉