Holding On and Letting Go

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So many of the hard decisions and challenging moments in life boil down to holding on and letting go.

When is it time to let your children go and have more freedom and autonomy – or hold onto them and protect their safety?

When is it time to hold onto your money? When is it time to let go and spend some of it?

When is it time to let go of an ailing loved one?

When is it time to hold onto one’s beliefs and patterns and routines? When is it time to let go of them in the face of the changes in your life?

When is it time to let go of the memories of the past?

The pushing and pulling between holding on and letting go is inside of all of us. We all have things that we care about in our lives. We all have internal reasons that push us to one side of the equation, but we also know the other side has some merit, too – and that’s the struggle.

Most of the time, you’re not the only person who has a stake here. Even the things that seem internal – like figuring out when to let go of an old relationship – is external, because your choice there affects the other people in your life.

I feel this all the time. I’m constantly trying to figure out the right level of freedom and autonomy for my children. Is it okay to let them play outside unattended? My sense is that it’s better for them to develop independence and autonomy, but the parent in me also worries about their safety.

I worry about my money in much the same way. Should I be spending this money or should I be holding onto it for the future? Is something I enjoy right now worth whatever it would drain from my retirement or savings?

I use two techniques to really piece through this, no matter what the dilemma.

The first thing I do is that I try to look at the situation from the perspective of the other stakeholders. What’s truly the best thing for them? Is it going to be better for my kids in the long run if I’m watching them constantly and solving their problems or giving them more autonomy? Is it better for my wife if I spend this money right now?

The other thing I do is that I try to roll the clock forward on all of the stakeholders. What’s better for everyone involved in ten years? I also try to roll the clock forward on myself, too. What’s better for myself in ten years? My future self is a stakeholder, after all.

What doesn’t matter is the past. I am not the person I once was. That person won’t exist again. My children aren’t the babies they once were, either, and I shouldn’t make parental decisions based on my memories.

Love doesn’t always mean holding on, after all.

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