All my life, when someone advised me to “let go,” I never took it well. As someone who identifies as a Wilson Phillips “Hold On” type, the idea of letting anything go held a negative context. Why? I equated letting go with quitting, failing or giving up. As someone who believes firmly in dreams, goals and hope, this piece of advice seemed ill-fitted for a strong-willed, persistent, (stubborn) individual like me.

Until now.

While I once felt friends and family members were offering a dismissive brush-off, I now believe they were suggesting a loving piece of wisdom.

Letting Go Isn’t Giving Up

As my favorite coffee mug will tell you, I am a go-getter. Throughout my life I have gone for what I wanted, whether it be a position within a club, a tryout for a team, a boy that I had a crush on, a job that I wanted, or a destination I desired to visit. I believed that if I wanted something badly enough and applied myself to the max, I would get it. Nine times out of ten I did, which made for a pretty remarkable record...yet provided a false sense of control.

After a series of changes and experiences that didn’t go as I had planned, I became weighed down by grief, pain, regret, anger and wanting. I focused on the way things “should” be rather than the way they were. I was hurt by the actions of others who didn’t follow my lead. I was disappointed in myself for the inability to take control, no matter how hard I tried.

My friends and family saw the change in me, and once again I was told to “let go.” This time, I wasn’t insulted or offended, instead I listened. I was intrigued.

Release and Find Freedom

I was holding onto everything, both good and bad. Sometimes I wanted justice, others I wanted life to look exactly as I pictured it, and throughout all of this, I was wasting time and energy instead of being proactive. Although some things were worth fighting for, others caused suffering. I found myself in a cycle of circumstances I couldn’t control and discovered new levels of unhappiness. By holding onto everything, I only trapped myself.

Until the day I let go.

I now look for clarity in what I can and cannot change. Although challenging, sometimes it is best to part ways with thoughts, feelings, situations and people that cause you harm. It doesn’t mean that you give up who you are, that you don’t stay optimistic, hopeful, and full of passions and goals. It simply means that you are free to do all these things without empowering external circumstances to weigh you down.

Each of us can only control our own thoughts, feelings and actions.I found that taking inventory of what was helping me, versus what was harming me, was challenging yet beneficial. If you feel weighed down or that things are spiraling out of control, consider simplifying and letting go of some aspects of your life. This act may help you gain more than you ever imagined.