Most of us have experienced the feeling of holding onto something that’s not serving us anymore. Whether it’s a job that’s sucking the life out of us, a relationship that’s run its course, or a project that’s just not taking off, it can be hard to let go of something we’ve invested time, money, and energy into. But the truth is, sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to cut our losses and move on. That’s what it means to let things go, and it’s an incredibly valuable skill.
One concept that’s closely related to the idea of letting things go is the concept of sunk costs. Sunk costs are costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered. For example, if you buy a ticket to a concert and then realize you can’t attend, the ticket cost is a sunk cost. You can’t get that money back, no matter what you do. When we hold onto something simply because we’ve invested time, money, or energy, we let sunk costs dictate our decisions.
It’s important to recognize when sunk costs influence our decisions and to be willing to let go of things that are no longer serving us. Sometimes this means quitting a job that’s making us miserable, even if we’ve already put in years of work. Sometimes it means ending a relationship that’s not fulfilling, even if we’ve invested a lot of time and emotion into it. And sometimes, it means abandoning a project or goal that’s not panning out, even if we’ve already put in a lot of effort. Sometimes it’s letting go of items that represent a past relationship or experience.
Of course, this is easier said than done. It can be hard to let go of something we’ve invested so much into, especially if we’re afraid of what will happen if we do. But the reality is that holding onto something that’s not serving us only prolongs our misery. It keeps us stuck in a situation that’s not making us happy and prevents us from moving on to something that could be much better for us.
For example sake, I will use a personal experience:
When I left my corporate job at Macy’s in 2008, I was sure I would move on to another corporate position. So, considering my Macy’s employee discount, I bought some snazzy new suits and a couple of pairs of awesome dress shoes that I would use in my perfect new corporate job. Reminder, it was 2008. I never secured that perfect new corporate job. Instead, I started a business where I could wear whatever I wanted, and suits and dress shoes weren’t high on my list. I looked at those suits and shoes for years before I acknowledged I was forever leaving my corporate life behind. Every time I looked at those suits and shoes, I mentally beat myself up about the money I’d spent and mourned who I had been in that corporate world. Then I realized I had to let them go, sunk cost be damned.
So how do we let things go? Here are a few tips and what I did:
- Recognize when sunk costs are influencing your decisions. If you find yourself holding onto something simply because you’ve already invested time, money, or energy into it, take a step back and consider whether it’s really worth it. My action: Recognizing that the suits and shoes had been paid off long ago and I was never getting that money back.
- Be honest with yourself about why you’re holding on. Are you afraid of what will happen if you let go? Are you worried about what others will think? Understanding your motivations can help you make a more informed decision. My action: Realizing that my new life was better than the life these items represented.
- Consider the long-term consequences of holding on. Will you be happier in the long run if you let go? Or will you just be prolonging your misery? My action: I realized that every time I looked at those suits and shoes, I felt sorrow and guilt about the life I had left behind.
- Take action. If you decide that letting go is the best course of action, don’t hesitate to take the necessary steps. This might mean quitting your job, ending a relationship, or abandoning a project. Whatever it is, take action sooner rather than later. My action: I donated everything that represented my corporate life to Dress for Success.
Letting things go can be incredibly difficult but also incredibly valuable. When we hold onto something simply because we’ve invested time, money, or energy, we let sunk costs dictate our decisions. Recognizing when sunk costs influence our choices and being willing to let go of things that are no longer serving us can help us move on to better things. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.
Cindy Jobs, PCAC, PCC
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