An Exercise for Letting Go. Are you Ready?
“I just can’t get over that they cheated on me 4 years ago. It’s all I see when I look at him.”
“My parents were never there for me. Why do you think I am the way I am?”
“My brother had it way easier than I did. It’s not fair.”
“I did everything for her, and this is what I get in return?”
“I gave up 10 years of my life for him. Now look at where I’m at”
“My Boss should have given me that promotion. I hate them”
“I’ll never forgive myself-I should have flown back to be by his side. He died alone”.
Yup. Heavy stuff.
Letting go. (Big sigh)
Whether it is a negative thought like anger, regret, hatred, resentment, guilt, a grudge, or a story you are tired of ruminating about, maybe a past that you cannot change. We carry a lot, and it can get heavy sometimes.
In my experience thus far, working towards letting go is a large reason clients reach out for coaching. The struggle to let go and the associated negative consequence are some of the biggest, most destructive, roadblocks I see preventing people from reaching their goals, whether that be performance, learning or fulfillment related.
It really weighs us down.
As this is such a large topic and niche in life coaching, I wanted to share a tool that I have found has helped previous clients (and myself)!
Readiness is an essential factor in letting go. Please note that this exercise is not meant to push you towards moving in a direction that you are not ready for or are not interested in taking. Nor is it suggesting that letting go “right” thing to do and/or the right thing for you and currently. Some never let go. Some need more time. It’s a personal choice of which I bear no judgment😊
If, however you feel ready and want to let go and move forward, here is an interesting exercise I call Emotional Rucking.
First, you will need a little explanation-history-of how I came up with this term and exercise.
Rucking (originating from “backpack or rucksack) on its own is a term used in fitness where one loads a backpack with heavy weights and either walks or runs. (Yes, people do this). This is done for a variety of physical benefits including weight goals, strength training, endurance, personal challenge, etc.
But this activity is not something someone does during all waking hours. Can you imagine carrying a weighted backpack with every step and everything you do daily, even while sleeping or enjoying some time with friends and family?
This analogy is important to understand because for many, we carry “emotional rucksacks”: heavy, subconscious or conscious, negative emotions such as resentment, hatred, guilt. Even in our sleep time (often coming out through nightmares).
It is natural and important to experience emotional and psychological pain. Challenges and struggles can help us develop emotional resilience, mental and emotional strength, courage, growth and self-development (analogous to a rucking exercise). A rucking exercising does not however go 24/7, or at least not for years on end. If, however we carry these things 24/7 with us, in everything we do and experience, you will wear down yourself and everyone and everything around you.
So. Keeping this analogy in mind….
Below are the steps to walk you through the exercise and show you how this can work to help you let go creating a lighter and brighter life for you.
This exercise helps by doing 4 things:
- Evoking some self-awareness around just how much negativity and pain you are carrying around
- The impact that carrying this around might be having on you
3.Exploring what you may need to let go of and what you may be ready to let go of (2 different things here!).
- Letting go.
*Warning: please do not attempt if you have any injury and consult a physician.
Preliminary work: Mental, Emotional and Spiritual preparation
- On a piece of paper, a letter to yourself really, write down what exactly you would like to let go of. Be specific and I suggest limiting it to one item at a time but that is optional. You will need this list for the exercise.What is weighing you down?
- Ask yourself why do you want to let go of this? How will letting go of this affect your life? How will not letting go of this affect our life?
- Scale your readiness. How ready are you? You can use scaling for this where 10/10 is “yeah! I’m so done!) and 0-10 is “I’m taking this to my grave”. You will use this readiness scale again at the end of the exercise.
Let’s Get physical:
- Get a backpack and, yup, load it. This load will represent the pain, anger, hate, jealousy, and whatever else you may want to go let go of. (I use cat litter, unused) but you can put cans of soap, bottled water, a sack of flour, etc.). The weight should be safe yet uncomfortable.
That paper you wrote from step 1? Put it in your backpack along with the weighted material. Because all that weight? That’s what you are carrying-emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
This will take 30 minutes in total.
First 15 minutes:
- Wear the backpack and walk for a minimum of 15 minutes focusing on the weight of the backpack, how it feels on your body, your feet, your back, your lungs. your heart…your gut. You want to really be mindful of the impact of the physical weight
- While you do this, I also want you to think about that letter you wrote of what you wanted to let go of. Because it’s what you have been carrying around mentally and emotionally (which of course affects you physically too).
- After 15 minutes, stop. Having fun? Easy? Want to go for another 15 minutes, and then another and another until this becomes your life?
- Now take the backpack off and leave it at a safe place (like you home, work office, wherever you were leaving from). Go walk the same route back/do the walk without the backpack. This gives you a concept of the difference between what it is like to walk with weights and to walk without. Analogous to waling around with resentment, grudges, hatred, regret) versus experiencing your life without this.
Post-Exercise Reflections: 5 Questions
This part is essential, and you may want to use a journal to process some of your reactions. The exercise (action) will not work well, nor will it have much of an impact or make sense if it is not followed through by some reflection (further reflection) and learning.
Here are some questions to help guide you:
- How long do you want to keep walking around like this for?
- What if someone told you that you will wear this backpack for everything that you do. Sleeping, time with family, at work, at night before bed and first thing n the morning when you wake up. How does that sit with you?
- What would it look like to not carry this around anymore? How would your life be different?
- What is hanging on to this doing FOR you?
- What may you be afraid of if you did let go?
- Scale yourself again. Where are you at now on that readiness scale of 1-10?
So….is there something that you could take out of that backpack to lighten the load?
And if you are not ready to let go, how long are you going to be carrying this for?
It’s YOUR choice. What will you choose to do?
If you have now read this article and are reading this sentence, know that you have taken a BIG step towards letting go by even reading this article. You have to start somewhere and even recognizing what you are holding on to, what might be weighing you down, is a start.
Ready or not. Time will pass regardless.
It’s YOUR choice. What will you choose to do?
I’d like to end by saying thank you for reading this and I hope you are successful in using this exercise (and enjoy the bonus cardiovascular work out while you are at it!)