Transition brings stress – especially when these changes are not what you desire. A relationship goes south, being “let go” from your dream job, reaching a goal and realizing you aren’t as satisfied as you thought you would be.  The “what-ifs” start happening and soon anxiety is knocking at your front door. So how can you stay positive and emotionally engaged during these times? The answer is found in a choice – the power of choosing to live life loosely. To release the need to know the ending or better said, the need to control how the story ends.

Living with ChangeTo live in a manner that allows freedom of choice and avoids controlling behavior is what I call living life loosely. It is a practice of living life with open hands—not grasping on to anything or anyone too strongly. The blessing you have today may not be here tomorrow. Living life loosely is a concept that fosters living in the present. It encourages the attitude of being thankful for what is here now rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the “what ifs” of the future.

Part of living life loosely goes back to the idea of healthy goodbyes. When relationships or jobs come to an impasse, they often end badly. It is easier to leave with the power of anger than to bow out with integrity when a relationship, a job, or a situation just isn’t working. But amid rage and disappointment, we can act in ways that are neither healthy nor caring.

When you think of a relationship that ended in a hurtful way, are your first thoughts of thankfulness for knowing that person, or are they thoughts of resentment, bitterness, and possibly a desire to retaliate? A healthy ending is one in which you wish the other well. Hurt can cause physical, emotional, and spiritual damage while thankfulness releases the other person or people and yourself from judgment and shame. It is indeed a loving and selfless act to bless instead of a curse, to trust the future instead of gripping it firmly by the throat, and we as humans in every fiber of our being protests. We just don’t want to do it. Learning to not hold so tightly to how we think things should be given the incredible gift of peace. I often see clients in my office that wreck their lives, relationships, health, and happiness because they are dead set on how things “should” be instead of finding the good in what is or at least walk away with integrity.

Being more “fluid’ in your approach to life is like a free-flowing river versus a stagnant boundary pond. It demands the releasing of control, embracing fear, and risking with courage. It takes a strong self-identity, shame resilience, and healthy coping skills to embrace the messy in the middle of transitions.

Holding on to a relationship or a job for too long or letting go of it too early can create resentment. Many times, after a rough ending in friendship, dating, or marriage, there are questions asked to try and make sense of what went wrong. In attempting to answer these questions, we often jump to assumptions. We assume we know more about others’ motives and actions than even they do. Guessing is never helpful or healing. Being curious and staying open in the problematic conversations allows for healing, maybe not for the relationship, but for your personal growth and journey. You owned your part – however small that may be – you learned, you grew, and you let go of control. That is winning in my book. You allowed the road to take you on a journey you had no idea where it was heading.  Most importantly, you survived and gained a little self-knowledge and self-worth along the way. You experienced the gift of living life loosely.

When you embrace change and see life’s transitions as your teacher and not as a threat, you can sit back and watch your anxiety dissipates. Opening your hands and your heart to what is around the corner will reduce your fear and worry. Take a big breath and let each day show you something new about yourself, others, and this world. Keep your sticky hands away from controlling the things that don’t need your guidance. And learn to trust. Being present in the NOW fills the anxious places with gratitude or if you can’t muster up the thankfulness yet, at least release the struggle and watch what comes into your life. Remember to be mindful of your thoughts and aware of your actions. Avoid stressing about the things you can’t control and see how your joy and fulfillment flourish.

Revised from The Self-Aware Life: Four Pillars to Long-Lasting Fulfillment and Success as You Go Through Life’s Transitions

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