“The beginning of a circle is also its end”, said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. The New Year ends one cycle but begins another. Isn’t this the perfect time to let go of the old in favor of the new? Doing so can reconnect you to your creative self.
A new year, a new beginning
I began 2015 by planning the year ahead, with goals and milestones for every month and quarter, and for the year. Each Sunday evening, I review my progress. In the second week of 2015, I did one thing that promised to make everything else easier. That one thing was “let it go”.
People find it very hard to let go of things. Once we have something — a promotional mug, say — we value it above its worth. As time passes, we accumulate more and more things. Those things clutter up our lives, giving us less space to move, breathe, and think. Surrounded by those things, we lose our sense of the few things that are essential.
What does it mean to let go?
When you cling to an unnecessary thing, idea, or even person, you are bound. You can free yourself by looking at those things objectively, and by separating yourself from any once-cherished, but now meaningless, items. This is a process of mental and physical renewal, and a way to free yourself and create space for your creativity.
How to let go of the old
To unclutter my life, I resolved to get rid of all the things that served me well in the past, but won’t help me in the future. When doing this, most people end up with only a small pile of things to give away, while hanging on to much more. This is because they ask themselves the wrong question: “Might I ever want this in the future?” It’s far more effective to ask this instead: “Did I use this in the last year? If I didn’t already own it, would I buy it now?” Using these questions, I let go of most of my clothes, furniture, books, decorations, and collectibles. I gave them to others who were happy and excited to have them, which made the process much easier.
Among the things I let go, I had an old analog camera and some long-expired film, which were once on the photographic cutting edge but are now useless. I gave away legal books and dictionaries that are now available for free on the Internet. I also let go of heavy and fragile music LPs, CDs, and tapes. These things illustrate recent changes in our lives. How can we prepare for the changes to come? By letting go of the old.
What are the benefits of letting go?
Clench your fist, pressing your fingers together hard. Keep pressing. Press harder. Don’t stop. Press even harder. Now, open your hand. How do you feel?
Letting go makes us feel relieved and relaxed. Letting go of the old frees our bodies and minds from the clutter of the past. It creates the space we need to breathe and to create. It reconnects us to the cycle of creation, growth, maturity, decline and destruction. Letting go is also at the core of subconscious creative incubation, where you stop consciously trying to solve a tough problem, and trust that your subconscious will produce the solution you need.
What to let go of in your business?
When I uncluttered my personal life, I also uncluttered my business. To do this, ask yourself which things, once useful, no longer serve your needs, or serve only as a distraction. Consider letting go of:
- Clients and business partners who may have brought you profits in the past, but haven’t been worth the time you’ve invested over the previous two years;
- Products or services that performed well in the past, but have stopped producing over the past few years;
- Technologies you invested in and mastered, but are now, or soon will be, obsolete;
- Habits and processes that lock you into a past that no longer exists;
- Rules, guidelines and policies that made sense in the past, but now handcuff you in the modern business environment;
- Old ideas and paradigms that should be replaced by newer, better ones;
- Trusted people who may have served you well in the past, but who have lost their enthusiasm for your cause and act instead as a drag;
- Markets that you’ve successfully penetrated in the past, but which don’t show much future promise;
- Investments you’ve made, but wouldn’t buy today, and which promise poor returns in the future.
Let’s face it. Things just aren’t the same. Let it go. Focus on the essential. The more cluttered your work and life, the more cluttered your mind, and the less likely you are to focus on what really matters. Isn’t now the right time to let go of the old and make space for the new?
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2015. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on January 22 2015.