Knowing when and how to let go of things that no longer serve a purpose isn’t as difficult as it seems. When my kids were small, a tradition for everyone’s birthday (including their father’s) was to buy a bouquet of helium balloons. On the morning of each birthday, one of the kids and I would drive to the local grocery store, select the appropriate colors, wrangle the balloons into the car, and use them to decorate the living room.
When my son Nick was about six, the two of us went to get balloons for his dad’s birthday. I was planning a surprise party, so to prepare—and splurge—for the festivities, I bought two balloon bouquets instead of one, a big sheet cake, and several bags of groceries. When we got to the house, I asked Nick to take in one of the bouquets.
He was about halfway between the car and the front door when I heard him cry out, “Oh no!” I didn’t have to turn around to know what had happened. The large bouquet was heading toward the sun, and my little boy was in tears. Assuring him that this was not the end of the world and nothing to cry about—we could manage with one bouquet—it served as a lesson for me about letting go.
Imagine a balloon as a metaphor to let go.
That day became my inspiration for a new pattern of behavior. Because it often helps to visualize something before it occurs—or to see how it might feel to have it happen—I now imagine letting go of various things, including negative behaviors and emotions. I’ve sent anger up in a red balloon, grief over a friend’s death in a black one, years of frustration over problems I can’t solve in a colorful array of green, yellow, and burnt orange. I’ve also applied this technique on difficult people with varying degrees of success. If nothing else, watching a challenging boss or a cranky client float off into space can provide an enormous amount of satisfaction.
I’m not guaranteeing that this letting-go technique will work for you, but if you’ve been holding onto something that has outlived its usefulness, why not give it a try?