3 Steps to Letting Go of 2019

By Dr Sam Collins, December 31st, 2019

If you are feeling exhausted as 2019 comes to an end, you aren’t alone. It has been a busy year on the world scene. A procession of crises, summits and protests have consumed the news. UK Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson won a sweeping victory, fire tore through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris nearly destroying the 850-year-old landmark, the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup and President Donald Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. These are only a few of the most prominent events of 2019.

What probably didn’t make the national news (or maybe it should have) is the unprecedented amount of ridiculously challenging ‘stuff’ we have had to deal with this year personally and professionally. From work stress to family matters to our own health, ordinarily, dealing with multiple matters at once is the backbone and hardiness of many women. We pride ourselves on being multitaskers and our ability to get things done in the face of adversity. We receive the applause with humility, yet secretly and slowly behind the scenes we break and yearn for a day with no ‘to do’ list.

Add to this never-ending cycle, it is the time of year to celebrate, the final day of 2019 and a time when most people are getting ready for their new year bash and contemplating their resolutions. We know in our hearts that many of these good intentions will not last, but we go along with the annual fanfare in hope that next year it will change.

With all of our good intentions coupled with a strong desire to not repeat the mistakes of last year, why is it that we don’t follow through on our new year goals? Is it that we get too busy or too tired or too overwhelmed or a combination of all of them? Or is it that we have set goals that we believe we ‘should’ achieve? Lose that weight, make more money, have more friends, make more time, be more perfect etc. Or is it that we launch ourselves into the new year without properly letting go of the previous one?

If you’ve had a pretty impossible 2019 then some reflection on it may be in order.

STEP 1: Focus on the good

Take an overview of the entire year and look for the highlights. Now if you’re anything like me, we’re not used to always focusing on the positive and have a tendency to go down deep dark holes. If you’ve ever had a 360° feedback report at work, I’m not sure I know anybody that doesn’t jump to the bad comment first of all and try and figure out who said it.

What were your successes this year?

Where did you thrive?

What worked?

The truth is that you had an amazing year. You overcame challenges. You juggled many balls. You helped a lot of people. These are the fuel that takes us forward. The healthy treats that make us remember that good things happen and we can build on these in 2020.

STEP 2: Focus on the bad

Despite it being not very fashionable, the challenging stuff is often swept under the carpet with the skill set of a frightened, ostrich instinctively burying its head in the sand in the hope that trouble will pass it by.

It is important to think about what didn’t work in 2019. But do it from what I call the ‘scientist perspective’. What I mean by this is that we do it in a more non-emotional and non-judgemental way to ourselves.

What didn’t work in 2019?

What did you learn?

What are your ‘do differents’ for next year?

In 2019, it was the curveballs that got us. It was the unexpected health challenge, the death in the family, the business results going down, the economy playing havoc with our organizations, the child that demanded much more of our time and energy, the relationship that we didn’t realize was dwindling.

We tried to juggle it all. We tried to keep it all together.

We get devilishly fooled by personal development motivators that whatever comes up, that by somehow thinking positively and having strategies in place, that we can manage and handle anything.

Not true.

Of course, having a positive perspective can be extremely helpful but it is a reactive strategy and not a proactive one. If multiple challenging events happen at once, no amount of positive thinking can get us through without some personal carnage. It is not our fault that our businesses are structured with the needs of people from hundreds of years ago, that our society values Kim Kardashian’s Christmas gifts more than climate change denial and that women often unknowingly and despite their best efforts do not make it into the positions of power.

Take a moment, realize you do your best and be kind to yourself.

STEP 3 – Let go

OK, you didn’t handle your new boss very well in 2019. You put on some weight, you didn’t do as well at work, you didn’t get that promotion, your kid didn’t do so well in their exams. The truth is that for 2019, you were the best person, partner, mother, sister, friend, cook, taxi driver or whatever else you were capable of in that time.

What is it that you really want to let go of from 2019?

What have you had enough of that you do not want to take with you into 2020?

Much of the time the answers to the above questions are not particularly tangible. We want to let go of emotions like stress and tiredness and worry. Then we point to ourselves and ask ourselves how we can do better. We should manage our time better. We should change jobs or change relationships or change others. We look outside instead of looking inside.

Let’s take the example of ‘worry’. Who wouldn’t want to let go of such anxiety, freeing one’s mind from dwelling on our difficulties and troubles. Yet the truth is that many of us have no clue how to do such a thing.

Write a letter to what it is you want to let go of. Here’s an example.

Dear Worry,

Thank you for being with me so long. I know that you have good intentions and that you try to make sure that I cover all the bases. You want to make sure that I plan for things and that I am prepared for the worst that can happen. You know from experience that the worst can happen. The thing is that you are not really helping me to plan. In fact, I can’t really think straight when I worry and you make me feel unwell.

I am ready to release you and trust I am guided and protected and I am able to think things through without you. I let go of you and I know my life and others’ lives will be much better for it. Thank you

Sign it. Date It. Burn it (or tear it up, flush it down the toilet, throw the pieces into water etc).

Like any effective declutter, we let go and find space for the new and the unexpected. It gives us the physical and emotional energy to strive for more, to do better, to think differently with regards to our lives, workplaces and the wider world.

I know 2020 has huge potential for positive change, let go of 2019 and give yourself the freedom to soar!

I wish you the most peaceful, fun, empowering and life changing 2020.

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