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10 Things To Let Go For A Happier Midlife | CrunchyTales

10 Things to Let Go For a Happier Midlife

5 min read

Midlife can be a crossroads. You’ve built a life, achieved (or maybe not achieved) certain goals, and now you’re facing a new chapter. It’s natural to wonder, “Is this all there is?” The truth is, that happiness in midlife often comes from letting go of certain burdens we’ve carried for too long.

We spend our younger years chasing dreams, building careers, and nurturing families. It’s natural to feel a sense of accomplishment – and perhaps a touch of fear – as we reach the halfway point. Some paths have diverged, and some dreams unrealized. Clinging to these unfulfilled desires, however, can be a recipe for stagnation.

Why Letting Go Sets You Free

Letting go isn’t surrender, it’s transformation. It’s about acknowledging that life rarely unfolds exactly as planned, and that’s okay. By releasing the grip on the past, we free ourselves to explore new possibilities. This doesn’t mean abandoning all ambition; it means embracing a more flexible vision, one that acknowledges our changing circumstances and evolving desires.

Letting go can take many forms. Perhaps it’s releasing the rigid career path you envisioned and pursuing a passion long ignored. Maybe it’s letting go of the resentment you’ve harboured towards past choices and embracing self-compassion. It could even be letting go of the “shoulds that have dictated your life so far and rediscovering your authentic self.

Things That Are Holding You Back in Midlife

Letting go can be messy, filled with moments of doubt and grief. But the rewards are immense. By shedding the burden of the past, we create space for growth, and for new dreams to take root. We open ourselves to the unexpected joys and adventures that life, in all its messy glory, has to offer.

Here are 10 things to consider releasing for a more joyful and fulfilling second (or third) act:

  • The Pressure to “Win”

The relentless striving that propelled you in your younger years might be exhausting now. Focus on doing your best, not besting everyone else.

A 2023 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that individuals who shifted their focus from external validation (money, status) to intrinsic goals (relationships, creativity) reported a significant increase in life satisfaction in midlife.

  • Unrealistic Expectations

We all have dreams, but sometimes they morph into rigid expectations that set us up for disappointment. A University College London study showed that people who harboured rigid ideas about what they “should” have achieved by midlife experienced higher levels of stress and disappointment.

Letting go of the “perfect life” ideal is crucial. Therapist Marcia Reynolds recommends reframing goals in her book Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. In your constant search for what’s next you may lose a sense of who you are and what your purpose is“, she writes.

So, celebrate progress, not just achievements. Embrace the unexpected, and find joy in the present moment.

  • The Past

We’ve all been there. Stuck in a loop of replaying past mistakes, reliving hurtful experiences, and clinging to resentment. It’s a recipe for unhappiness, and unfortunately, it’s a trap many of us fall into.

Dwelling on regrets or past hurts is a happiness thief. It’s time to forgive yourself and others, learn from mistakes, and move forward. Paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment will help you become aware of your inner critic and when you’re being harsh on yourself.

  • Comparing Yourself to Others

When we compare ourselves and come up short, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and shame. This negativity can spiral and make it hard to focus on our own strengths and accomplishments.

According to Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap: “Our modern-day minds are continually warning us of rejection and comparing us against the rest of society. No wonder we spend so much energy worrying whether people will like us! No wonder we’re always looking for ways to improve ourselves or putting ourselves down because we don’t ‘measure up’.

Focus on your own journey, not someone else’s highlight reel.

  • Grudges

Someone cuts you in line, a friend lets you down, or a family member says something hurtful. The embers of resentment ignite, and suddenly you’re carrying a grudge – a mental tenant refusing to pay rent, occupying valuable space in your head. But what if we told you that eviction was possible, and it could significantly improve your well-being?

SEE ALSO:  It's Mental Decluttering Time

Holding onto grudges can be a burden, according to psychologists. Studies show that chronic anger and resentment are linked to increased stress, anxiety, and even physical health problems. Letting go, however, can be a powerful tool for emotional and mental well-being.

Holding onto grudges is like carrying a heavy backpack – emotionally draining.  Forgiveness is for you, not the other person.

  • The Need to Control Everything

Life can be complicated, and trying to micromanage everything will only lead to frustration. The best way to fully enjoy your second act is to learn to adapt and flow with the changes life throws your way. A midlife reinvention is the result of embracing your flaws, celebrating your progress, and striving for excellence, not perfection.

Instead of controlling your surroundings, why don’t you focus on a new hobby or a desire to live more authentically?

  • Toxic Relationships

Life is too short for negativity. Distance yourself from those who drain your energy and cultivate relationships that uplift and support you. Not all connections serve you and if your partner drives you crazy maybe it’s time to reach out to a therapist or read a self-help book like Boundaries in Marriage by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

It offers advice on setting healthy limits. “Marriage is not slavery – they write-. It is based on a love relationship deeply rooted in freedom. Each partner is free from the other and therefore free to love the other. Where there is control, or perception of control, there is no love. Love only exists where there is freedom.”

  • Fear of Failure

Fear can be paralyzing. Don’t let fear hold you back from trying new things and living your life to the fullest. A study in Psychological Science showed that individuals who openly acknowledged their fears were more likely to take risks and achieve their goals.

Midlife is a great time to appreciate the progress you’ve already made. Don’t get so fixated on achieving a specific goal that you miss out on enjoying the process of learning and growing. Instead of seeing failure as the end of the road, view it as a learning experience. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this setback?This approach helps you find the silver lining and use it to improve your next attempt.

  • The Idea That You Have to Have It All Figured Out

Society loves a good timeline. Graduate high school by 18, college by 22, dream job by 25, and – oh yeah – have your life figured out by 30. But what happens if your dreams don’t fit neatly into this prefabricated schedule? What if you’re 40 and itching to learn a new language, or 55 and finally ready to write that novel?

Achieving goals isn’t restricted by some arbitrary age limit. It’s a myth that motivation and ambition have an expiration date. Life is a constant learning process.

Sometimes the most exciting opportunities lie just beyond your current knowledge. Curiosity and a willingness to learn are far more valuable than a rigid plan. The best thing to do when you’re feeling unsure is to have a break. Let things unravel naturally, bloom at your own pace! Flowers don’t all burst open at once, and neither should your life.

  • The Need to Please Everyone

People pleasers, we’ve all been there. You bend over backwards to avoid conflict, say yes to everything, and prioritize everyone else’s needs over your own. The problem is that you often tie their self-worth to external validation. Instead, focus on your own strengths, values, and goals. What truly matters to you?

Trying to please everyone is a recipe for burnout and resentment. It’s time to break free from this cycle and prioritize your own well-being: start by building self-confidence, recognize your strengths and value what you bring to the table.

Letting go can be challenging, but the rewards are immense. By shedding these burdens, you can create space for joy, growth, and a truly fulfilling second act. Leave those “I should have…” or “I should be…” statements behind. They can only create guilt and dissatisfaction. Embrace who you are and where you are in life.

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