Written by: Latasha Teamer
Change is inevitable. It is the one constant thing that happens in each of our lives. We cannot escape change, but we can make healthy choices on how change can and will impacts us.
As a counselor, one of the many reasons I’ve seen that prevent people from meeting their goals is not understanding the full impact that change will have on their lives. While it’s important to know that even small change causes discomfort and creates shifts in the natural rhythms of our lives. It’s equally important to identify and embrace the beauty that comes from letting go.
We’ve consistently been taught to receive new things, so for many, hello will not be hard. Each year, people make vision boards, create New Year’s resolutions, choose a word for the upcoming year, and a host of other things as they prepare to receive. We love to say hello and add things to our lives. However, not being able to say goodbye will keep us from fully enjoying the things that we say hello to. It’s necessary to create space for newness, so we simply cannot keep adding to our lives without being willing to let go.
Letting go is not something we typically learn to do well, as goodbyes are associated with grief, sadness, and loss. It’s often something we’re forced into and not something we freely welcome or prepare for. Let’s begin to add to the fullness of our experiences and definitions of goodbyes, as they also signify new life.
Think about a tree that loses it’s leaves in preparation for the upcoming season. Research reports that trees shed leaves to conserve their resources rather than expending energy to protect the leaves from the damaging climate changes. This shedding is intentional and protects the tree by reducing the strain that it would experience otherwise. How often do you expend energy trying to keep something that does not need to go into the next season of your life? What will be the result should you choose not to shed the thing that is causing you strain? I encourage you to conduct a personal audit, think about the changing seasons of your life, and determine what elements you need to say goodbye to.
Healthy and sustainable change comes when you are as intentional about preparing for your goodbye as you are welcoming your hello. Plan for distractions, challenges, and setbacks so your growth can be continual and long-lasting. You should also determine your readiness, as you may want to say goodbye to something but do not have the current resources or skillset for the accompanying hello. In these instances, scale down your goodbye to what you can realistically achieve. If you desire to say goodbye to an unhealthy marriage but do not have the independent finances, housing, or support system in place, a more reasonable starting point may be saying goodbye to the emotionally draining cycle of shame that you carry which decreasing your quality of life.
Your goodbye will also require strategic action and patience while you change, because it can take 15 to 250 days to form a new habit. Give yourself grace when you inadvertently fall back into an old habit. Cognitive neuroscientists report that 90-95% of our decisions are done in our unconscious mind; 40% of our behaviors are habitual. This means that just wanting to be or do better cannot yield the lasting results that you desire. This is where it is important to assess your capacity for change. To measure your capacity, assess your current stress level, household and leisure responsibilities, workload, and personal skillset. Of these, your biggest motivator or hinderance to change will be your stress level. If you currently have multiple high stress level events in your life, you may not have the capacity for big changes. Several research studies have shown that high, complex, and/or chronic stress can lead to significant illness and/or death. Your body can only take so much before it begins to shut down. Be fair to yourself and know what goodbyes are healthy for you to make.
There is beauty in goodbye if you trust and allow it to make room for new life.
Additional ideas on how to say a healthy and sustainable goodbye can be discussed further with a member of our Clinical Team. Contact us to see how we can help.
If you missed Part One to the HOPE blog, Hello Goodbye, check it out here.
For additional information and resources on Hello Goodbye by its original content creator, Jo Saxton, click here.