The day has finished. We have spent today thinking of the following question:
Am I holding on to something I need to let go of?
It is hard to imagine a person who does not, or has not at one point in their life, not held onto something. It could have been an insult, a loss of some kind, a break up. At one point or another, you have gone through something and it took you a while before you let it go. But why does it take us so long to let go of things?
Depending upon the situation, it could be due to time. You go through a break up or divorce after being with your significant other for ten years. Are you immediately going to be jumping with joy? Immediately start a new life like nothing happened and never look back? No, probably not, and in cases where you do this, it is usually due to false-bravado. In addition, due to us being human, we suffer from a handful of cognitive biases at any given time that may distort the truth about events.
Marcus Aurelius reminds himself in Meditations:
“Letting go all else, cling to the following few truths. Remember that man lives only in the present, in this fleeting instant: all the rest of his life is either past and gone, or not yet revealed.”
Yet even after reading his quote, how many of us would go about immediately letting go of something we’re holding onto? Few. I know for myself it takes me a long time to let go of things.
Practicing being present however, helps on letting go of the things we hold onto. All we have is the present moment. The past is gone. No matter what, we cannot reclaim what previously happened, it is written in stone. We can, however, use it as perspective for the present. I do not say the ‘present and future’ for the future is not concrete, it is malleable and has no set destination. It has yet to be written.
Seneca reminds us of this stating:
“The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for uncertainty.”
Holding on to the past, or fear of future events actually hinders and hurts us in the long run. But how about holding onto things from the past as fuel for the future? Well, that logic does work… but only temporarily. By holding onto the past to drive us into the future, you are doing two things: 1) you’re anchoring yourself to the past event(s) that are fueling you and 2) you are not properly seeing the present moment. Eventually what ends up happening is we hit a plateau because we cannot let go of the past to stay in the present. And when we lose sight of the present, we ruin our future.
The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once wrote:
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.”
So how do we let go of the past and stay present?
Ray Dalio, founder of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates and author of the book Principles talks about self-actualizing. Whether it is through a group of people assisting you or yourself, you need to be able to see the facts clearly. Understand yourself, see your faults, your actions, and what has taken place. Once you have a clear view of yourself and the events of the past, learn from them and move on. Do not be a slave to your past.
The stoics used daily reflections such as what we do here to reflect upon what happened and then let go of it. Eastern philosophy teaches of meditation. Some people today use neurolinguistics programing (NLP) to create anchors within themselves which pulls them back to the present moment.
Explore all you can and find what works best to stay present.
Meditations -Marcus Aurelius
The Tao of Seneca – Volume I – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
The Tao of Seneca – Volume II – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
The Tao of Seneca – Volume III – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
Letters from a Stoic – Seneca the Younger
On the Shortness of Life – Seneca the Younger
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
Principles – Ray Dalio
How have we grown from this? Did we execute any differently today because of this? Do you feel that you have new tools to accomplish tomorrow?