“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”
— Joseph Campbell
I’ve not yet met a single person who hasn’t had a dream in their heart at one time or another. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t held on to a desire. I have seen some achieve their dreams and desires, I’ve seen some let go and I’ve seen some hold on when they should have let ago a long time ago. I’ve also been in each one of those realities.
For many, many years, there was a hand made poster on my bedroom wall. This poster lived with me in Martha’s Vineyard, Fall River Massachusetts, New York City, Amsterdam and Los Angeles. Whenever I moved, it came with me. One day I saw the message differently and now my handmade poster is in a memory box stored away. It had this quote from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables:
They daringly pursue their road. See them aloft, see them in the distance; they are but black specks. On they go. The road is uneven, its difficulties constant. At each step a wall, at each step a trap. As they rise the cold increases. They must make their ladder, cut the ice and walk on it, hewing the steps in haste. A storm is raging. Nevertheless they go forward in their madness. The air becomes difficult to breathe. The abyss yawns below them. Some fall. Others stop and retrace their steps; there is a sad weariness. The bold ones continue. They are eyed by the eagles; the lightning plays about them: the hurricane is furious. No matter, they persevere.
At one time, I saw the quote as strong, bold and courageous. Now I see how it celebrates struggle in the name of perseverance. The dangerous part of that is that we can become so attached to the pursuit that we become myopic and we may persevere to our own detriment.
Perseverance can appear noble and at the same time, we can let it blind us from seeing other more fulfilling opportunities.
If you are feeling torn about holding on or letting go, take a look at the signs perhaps they will give you some clarity.
1. When it becomes abusive or unhealthy – Sometimes a relationship turns into or becomes physically or psychologically harmful. Sometimes the pursuit of a dream can bring you into poverty, hunger or alienate your loved ones.
About ten years ago a few of my friends and I decided to try a Multi-Level Marketing program to earn extra money. About a month into it, when it wasn’t working out, all but one let it go. The one friend kept going to the high-energy meetings and in our eyes became brainwashed by the possibility of making unlimited income. Each time one of his customers canceled, he saw money come out of his bank account and his bank account went negative. Over time we watched him loose everything. We couldn’t get him to stop, not after he had his car repossessed, not after the credit cards were maxed out, not after his girlfriend left him nothing would stop him. He relentlessly pursued.
2. When nothing yields – When nothing seems to be happening and everything is a dead-end. Nothing is lining up, no synchronicity. It’s as though the universe is telling you no but you are still struggling and trying so hard that you can’t hear that the answer might be no.
3. If it consistently gives you more pain than joy – Perhaps in the beginning it gave you a great deal of joy and it was exciting, but now it just hurts you more often than not.
4. When the passion is gone – You feel yourself just going through the motions, pretending you’re still wanting the dream yet knowing the feeling is gone. An example of this is when you show up to your beloved hobby as if it’s a job you don’t like.
5. When you feel you’ve invested so much time and or energy that you can’t walk away – Your investment now imprisons you and you’re not staying with it for any other reason than you feel you can’t leave. This can happen when you’re committed to a business that you’ve started, or any other major endeavor.
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”
— Havelock Ellis
Sometimes it’s about transforming rather than letting go. If it continues to give you joy there may be away to transform the dream into another form. It took a long time and a great deal of heartache before I chose performing to be my hobby and end my professional pursuit, but when I allowed that transformation to finally take place, I felt so free.
There is great value in holding on and relentlessly pursuing our dreams, but there are also times to let go or transform.
What positive transformations have you had after letting go?
photo credit Bombardier