5 Things to Let Go of in 2016

Okay, I know how cheesy these posts are, but bear with me!

I've had a transformational 2015: I started running my business full-time; I started a second business (more on that soon!); I was awarded a TechFutures Grant; I met so many amazing people and had experiences that the Alyson of 2014 wouldn't have had the guts or ambition to go after.

I also know that there will be tough years ahead, sometime in the nebulous, unknown future, which is why it's important to reflect and consider the things to improve on, and the things to let go of.

With that in mind, I'd like to share my reflections some of this stuff with you guys:

1. Let go of everyone's opinions of your life

There are always going to be people who are going to give you their opinion of how you should be living your life, and that's okay. However, you need to keep in mind that there's no one "right" way to live, and that happiness can mean a variety of things for a variety of people.

Unfortunately this means that you can't please everyone. Your definition of a successful and happy life may be drastically different than someone else's, and they may not be afraid to loudly tell you so. This can get discouraging, and in my experience often leads to self-doubt, and in extreme cases to indecision and stagnation instead of progress. This is because when you spend all your time defending your decisions to other people, you stop focusing on making the best choices.

Ask yourself: what kind of life do you want to have? Do you want a traditional 9-5 with a cute house and a lovely spouse? Do you want to jet set across the globe, live in hostels and take a series of lovers? Maybe you want to do something else - that's okay! What matters is defining what your ideal lifestyle looks like, and then taking steps to achieve it, no matter what anyone else thinks.

2. Let go of your comfort zone

A few weeks ago I spent the day at InnovateMB's Pitch'Day workshop and - full disclosure - initially I did not want to go. Not because I didn't think the workshop wouldn't be super-helpful (and it was!) it's because the idea of having to sit by myself in a room full of my peers and present, discuss, and analyze my business idea scared the living daylights out of me.

However, after a cup of coffee I pretty quickly found a better attitude and wound up learning a ton - way more than if I had held on to my discomfort. Instead, I made a point to actively participate, ask questions from the presenter and engage as much as possible, and I wound up having an excellent time!

Not just that, but pushing myself that way felt good. Even when I got something wrong, or made a mistake, I could let myself off the hook because at least I got over myself (and my fear of being wrong) and made an effort.

This is of course easier than done in a lot of cases, but taking baby steps like asking a question, going out to a meetup where you don't know anyone, or even taking yourself out for lunch can make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself!

3. Let go of 'Zero Days'

I read a great post on Reddit yesterday which discussed being motivated and staying positive, and one of the things they mentioned was not allowing yourself to have 'Zero Days'. A Zero Day, according to /u/ryans01, is "[a] day is when you don't do a single fucking thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on."

Look, I hear you: "Alyson, asking me to never take a day off is ridiculous!" Which is true. Good on you for recognizing that over-working yourself is counter-productive!

However, taking baby steps each day towards your goals is a totally within reach! Here are a few examples of things I do so that I don't have Zero Days:

  • Write blog posts/sketch out content ideas
  • Work on the Crowdfunding Crash Course eBook, Puffin Chat, and other side projects
  • Read articles about my industry and the tech sector
  • Queue up content for my/client's social feeds
  • Go to the gym and work out
  • Clean and listen to podcasts (I find a clean house helps me think & focus)
  • Draw or doodle in my sketchbook

Notice that all of these things are pretty low-key and don't really seem that taxing, which is the beauty of it. All of these things, if done consistently over time, will help me work towards my goals (being creative, moving my business forward, staying in shape, working on my art, etc) and if I look at them as small things to do each day they feel a lot more manageable.

Full disclosure: I still have zero days. Usually they look like days where we lie around on the couch, order some SkiptheDishes (I'm hooked) and binge-watch a TV show (we just finished Jessica Jones - so good!) but they are few and far between, and are getting further and further apart.

4. Let go of the people who don't add value

This is the one of hardest things.

It's so easy to let people over-stay their welcomes in our lives. Whether it's an old lover who doesn't ignite your heart like they used to, or an old friend who doesn't zhuj up up your days, sometimes we let people who should have parted ways with us stay around too long. Sometimes (too often) we even fight to keep them in our lives because they've become familiar and comfortable.

But it's important to do our best to consistently re-evaluate the people we devote our time and energy to. Like the old adage goes, we are the sum-total the the five people we spend the most time with.

Ask yourself: how do I feel around these people? What do we talk about - are they generally negative, or positive topics? Do these people make me feel small and insecure, or unafraid and bold? These are important questions to ask on a regular basis, and if someone starts to fall into the negative category for too long, it's time to have a chat about it, and potentially move on.

5. Let go of the idea that you can't change things

You can always change. If there's anything that the past few years have taught me, it's that a few small changes, or a little bit of belief in yourself can make a world of difference.

The problem with looking towards the future is that the future feels overwhelming. So instead, try to take baby steps (see Zero Days above) which help you work towards your goals at a pace that feels comfortable. Here's a personal example:

When I was 21 worked a safe government accounting job, but I was unhappy and wanted to go to university. However, quitting my job was scary and I didn't know if it was the right choice. I hummed and hawed for weeks about what my next steps should be. I felt overwhelmed at the transition from full-time employee to full-time student, and how to get started. However, I knew how, deep down: I needed to call Student Central at the university and book an appointment to speak to someone about pursuing the degree I wanted.

It was so easy to find reasons not to call and speak to someone about applying: I went out on my lunch break and there was no time; I felt too busy and overwhelmed from my workday to deal with it; and, most commonly "I just don't feel like it today." One day, though, I picked up the phone and did it. I spoke to someone, got the information that I needed, and after I hung up the phone I distinctly remember saying to myself "wow, that was so much easier than I'd made it out to be."

Spoiler alert: most things are easier than we thought they'd be. It's just a matter of looking at things as small steps towards a larger goal, instead of huge, overwhelming obstacles. Chip away at it slowly and you can move a whole mountain, if you try!

What are you letting go of in 2016? Tell me in the comments!