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16 Things to Let Go to Live a Truly Happy Life

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” ~Jim Rohn

Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent the better part of my life chasing after happiness. It always seemed like happiness stayed just a tad bit out of my grasp—somewhere in the future that I could always see, but not quite touch.

For instance, when I was a kid, I believed I’d be happy if I got an admission into a good college. In college, I believed that I’d be happy if I got a good job. When I got a job, I believed that I’d be happy if I got a promotion and a raise. And on and on it went.

Every time I reached a goal, it seemed like the next goal was where true happiness lay.

Sadly, this affected my personal life as well. I thought, “When I find a great guy, I’ll be happy. Wait, to be truly happy, we need to first get married. Being married is great, but we need to have kids to find real joy. Gosh, our baby needs to grow up a little so we can really enjoy being with her…” And so on.

For more than thirty-five years, I chased happiness on this path, not realizing what a futile chase it was.

And then, about two years back, I was abruptly jolted out of it.

One evening, on a day that had started out like any other, I found myself at the hospital with my three-year-old daughter in tow, waiting outside the emergency room that my husband lay in.

After a week at the hospital, my husband came out okay. However, it fundamentally changed the way I look at life.

For the first time I saw the futility of our chase. I still believe that goals are important and we should strive to achieve them. But now, I see them more as mile markers in life’s journey, not having much to do with happiness.

Happiness, it turns out, is not something we go after. It’s something already within us. We just need to clear up some clutter to find it.

The two years that followed have been an amazing journey of slowly letting go of some of that clutter in the quest to find the true happiness within. It’s still a work-in-progress, but here are the things I’ve been striving to let go.

1. Let go of trying to control everything.

The only thing that we can truly control is our own attitude and reactions. Once we accept that, we can find happiness right where we are, irrespective of how things turn out. This was perhaps the hardest but the most necessary part of the transformation for me.

2. Let go of trying to please everyone.

Every time we pretend to be someone, it takes us away from our true selves, and from our place of happiness. It was hard at first to stop trying to please others. Eventually I realized how liberating it was to dare to be myself!

3. Let go of the sense of entitlement.

I often found myself asking “Why me?” It was hard to replace that with “Why not?” After all, everyone gets their share of joys and sorrows; why should I somehow be above it and deserve only the joys?

4. Let go of resentment.

Unless we walk in the shoes of the other, we really don’t know the reason for their behavior. Carrying resentment only hurts us and delays any repair. I cannot tell you how amazing it’s been to let go of some of the resentment I didn’t even know I’d been carrying for years!

5. Let go of guilt.

On the flip side, if we are the ones who made a mistake, it is time to forgive ourselves and make amends. “I’m sorry. How can I fix it?” can go a long way in starting the healing process.

6. Let go of pride.

Neither apology nor forgiveness is possible without letting go of pride. Nor is there room for authentic connection where pride resides. Let it go.

7. Let go of perfectionism.

If I had a dime for every opportunity I squandered in the quest for perfection, I’d be rich! But no one can be perfect all the time. That’s what makes us humans. We are quirky. We have flaws. We are beautiful just the way we are.

8. Let go of negativity.

In any given situation we have a choice—look at what’s good and be grateful, or look at what’s wrong and complain. Deliberately adopting the attitude of gratitude literally changed the course of my life.

9. Let go of draining, unhealthy relationships.

We are the average of the people we hang out with, and if they are frequently negative, it becomes hard for us to maintain an attitude of gratitude. It’s been a tough call to distance myself from people in my life who were bringing me down, but it was necessary to move on.

10. Let go of the busyness.

Somewhere along the way, many of us have bought into the notion that the busier we are and the more we achieve, the happier we will be. After thirty-five years, I’ve come to realize that busyness does not equal happiness.

11. Let go of the attachment to money.

Money is definitely good to have, but once our basic needs and savings goals are met, it’s time to evaluate the tradeoff of earning more and more. Letting go of the need for money just for the sake of it has been a very hard but fulfilling experience for me.

12. Let go of the fear of failure.

Everybody who tries anything worthwhile fails at some point or the other. Failure does not mean we are broken. It simply means we are courageous to dare! Easier said than done, but I’m trying.

13. Let go of the fear of abandonment.

Fundamentally, we all crave for connection. But when fear of abandonment starts to rule our lives we make very irrational choices. I try to trust that what is meant to be will happen. And no matter how things turn out, we’ll come out of it okay.

14. Let go of comparison.

We usually only get to see the highlights reel of other’s lives. Comparing my behind-the-scenes to that has only made me unhappy in the past. It’s time for change.

15. Let go of expectations.

In the end, the core of all my issues was that I expected things to be a certain way. I expected what a good spouse or a friend ought to act like. I expected my daughter to behave a certain way. I expected how situations should turn out. Heck, I even had fixed expectations of what happiness was! Letting go of expectations has helped everything else start to fall in place.

16. Let go of yesterday and tomorrow.

And finally, how can we find true happiness if we are saddled down by the baggage of the past or fear of the future? Once I learned to let go of some of the above, I started to focus deliberately on today and now. Suddenly, music and beauty emerged from what was previously mundane. Is there a better way to find true happiness?

Letting go of something that is ingrained in our minds for years is hard. In my experience, even when I do manage to let go of something some of the time, at other times, it comes right back. In the end, it’s the journey that matters, right?

So, what will you let go of today?

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About Sumitha Bhandarkar

Sumitha is the blogger behind afineparent.com and invites you to come take a look at the unique parent-child journal she has designed which could be the most meaningful gift you could give any child! Connected Hearts Journal is a keepsake memory book parents put together with their kids and in the process have conversations, teach life lessons, build up self-esteem, instill an attitude of gratitude and so much more! Click here to find out more.

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  • Luigi

    ‘it’s the journey that matters’? Yes,definitely… 🙂

  • Luckily, you discovered many authentic things and you live by them. I feel really happy to read articles that fit my position 🙂 Thank you!

  • I enjoyed this post and really liked point #10 “Let Go of the busyness.” I agree with your comment that, “Somewhere along the way, many of us have bought into the notion that the busier we are and the more we achieve,” I think that instead of business, we need to work hard to create some margin in our lives so that we can create a balance between our work, our family’s, and the things that really make us happy. Thanks for sharing Sumitha!

  • Creating a margin in our everyday life is so vitally important, especially for those of us who are trying to break out of the busyness myth! Thanks for reminding me of that @sespring:disqus – especially today, when my to-do list seems to run a mile long. I really appreciate it 🙂

  • At this point it is still a case of “trying to live by them”, @kgjakovski:disqus… And, happy to know that there are other’s who identify with this position… phew 😉

  • Yep…. long, winding, sometimes breath-takingly scenic, sometimes mind-numbingly boring, sometimes with a million co-travellers, sometimes excruciatingly lonely…. every single one of us has a unique journey, don’t we?

  • DE

    Sumitha- excellent article- Go with the flow of life and see what life can offer. It is very difficult to let go our expectations, but definitely lowering expectations and live in the moment to have a fulfill enjoyable life is better than busy stressful life and thinking about bright future which might or might not there.

  • Emma Lefevre

    And if you don’t know how to ‘let go’, be with this moment, sink into it.

  • Gosh you nailed it, @disqus_ekyJIDjIud:disqus! I’m still working on finding that balance where you work towards creating a bright future, but stay grounded in the current moment. It’s been an amazingly challenging task to say the least 🙂

  • Any tips on how you do it @emmalefevre:disqus? I am consciously trying to practice mindfulness… it’s helping for sure, but I often find myself drifting off without even noticing it…

  • Ayesha Arshad

    Thank you Sumitha. I’m a long way from achieving all of what you have mentioned but the inspiration was much needed!

  • Emma Lefevre

    Of course it is a journey – and a journey many of us are playing with at the moment, which is very exciting. I was writing about it in my blog this morning .. http://wp.me/pxSUv-dK – I notice that I am often betraying myself – often checking outside of myself to gain balance… but I am beginning to believe the wisdom of the ancients… ‘I am the way’…. when you notice that your thoughts are just you… whatever you make up… and they are not true… and your emotions are just you… they won’t kill you and you settle into just feeling them… then you settle into the present moment and that peace that surpasses all understanding…. the oneness of everything. And then you slip out again, and then you become aware again.. like the waves on a beach.

  • Tracey

    That’s a big list!

  • Wow, beautifully explained @emmalefevre:disqus! Just reading it makes me slow down and feel calmer… I remember feeling this way while reading Ekhart Tolle’s book — I was too early in my journey to fully appreciate the book at that time… I need to read it again. Thank you so much for the nudge!

  • Thanks @disqus_PY5K1S8Mg7:disqus! I don’t know if I’ll ever really “achieve” all of it, but the journey sure has been deeply satisfying… Good luck to you in your journey!

  • I know! Which one of those speaks to you though? Start with that and it will lead you to the others (at least, that’s what I found) 🙂

  • Emma Lefevre

    Thank you @Sumitha Namaste

  • Tracey

    Nice advice to make it digestible – thank you. You’ll of course therefore not be at all surprised to hear that letting go of perfectionism feels like a good place to start: perfectionism and needing to control. They speak to me most.

  • I know exactly what you mean @disqus_XHx6MJitYG:disqus! Letting go of control was, and still is, the biggest challenge for me. I would definitely recommend starting there… pick one small thing and say, “it’s OK” and step back and let things be. It’s the most nasty, uncomfortable feeling, but after a while the brain gets used to it… and things start to actually feel somewhat OK 🙂 Somehow when I managed to do it at least to a little extent, letting go of perfectionism became much easier. Good luck in your journey!

  • Carma Sez

    Bravo – this resonates especially true for me lately too, as I just wrote this morning on a friend’s FB post: I think it has taken me 40+ years to realize the importance of a life with some fun vs. always focusing on goals You can’t always count on waiting until retirement age to have fun. A bit of an epiphany – especially seeing so many people around our age in ill health Take care of yourself, focus on what you love and ditch the rest…

  • Beautiful!

  • Gosh, that’s the story of my life @carmasez:disqus! I spent the better part of my life chasing after goals, until I was jolted into seeing the futility of it after a hospital visit! I now still chase goals, but make a conscious effort to step back and reevaluate what matters, the moment I begin to feel the stress. “Take care of yourself, focus on what you love and ditch the rest…” — definitely a great mantra to live by!!!

  • Maya F.

    Thank you for this post! It’s such a difficult task to let go of a lot of things. This post reminds me to be mindful of the present so I can truly live my life with appreciation and gratitude 🙂

  • The knowledge of these principles is one part of the equation. The practice is where the challenge arises and it sounds like you’ve been able to face it head on, through intentional and continuous effort. My favorite “things” listed here are Numbers 2, 8 and 12. Cheers to you for daring to be courageous!

  • Jukti Pratim Saikia

    Very inspiring Sumitha. So much in need to do all these things. Trying everyday but still a long way to go. Nice article

  • Lisabroga

    I love number three! I must use it, It’s so easy to think “why me?” And “why not?” is the perfect answer! Thanks for your piece.

  • Anjan buragohain

    Thank you for this great article..

  • Thanks @Lisabroga. That simple mind shift has helped me deal with a lot of difficult times…. just being aware that I’m going down the “why me” path and consciously stopping myself and thinking of something positive to be grateful about (or about how it could have been worse), helps me recover faster with a lot less long-term damage. Letting go of “why me?” is definitely something worth striving for!

  • I guess it is challenging sometimes to let go of that notorious need to CONTROL everything… It is like trying to juggle and catch all things at once. I certainly know the feeling. The more we try to control everything, the faster our precious focus runs thin which ultimately leads to exhaustion. So there is only one option here – concentrate on the things you CAN CONTROL. One thing at a time ;-]

    Also I like this point of “letting go of yesterday and tomorrow” – such a beautiful reminder, Sumitha!

    There is only one place we live. It is the moment of NOW. The shortest period of time our future fully depends on. We don’t live in the past that will stay unchanged forever. We don’t live in the future that no one can predict. We live NOW. And it is vital to stay present in the moment.

  • Thanks @juktipratimsaikia:disqus. I think you are doing great if you are trying everyday… all of us there right along side you in different parts of this journey… getting to a calmer, more deeply fulfilled space, one little change at a time!

  • You’re right @MadlabPost:disqus, that’s the biggest thing here – knowing what needs to be done Vs actually doing it. At some level all of us get this to a certain extent… but being able to implement it in real life is easier said than done. As you’ve pointed out and many others have commented here, it’s a matter of continuous, everyday, intentional effort.

  • Thanks @Maya F.:disqus After going through some of the comments here, I’m beginning to realize that letting go, is as much about practice as anything else… it’s hard at first, but it you keep at it, some day, it’s second nature! Good luck in your journey.

  • Beautifully said @LesyaLi! And so profound… the past does indeed stay unchanged forever, and yet our mind keeps going back to it, hoping that things were different! And the same with the future… we get so hung up on what we want it to be like, that when something else pans out, even if it is a perfectly fine alternative, we fail to appreciate it! Very nicely said — thanks!

  • Allison McKenzie

    Thanks Sumitha, for articulating many of the ways in which we can take charge of our own happiness. Over the last 18 months some serious life challenges have helped me clarify my path and embrace the freedom that comes with letting go. Letting go has both elevated my spirit and grounded me in a way that I never knew possible.

  • Carma Sez

    Yes, definitely too much pressure to achieve, achieve, achieve, which can cause us to lose sight of what is important in life — glad you like my new mantra 🙂 My son is headed off to college at the end of summer – so I will soon be an empty-nester. I plan to spend lots of time thinking how to re-create my life and fill my time in a way that is fulfilling!

  • Good luck, @carmasez:disqus! That is a huge change, but I’m sure you’ll do well!

  • You put it so nicely with “elevated my spirit and grounded me in a way that I never knew possible”, @disqus_AWlzB0K106:disqus. That’s kind of how I feel as well 🙂

  • zooo

    Happiness is such a broad subject in our life and I don’t think
    some people will ever be truly happy in their life, but I just wanted to say
    that I really appreciate what you have to say as I think it applies to everyone
    and could really help people out in their search for happiness.

  • lv2terp

    WONDERFUL post!!!! Thank you for sharing your experience and awesome advice/learned lessons! 🙂 Several of these have been on my list as well, mainly working on the expectation one! Many warm wishes on your journey! 🙂

  • Dustmyblues

    Outstanding post!! Thanks.

  • Wandoo Ityavyar

    That was a lovely piece Sumitha. Indeed the only certain thing in life is change. Those are all very helpful tips #bookmarked

  • Arna

    I always considered myself a very happy person with a lot of friends. But despite being this way, I sometimes noticed that I would feel extremely low and sometimes observe unusual behaviour in an intoxicated position. Then I came across this article and saw that there are certain things about my personality that I can and should change, like the following
    1. Let go of expectations
    2. Fear of abandonment
    3. Let go of trying to please everyone
    4. Let go of resentment.

    I have huge issues with the above 4 which perhaps keeps me at a very unhealthy state. I will try to work on them as soon as possible.

    Thank you for this article 🙂

  • Krishna

    That’s so beautiful 🙂

  • Naveen

    hi sumitha bhandarkar,
    thanks for the post
    nice job

  • Viraj

    Nice and deep thoughts you remind. I love this article.

  • deepali

    This is really beautiful. Well thought.

  • Ajay

    This one was a much needed article for me.
    My expectations are huge and am always fearful of failure , i am trying to overcome this, dont know how to.just thinking of it, hope i will some day not too long from now i will have the qualities u mentioned..
    Thank you

  • taylor

    At this point it is still a case of “trying to live by them

  • Amber Rivera

    This post was exactly what I was looking for, thank you Sumitha! Very inspiring:)

  • Thomas

    What a great article. I’m glad to have it found and read. It expresses quite that what I learned to reconize in the last few month …
    All you need is good friends you can trust blindly and health to achieve that happiness everybody chases for but oversee that he already stepped over it …

    I like many of your points, tho. I think if you can bring some of them into your own life it might get perfect … but the best is still to be open for new things and to be flexible. It’s amazing how many good and happy moments you can pick up right from the street.

  • Gayathri

    Thanks sumitha. A great post

  • I was exactly the same Sumitha. Then about five years ago I was jolted out of chasing happiness when I went through major heartbreak. Your advice is perfect. What totally transformed my life was becoming grateful. I now keep a daily gratitude journal and find that no matter what is happening in my life – everything is perfect. I am grateful for all my experiences and everything in my life!

  • Jennifer Lam

    Dear Sumitha,

    “Postponing Happiness” — really resonated with me 🙂 People who delay their happiness by living in the future (or in the past)! Only leads to perpetual frustration.

    Like you say in #14, and this changed my life, re-discovering the wonder of the now can make you truly happy. I wish I’d discovered this earlier 🙂

    If you ask me how to learn this, how to let go of (most of the time) unnecessary ballast of fear and worry, I like to suggest to everyone to google for Eckhart Tolle and his wonderful teachings. (Or read about him on the Unchain blog http://unchainmybrain.com/increase-joy-life-eckhart-tolle/) Or get his life-changing book The Power of Now.

    Sumitha, do you mediate or do any centering exercises?

    Love,

    Jenni

  • Gary Newman