What if we don’t say goodbye enough? What if saying goodbye was spring cleaning for our brains? What if saying goodbye created a win-win for us and for everyone? I’m not talking just about physical tangible items, but also relationships, habits, experiences and things we do. All of it. Spring is the perfect time to clean not just our homes and yards, but also our brains.

When we have a lot of things in our life that we don’t love and that we don’t use, we unconsciously begin to feel burdened. We get bogged down. This isn’t limited to the stuff that we can see in our homes and offices. It is everything we have jammed in the closets, attic, garage and storage unit.

So many of us have things that are no longer serving us. They are outdated. Sometimes they are even broken. We tell ourselves we will get around to fixing them someday. If we were truly honest with ourselves, we would admit we don’t want these things anymore.

So often we’re holding on to people and things just because we had a relationship with them in the past. We believe that if we don’t continue the relationship, that we’re invalidating the experience that we’ve had.

What I want to suggest is that a lot of times, our relationships with things and people are complete. But instead of saying goodbye, we’re just dragging them along with us. But dragging things along with us because we don’t want to say goodbye to them will slows us down. It mentally and emotionally wears us out. Ultimately dragging these completed items and relationships around with us keeps us from being able to create the life we want. We just don’t have the energy to create something new.

When we say goodbye and let go of people and things that no longer serve us, we create a space for new items, experiences and people to come into our lives. If we want a new version of our life then learning to let go of people, things and completed experiences is essential to opening space for the life we want to create.

At this point we might find ourselves saying: “I’ve put so much time into this.” “I spent so much money on this.” Those are not good reasons to continue a relationship or keep items that we wouldn’t choose today. If we are committed to growing, evolving and moving towards more of what we want in the world, we must develop the skill of letting go of the past. We can’t simultaneously hold space for both the life we had in the past while also creating the life we want in the future.

We can’t simultaneously be the person that used to be afraid of doing anything while also being the person who is courageously doing everything. We must be willing to let go of parts of our own identity, parts of our thinking that no longer serve us to open the space for the new thoughts and identity that will propel us into our desired future.

Let me be clear, I’m not telling you to kick people out of your life. However, it is ok to ask to redefine and recreate a new way for a relationship to move forward.

I recently did this with a former mentor. Our relationship was such that I was no longer mentoring under them. I had outgrown that part of our relationship. But I value that person and their friendship. So, I had a conversation with them letting them know I was interested in moving away from a mentor/mentee relationship and move towards a friendship relationship. The conversation went well. We took our relationship to a new level that we both value and enjoy.

Why is it so hard to say goodbye? Here are some possible reasons:

  1. We are afraid we will regret our decision, so we don’t say goodbye. (If you want help making powerful decisions, read the blog titled “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.”)
  2. We fear the unknown. It is easier to be comfortable with what we don’t like than to get uncomfortable with what we have not yet experienced.
  3. We don’t want to experience any negative emotions or situations. We don’t want to experience sadness, sorrow or grief. But what if we weren’t meant to feel good all the time? What if life was 50% feeling amazing and 50% not feeling amazing. What if we could give ourselves permission to experience the so called “good with the bad”? Consider that without the lows of life’s valleys there couldn’t be the highs of life’s mountains. Loss, grief, sorrow, sadness and pain don’t feel good. However, consider the possibility that accepting, experiencing and moving through these feelings is part of our life experience.

It hurt when I chose to end my first marriage. However, it was necessary to move from what was not working and was dysfunctional for both my first husband and myself. Saying goodbye allowed both of us to move on to a life where we could both be emotionally healthy. Part of the process was to allow myself to experience the loss, grief, sorrow and sadness. To not permanently live there but to experience these feelings as part of my saying goodbye. Then I could move through them onto the life I wanted to create.

So, when are goodbyes necessary?

When we are constrained. Consider that we could feel constrained by all the things we have said yes to that cause us to feel overscheduled. Board memberships, volunteering, all the networking events, and evenings with friends that have us wishing for at least one night at home to recharge. That is constraint and we can choose to say goodbye to some of these.

With material things consider how many of each item we have unused and overflowing out of our closets, cupboards and drawers. For example, all the coffee mugs that we picked up at tradeshows or have been given by friends and family. They fall out of our cupboard, but we never drink out of them.

Sometimes it is necessary to create space in our lives by saying goodbye to things that constrain us so that we have room for the “great” that we want to come into our lives.

Here are some steps to saying goodbye:

  1. Take an inventory of what you currently have. Do this with all your material things stuffed away in closets cupboards, drawers, attics and storage units. Do this with your friendships. Do this with habits in your life. The point is to become aware of everything you have been overlooking.
  2. Pick one category at a time and make a list. Next, review the list and decide on purpose if you want to say goodbye to each item, relationship, habit, thought and belief. Ask yourself: Would I buy it again? Do I want it? Is it serving me? Is it outdated? Do I still love this? Would I invite this into my life right now? Would I start a relationship with this person today? Would I choose to believe these thoughts and believes today?The point is to re-decide to have these in your life right now. If the answer to the question is no, then consider saying goodbye.
  3. Let yourself feel the loss. Many people say, “I don’t want to throw it away because I might use it someday.” “I don’t want to throw it away because it reminds me of my grandma.” When you say goodbye to those things, you will feel that loss. Please consider that things are not people. Your loved one is not in that thing. Sometimes we love people who have passed away so much that we don’t want to throw away any of their stuff. Be willing to consider the possibility that you could just keep one or two things that you love the most and put them somewhere you see them all the time.
  4. As with all decisions, you need to commit to the goodbye and not look back. Make the decision clearly and definitively.
  5. Allow an ending to be what it is. Choose not to regret your decision.
  6. Remember you can always start the relationship again later. You can buy a similar version later. You can start thinking the same thought again.

However, if you practice these steps it is likely, you will learn to stay true to your goodbyes, so you can move forward to many more hellos.