Researchers say we spend nearly half of our waking hours thinking about the past or the future. That means we’re not thinking about the present. That can cause us to lose out on an opportunity right in front of us.

This week, Joan talks about how she realized she needed to move on from something painful and tells us how she gathered the strength to do so.

Joan: I recently went through an experience that was excruciatingly painful for me on a personal level. An event occurred that led me to believe I could salvage an important relationship. I did everything humanly possible to put the broken pieces back together and to try to create something new out of it: a relationship that I believed could be wonderful.

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Q. That actually sound very wonderful. What made you so sure it could work?

Joan: In my mind everything was perfectly clear. There was no reason why it couldn’t work out. I had a logical argument and strong feelings, so everything made perfect sense. At least to me.

But, sometimes, even with the clearest vision, things don’t go as you plan or as you would like. By hanging on, I set myself up to be hurt on a daily basis, to the point where I could no longer tolerate the pain.

Q. That’s too bad it didn’t work out. How did you move on from the situation?

Joan: I finally came to the realization that in order for me to survive, thrive, and find peace, I must accept the situation, let it go, surrender, and move on. And while this may be a decision I didn’t want to make, and was perhaps the most difficult thing I ever did, it turns out to be the most self-loving.

Q. What do you mean by ‘self-loving’?

Joan: It’s how you take care of yourself even when something is difficult. This ‘let go and move on’ cycle applies to many areas of life. You may have to let go of a relationship or significant person. Or you may have to release a painful experience like losing a job, a financial loss, or the death of a loved one. Beginning the cycle is difficult because we tend to hang on to what we know – what is comfortable – even if it is pain.

According to spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

But, holding on to the familiar, painful past keeps you stuck and creates an environment in which you can become physically and emotionally sick. You feel the pain day in and day out and that’s no way to live.

Q. Why is it we wait so long to let go? Why can’t we just let go?

Joan: Usually we do not decide to release people or events until the pain of holding on is so unbearable that we feel we have no other choice. We are forced to accept the situation and mourn an important part of our life. And this acceptance and mourning is vital in order to thrive; we must let go of the past.

Q. So how do you suggest we let go?

Joan: Letting go is an act of will, a decision to let go of the person, event and circumstance. It is the choice to move on. To let go you must surrender your control and admit that you are powerless over other people and situations. Once you relinquish control and accept what is, you can begin to embrace the change and get on with your life. You can learn from the experience and allow it to make you stronger and wiser.

Is it always what we want? Hell no!

Is it easy? No!

Is it worth it? More than you will ever know.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Find a support group, spiritual director, therapist, coach, or trusted friend. And remember to have faith.

As Helen Keller so eloquently stated: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one, which has been opened for us.”

Don’t spend so much time looking at your closed door that you miss the wonderful doors that are opening up for you.