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So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name.

“It is Well” / Bethel Music feat. Kristene DiMarco

I’ve been spending some time over these last couple weeks of the school holidays thinking about how I intend to take care of myself better, manage anxiety and respond more effectively to stress throughout this year.

What will this look like in practical terms? I have most of my overall plan for that nutted out, which I intend to share in an upcoming post sometime soon.

One particular area I intend to focus on is letting go.

I love one of my wife’s favourite sayings, which is well known in many Christian circles: “Let go, and let God”. The saying is not about giving up involvement altogether in a particular situation or context, but accepting that often control of the circumstances or outcome is out of our hands. Historically, I’m best at doing this sort of letting go when I really don’t have any choice – all other options have been exhausted.

On the other hand, letting go can be as much about the past as about future outcomes. Recently a pastor at our church used the analogy of a boat, describing the difficulty in moving forward if we’re tied down by heavy anchors from the past. There can be movement to and fro, but no real change.

boat-691804_640

Image is in public domain.

I like that analogy and it makes sense to me.

The more I have thought about letting go recently, the more I have wondered:

  • What exactly do I want to let go of?
  • How will I go about doing that in the day-to-day?

I began to make a list. The list isn’t finished, but here are just a few things I want to let go of this year:

Expectations

I’m learning that I’m often unrealistic and unfair, especially to myself, in the expectations I hold. In my roles as a dad, a husband, a friend, a professional in my career, I often have expectations that don’t fit the context and situation. In big life contexts and smaller day-to-day scenarios, often my expectations are clouded by ideas about how things should be. I’m getting better at checking my expectations against the reality of my life context to ensure they are realistic and fair, but it’s an ongoing challenge.

The Past

I don’t consciously dwell on the past, but I have realised I often unconsciously let it shape my expectations of similar situations in the present or future; sometimes I “catastrophise” based on what has occurred in the past. Instead I want to treat each new day and situation as unique.

Perfection

I’m having a go this year at lowering my standards – though not too far – in areas that are less important. At work, I sometimes spend extra time making a student handout look perfectly set out and organised when in reality that level of attention to detail is unnecessary and inefficient. At home, I don’t cope well with “mess” and that’s something I need to find some balance on. These are just two examples.

Success and Judgement

This is a change of mindset that goes hand-in-hand with my mindfulness practice. I think it’s a bit counter-cultural in some ways in western society. I want to hold back more often on judgements about success and failure, right and wrong, good and bad in terms of what I do. I want to treat more of my experiences, good and bad, as simply steps on my journey – and it doesn’t matter if I succeeded or failed today, only that I keep going tomorrow.

Needing to have control

Control is often a major concern for people, and that’s true for myself. I find it hard to relinquish control at times and I am most comfortable when I feel in control. It’s probably human nature to feel this way, but situations where we’re completely in control are also very rare or even often illusory. If I can become more comfortable with less control over situations, I’ll be better for it.

This isn’t a complete list and with some of the items above, maybe it’s more a case of letting the rope slip through my hands a little rather than letting go entirely. It’s about finding balance.

Letting go of some things day-to-day is hard. It’s easy to form the intention to do so, but more difficult to put it consistently into practice. I’m working on being more aware of my thoughts throughout each day and regularly making reality checks. The longer I continue, the easier it’ll become.

What do you want to let go of this year?

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