Tuesday, April 7, 2015

2015 TBR Reading Challenge: The One Skill: How Mastering the Art of Letting Go Will Change Your Life by Leo Babauta

I know, I know, I know. I'm LATE! This is March's TBR Challenge book and it is now APRIL! In fact, April's book is due next week so I had to get the March one out of the way before then.

2015 TBR Reading Challenge
Book: The One Skill: How Mastering the Art of Letting Go Will Change Your Life by Leo Babauta
My Categories: nonfiction, male author, life skills
Wendy Crutcher's Category: Series Catch-Up (oops!)

The main thrust of Babauta's book is that "the root of many of our problems is our inability to let go." We tend to overthink situations and that combined with our resistance to letting go causes anxiety, frustration, depression, and anger over things that happen, might happen, and have happened to us. Letting go of the fear of failure, of wanting to control people and situations, of needing to go to distractions all day, and other such habits will lead to being better in control of self and life's problems. After detailing why we hold on to such habits, he details how you can practice the art of letting go.

I'm going to briefly sketch in his book here. You can download the entire book for free here.

There are two sections to this book: a) the factors that we don't let go and the resultant problems they cause and b) a step-by-step approach to letting go and the aftermath of letting go.

We procrastinate out of fear of failure or fear of a task being overwhelming or difficult. We build an ideal in our heads about how life will be successful and easy. So when there's a hint that things are not going to be that way, we avoid them.

Fear is the current underlying a lot of our unhappiness. For example, anxiety that something you want isn't going to happen, fear that you're not good enough, fear that others will judge you, fear of letting go of control of the other person in a relationship, fear of discomfort, or fear that you won't be able to accomplish all that you want to and how you want to. Problems are rooted in fear and fear is rooted in ideals.

Holding on to ideals of how everyone should act, which isn't reality, and wanting to control people so they will act in the "right" way is what causes anger, frustration, stress, and disappointment.

Distractions are comfortable things that we're good at and won't fail at. The process of letting go of a distraction is to first see what appeal it has for you. Then notice the disadvantages it has for you, how it is hurting you, and the impermanence of it. Let go of the distraction for a day and see what positive things you can do to fill that void. Be grateful for the positivity you've invited into your life.

We want things to stay the same, and yet they never do. This is why we suffer. Unfortunately, the constant and impermanent nature of change is reality. So see the impermanence as the freedom to reinvent yourself. The past matters, but we're not completely bound to it. You can start a new self.

Developing the Letting Go Skill
Noticing Signals: When you're holding on to something harmful, symptoms like anger, frustration procrastination, etc. show up. Learn to recognize the signals when they happen.

Seeing the Ideal: You have expectations of others, ideals for yourself, and ideals of how the world should be. This isn't reality. They're fantasies of what your reality should be. And that is what is causing the signals. So once you notice the signals, turn inward and try to locate the ideal you're holding on to.

(Of course, there are positive ideals that result in positive signals and bring positivity in your life. Hold on to them by all means and act on them. It's the negative ones that are being addressed here.)

Seeing the Harm: Acting on the negative signals or holding on to them can cause us unhappiness, prolong our stress, and harm our relationships with ourselves and with others.

Letting Go With Love: Letting go of the ideal or the expectation is a compassionate towards yourself. It's painful to let go of an ideal, because it is part of our makeup, but the benefit you'll receive after you've let go will be worth it.

Seeing Reality: Turn now to reality, see it as it is, accept this, and react calmly and appropriately to it.

What Letting Go Isn't
Babauta is at pains to explain how letting go isn't giving up, being a victim, not improving, letting someone else get away with something, letting the other person be right when they're wrong, giving up standards of common decency, etc. This is the charge that is always laid on life skills coaches when they talk of detachment. Acquiring a clear-eyed, emotionally-unclouded view of reality doesn't mean that you feel things less intensely, it just means you know how to manage your emotions and act appropriately.

Practice! Practice!
Get an accountability partner. Practice each of the mini-steps of Letting Go for 2-3 minutes every day. Journal about it. Report to your partner. Set up reminders for yourself so you don't forget to practice. At the end of the day, simply reading the book is not going to gain you a new skill. It's by practicing that you'll learn it.