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When To Hold On and When To Let Go

Posted November 13, 2013 by Rebecca Niziol in On the Ladder
floating letting go holding on

You are holding on for dear life, hanging at the edge of a cliff. Palms sweaty, heart pumping, your body is in a peak state as it ponders: Do you let go or keep holding on?

The answer largely depends on what you think will happen if you keep holding on, and what you think will happen if you let go.

If that cliff is your launch pad into crystal waters in Hawaii, then letting go is a fun and exciting thrill that takes you to a point of bliss. If that cliff is the only thing keeping you from falling to jagged rocks thousands of feet below, holding on for now is the only choice you’ve got if you want to survive.

I was inspired to write about this after seeing Gravity. In this brilliant film, Sandra Bullock’s character captures some very real pieces of humanity, and largely our confusion around letting go and holding on. Sometimes the line between the two is paper thin.

This shows up in real life situations all the time, and can be one of the hardest things to figure out. You don’t want to waste time holding onto something that you need to let go of. You also don’t want to walk away from something when what you want is just ahead, without you knowing it.

  • So you’ve started a new business, but it’s not going as well as you’d hoped. You’ve already invested a lot, putting in hundreds if not thousands of hours. Yet, revenue is not coming as planned. It’s a lot of hard work, and you’re starting to wonder if this is sustainable. Right now you’re struggling to “keep the doors open”. Do you let it go or keep going?
  • You’ve been dating this guy for two years now. You love him, and he loves you, but the relationship has started to get stale.  You’re getting bored. You find yourself pushing him to make a commitment to your future together. You are likely convincing him of something that now you’re not even so sure about. What do you do… walk away or stay invested?
  • You’ve been self-sabotaging a lot lately. You recently met a great coach who you want to work with, but she’s super expensive. You know you probably need to invest in something like this, yet you’re not quite sure about committing. $4,000 is a lot of money. Do you invest (let go of the money) or say no (and hold onto the money)?

Well, what do you think letting go will give you? And what will holding on give you?

A very simple way to figure this out is with visualization. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the midst of whatever your circumstances (you don’t know what to do). Start with scenario A – you let go. Imagine that happening. How does that make you feel? Listen to your body for a moment, notice what sensations are coming up, these are clues. Now move to scenario B – you hold on. Imagine it playing out in your mind. How does it make you feel? Again, listen to the hints your body and intuition are giving you. Do you feel relief or anxiety? Comfort or discomfort?

It doesn’t matter if letting go or holding on is what you need. Both can be scary, both can be uncomfortable. Some situations call for holding on, and some for letting go. But there’s one thing you need to know before you choose either.

Who you are will not change by letting go or holding on.

You will not become a failure if you close or sell your business. You will not be broken or incomplete if you walk away from a relationship.

You will not be a better person because you stuck with something. You will not be wiser, stronger, or more valuable by holding on.

You will simply be making a choice, and taking action. Both are admirable, and both can be hard to do.

Who you are doesn’t change by holding on or letting go. Your behaviors might change, your circumstances might change, but nothing you do or don’t do will affect the core of who you are.

Now ask yourself why you want to either let go or hold on. Getting clear on your motivation is a vital step to feeling confident in your decision.

Are you holding on out of fear? Are you letting go because you don’t believe you can do it? OR are you holding on because this is a desire running so deep you can’t imagine life without it? Are you letting go because carrying the weight of this in your heart is starting to dim the light of your soul?

You will feel more confident in your decision if you are motivated by love and passion. I have yet to find a case where someone motivated by fear was completely confident with her decisions and actions.

It’s time to let go IF:

  • You are holding onto the past, and letting it dictate the present and future.
  • You spend most of your time or energy trying to please someone else.
  • Perfection is the goal instead of completion.
  • Looking good has become more important than feeling good.
  • You are resisting the natural flow of change and evolution.
  • You are denying who you are by continuing to do, be, or have this in your life.

It’s time to hold on IF:

  • The biggest obstacle is your ability to believe in yourself.
  • You’ve forgotten how powerful, strong, and capable you are.
  • You can’t imagine life moving forward without this thing, person, or experience.
  • You are called to something without knowing why, but it just feels right.
  • Doing, having, or being this would allow you to be more of who you are.
  • You’ve simply lost momentum, focus, or the support you need to keep going.

If the time has come to let go, I’ll leave you with this piece of wisdom:

When you stop trying to grasp, own, and control the world around you, you give it the freedom to fulfill you without the power to destroy you. That’s why letting go is so important: letting go is letting happiness in.– Lori Deschene (her entire article on Zen habits for letting go really brings this home.)

When right now is the time to hold on a little longer, remember:

Every NO makes space for a YES. Every awful date gets you one step closer to finding that perfect partner. Every challenge is the rite of passage to a breakthrough. Every disappointment is the birthplace of resilience. But only if you choose to keep going. Keep going, what you want might be just around the corner.

About the Author

Rebecca Niziol

Rebecca Niziol, ELI-MP, is many things: a life coach, yoga teacher, dancer, event planner, connection catalyst, and your new best friend. Her mission is to empower others to live the authentic life of their dreams. After years of traveling North America and Europe, she is happy to have found a home and community in Chicago.