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On the importance of letting go
On the importance of letting go

I recently had a small understanding which I think could help people so I wanted to share it.

The easiest would be to give an example. The example comes from basketball, where the situation was this: a basketball player was criticized by his coach that he doesn’t let go. That is, if he does a mistake on one side of the court he lets his mistake haunt him and doesn’t play well enough on the ensuing play. The player felt bad about the mistake he did, and was still focusing on that play instead of the situation at hand. The coach told him that whenever he does this he is going to take him out of the game, and that If the guy wanted to play, he had to let go, forget about his mistakes and just play well immediately afterwards. Simple enough no. (The player is Kendrick Perkins of the Boston Celtics, and the coach was Doc Rivers, in case you care).

Similarly in a battle, if a fighter made a mistake, caused harm to the wrong people, s/he can’t let it bother him/her and have to move on and concentrate at the task at hand.   


Now, the understanding mentioned above applies just as much in day to day life. Daily small annoying things happen, small annoying mistakes, just let them go. It is true in battle just as in our daily battle, especially at times of stress when we do so many small mistakes – just let them go, there’s nothing you can do about it.

I am not saying not to learn from one’s mistakes. After the period of stress, think about it, analyze the tape as they do in basketball, figure out what you did wrongly and try to fix it for next time. But then during the battle, you can’t allow it to hang on you.

Another good example of this, again in Basketball, is free throw shooting. You would be surprised how even for the best of them, how hard it is, when attempting two crucial free throws, to make the second after having missed the first. It is not easy to let go. I remember a player who after missing 4 crucial free throws couldn’t let it go for the rest of his career and from an excellent free throw shooter and player in general became a bad free throw shooter and average player. It was very sad to see.


I will mention especially relationships, where you constantly see how people are haunted by the ghosts of the past and simply have to bring the past into their current relationships. Let it go, it was a different person, different you. You moved on, learn from the past, but don’t let it haunt and effect your actions in the present.

Obviously it is easier said than done, especially in day to day life. But at least in stressful periods it could help to remember it and not allow yourself to get to immersed in what’s done and gone.

Hopefully this understanding, which I constantly get in different stages of my life, can help people in the way it was formulated.

I would be interested to hear what people think of the issue.
Hi Arthur,
I really liked your suggestion and wanted to elaborate, or add to, it.

Being a painter I can say that in the past when I screwed up and felt I put a wrong color, I really wanted to delete it, and tried in different ways to take it back. Nowadays, I simply go on, using what it does there. I still try to correct it, but now using the fact that it is there as a force for movement, instead of a hindrance.
I would give an example of a person swimming in the river, which is what we do in life. One can try to swim against the current to go exactly where you want to go. Chances are, you won't succeed much. On the other hand, you can use the current as a force to help you, knowing just right how to use it. Now perhaps you can't go to precisely the place you wanted in the first place, but on the other hand, perhaps you can go to a much better place, if you can use well the power of the stream. A place you couldn't have gotten on your own.

I'm not saying "if life gives you lemons make lemonade," I'm saying try to use the lemons to get what you want, which might not be lemonade, but still, perhaps you can sell the lemons and buy oranges, or something like that. That is, instead of fighting constantly against the stream, listen to it, and use it, though not necessarily go with it.

I'm also definitely not saying to go with the flow, don't rock the boat, or whatever! Definitely sometimes you need to swim against the stream, only also at this moment, especially at this moment, you should listen to the stream and move with it, even if in a different direction.

Like with paint on a canvas, it is there and there is nothing you can do about it, but move on. To use these things as momentum and not as a hindrance in life is very important, I agree.
Hi Arthur, Julie,

Nice topic.
I simply wanted to connect this with Hugh Dupin's discussion on how to be happy:  post .
Also there the importance of letting go appears, as it does at the beginning of the film he mentions: Happy Go Lucky, where the heroine immediately lets go of a bike of hers which just got stolen. Oh well, what can you do.

It is similar, though obviously not the same. Yours, Arthur and Julie, is more the letting go during battle as you say (or in the heat of painting), while Hugh's is more a general letting go of the past. Both important but I thought the difference and similarity should be noted.

A fun discussion, though everyone seems to find it hard to express themselves on this topic. It's a complicated one even though it appears so simple.
Very interesting issue. This question of "letting go" is quite subtle -- using events to give you energy or momentum to move on is, of course, crucially different from forgetting them. (Here I'm just clarifying things which were implicit, but not precisely said.) There's something very impressive in people who are able to narrativize their lives in such a way that they are constantly pushed to new heights, especially when the majority of others might use the same points to plot a very different story.

For instance, I once heard the following example in a motivational talk. Suppose that someone you don't know well (say, a clerk in a store) starts yelling at you or being rude; most people would probably really overreact, feel caught off balance, storm out etc. On the other hand, suppose you were told that you had been selected as an exemplar of diplomacy and that you were going into this situation as a test of your ability to diffuse other people's anger; obviously you would act quite differently.

Why? In my opinion, most people go through the world constantly feeling as if their personhood is in question, threatened on all sides. The moment they catch the slightest whiff of disrespect, up go the heckles.  Nowhere is this amazing defensiveness of the average guy on the street more apparent than when one encounters someone who acts from a place of mastery (not over others but simply over themselves), someone who, one feels, is actually fully engaged in living and is interested to see what the next challenge is which life has in store (because they feel somehow that life thinks they're worth investing in, that it's going out of its way to give them just the right kind of training).  Most people would be toast after missing that first basket, but you know what, me, I can perform under pressure -- I **like** pressure. I get **even better**.  Or even something simpler: OK, I was hoping to get a chance to work on my head game: here's my chance. I should add that this has nothing to do with ego, of course -- most egotistical people are hopelessly insecure and thus not at all examples of what I mean. 
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