Letting Go is not the Same as Giving Up

A guest post by courtney carver of be more with less

If you have ever had a hard time putting down a bad book after chapter 4, or stepping away from an ongoing obligation, even when you knew you were wasting time, you will find value in the following recommendations.

Many of us grew up with the message that winners never quit and quitters never win or that an unachieved goal equals failure. But if we really understand that letting go is not the same as giving up, or quitting, we can move forward and experience a more genuine life.

Instead of holding onto guilt, things you don’t care about, and projects that exhaust you, grab on to intuition, love and gratitude. Really think about how you want to invest your time and energy. Looking at the big picture, you only get one chance to have a great life. By choosing to live life on purpose, you can calm down, open yourself up to new opportunities and create more time and space to discover what you love.

Top ten things to let go of today

  1. Clutter – Instead of focusing on clearing the clutter from your entire house, focus on one drawer, one closet, one room, or one surface at time. Being free from clutter allows you to see what’s important in your drawers, and in your life.
  2. Obsession with numbers – Letting numbers on a scale, in your bank account or even on your google analytics dictate your mood for the day, is no way to live life on purpose. Instead of checking your weight every morning, choose one afternoon a week, or every two weeks to check your numbers. Use the numbers as markers of progress, not indicators of who you are, or how you feel.
  3. Fear of not being good enough Feeling like you don’t measure up, may have come from your childhood, or a bad relationship, but now, that feeling is just a voice in your head. It’s your voice and your life. Recognize all that you have accomplished, and all you have to give and quiet that voice, for good.
  4. A toxic relationship Holding on to someone that always brings you down, may be good for them, but not for you. The time you spend with others should inspire you, not depress you. Remember there is a difference between a friend that is going through a tough time and a toxic friendship. Once a relationship becomes damaging to the way you act, feel or think, it is time to let go.
  5. Facebook friends Today, people often assess their value by their number of “friends” or “followers”. Instead, place value on your actions and character. Go through your list of connections and decide which ones aren’t useful to you. Un-friending and un-following is not personal. Ask yourself if you are connecting with someone via social media for business or pleasure, and make sure your list is in-line with your goals and values.
  6. Regret Learn from your mistakes but don’t live in them. The choices you make every day shape your life. Looking back with more knowledge, you may have made different choices, but without a few bumps in the road or downright bad decisions, you wouldn’t be the person you are today.
  7. Bad providers In most cases, doctors, investment bankers, auto mechanics and other service providers work for you. You pay them to help you. If they aren’t helping you, or you don’t like working with them, let them go.
  8. Doing it all – Instead of doing it all, do all you really care about. Do what you energizes you and speaks to your spirit. Don’t feel pressured because you think everyone you know is doing 100 different, amazing things at once. Do what is right for you. When you redirect your energy in this way, you immediately become more effective.
  9. Resistance to change – Change brings opportunity and uncertainty. While uncertainty can cause fear, excitement and new challenges, standing still and resisting change will leave you uninspired, more fearful and closed minded and that is no way to live life on purpose!
  10. Goals that don’t fit anymore Letting go of goals and dreams can be the most challenging of all. As our lives change, we change, and things that seemed so important years ago may slowly fade away. Instead of beating yourself up for not achieving your goal, focus on your new dreams and develop goals that reflect who you are right now.

Regardless of age or circumstance, understand that letting go is not the same as giving up, and give your self permission to hold on to things that are most important. Make decisions to let go knowing that it is your voice, and your life. Just as clearing the clutter from a windowsill will help you see the light, (literally and figuratively) letting go of counter productive obligations and emotions will leave you feeling lighter and inspired to contribute time and energy to your true passions.

What is one thing you can let go of today, to live better tomorrow?

Courtney is a writer and fine art photographer. She writes about simplifying and living life on purpose at bemorewithless.com.

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  1. Doug Armey says:


    Great reminder that change is never failure unless we move away from our core values and goals. And even those need continual reexamination.
    Thanks for the insights.
    .-= Doug Armey´s last blog ..Five Questions for Living Each Day to the Fullest =-.

  2. Jean Sarauer says:

    Excellent advice, Courtney. When I was younger, I used to think it was a failure to abandon a goal that no longer fit. The older I get, the more I realize that my moments are too precious to waste by holding on to anything that doesn’t resonate. Your article provided a great way for me to do a self-check to see how things were going in that regard. So far, so good 🙂
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..Why Bite Size is the Right Size Content =-.

  3. Françoise says:

    a great post Courtney! I’m wondering which of your 10 points is most important but I guess it’s something individual.
    I believe that “Letting go” is something absolutely essential, which is why I ask myself regularly “do I need this?” it is astonishing how often the answer is “no”.
    Once in a while another question pops up: “do I still want it?”, if the answer is yes it remains a conscious decision which is necessary to be able to make the distinction between letting something go and giving up.
    .-= Françoise´s last blog ..Train to enable =-.

  4. Kara says:

    What a wonderful article to read today! I was battling in my mind all day, cleaning the house, it needed to be cleaned, it was the right thing to do, but I finally let it go and decided my seven year old, who wanted to go play in the pool was far more important than having been brought up to make sure your house is clean at all times….. I told myself all day long it was ok, that he was more important….. and voila a little affirmation from your site!

    Thanks for a great article…

  5. Jean: It’s a great feeling to let go of a goal, knowing that you are making room for a new one! One that fits!

    Doug: I couldn’t agree more! It all comes back to staying true to who you really are and what you believe in.

    Francoise: You are right! Everyone needs to let go of different things. It changes for me all the time.

    Kara: sounds like you made the right choice. Your home will need cleaning tomorrow, but your seven year old will be eight before you know it!

    Thanks everyone for the great feedback!
    .-= Courtney Carver´s last blog ..Less Stuff More Light =-.

  6. Great insights about the distinction between letting go and giving up Courtney. I especially like #2 about not confusing numbers with self-esteem. Thanks for an excellent post.
    .-= Linda Gabriel´s last blog ..The Magic of Seeing Something in a New Way =-.

  7. Maz says:

    I had a table of clutter that I wanted to clear but the sight of it puts me off. What I did was each time I passed by that table, I picked up one thing. Now I have a clutter free table. 🙂

  8. CherylK says:

    You had me at the title…and I really needed this, today. It’s going to be a great week, thanks in large part to you!
    .-= CherylK´s last blog ..Butterfly in my Garden – Camera Critters 120 =-.

  9. Courtney,
    This is exactly what I needed today. Thank you for the reminder on how best to experience and enjoy life.
    .-= Occasionallyserene´s last blog ..What could you do If you could embrace departed loved ones one last time =-.

  10. Deb says:

    A great article. I too saw any letting go as a failure, until recently. It is so important to do what is right for you, today. And that might not be the same as yesterday. Thank you.

  11. Sometimes holding on tightly to “stuff” – physical or emotional, we don’t have room left to grab onto meaningful opportunities.

    Linda – I had to learn the numbers lesson the hard way. I’ve wasted too much time thinking about them! No more.

    Maz – Great idea. You can also do it the other way and remove everything and only bring back the things you need.

    CherylK – Glad you are going to have a great week! Me too, in part to you!

    Occasionally Serene – (love the name: so honest!)

    Deb – Glad you liked it! Thanks for the reminder that it doesn’t always take years for change to happen, often it is from one day to the next!
    .-= Courtney Carver´s last blog ..Less Stuff More Light =-.

  12. John Sherry says:

    Marvellously put Courtney in true less-is-more style. They ALL work for me but what resonated most strikingly was the obssession with numbers and the fear of not being enough. Sometimes they are combined for a double dilemma and distress. Lack of numbers in the bank account or good friends or salary level sends us into an overdrive of fear that we are not succeeding or worthy. We compare and contrast our life with others and see ourselves wanting. Wanting to be them. We need to accept we are unique and unparalled and no money or clutter or artifical social media mates can ever measure that. When we let go of everything we find everything we could ever dream of…..the authentic person underneath. Or….me!
    .-= John Sherry´s last blog ..The True Path To Simple Living =-.

  13. This is great, Courtney. As I read, a bunch of different situations popped into my head that I’ve experienced, things I’ve had to let go of and move on. Sometimes I know I have to let go but I tend to try as hard as I can to make sure I’ve done everything I can. And when I see there’s nothing left, it’s bye-bye. I’ve had friends accuse me of “running away” instead of facing things, but that’s not it.

    Why sit in a burning house? Why stand outside in a thunderstorm? Why hang out with thieves and murderers (so to speak lol).

    Love the one about providers–I fire them real quick! But I’ve learned to interview carefully…

    Great reminders.
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Men Get the Short End of the Stick- 10 Common Assumptions =-.

    • @Leah McClellan,

      Leah, I love that you mentioned interviewing providers carefully. That is SO important. So often, we take for granted that a doctor knows what is best for us but we know best when it comes to our health! Interview, ask questions and when it comes to big decisions, get a second opinion.
      .-= Courtney Carver´s last blog ..Less Stuff More Light =-.

  14. Uzma says:

    Very true Courtney. We have to let go of not feeling good enough and judging our worth by our friends and possessions. I find focussing on the positive within and around me and accepting limitations to be a good tool. Also compassion for those that trouble us. Compassion, blessing and let them go. Thanks for a good article

  15. You said it all when you said, “Letting go is not the same as giving up, or quitting, we can move forward and experience a more genuine life.”

    I like #10. It’s really important to give up a goal if it no longer suits. I have taught myself to be able to modify my goals if they’ll take me in a better direction.

  16. Manal says:

    Excellent points Courtney. Recently I’ve let go of the need to catch-up and started focusing on what is important now, instead of what was important a few days back. I sure feel lighter and more focused.

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’m thinking about what I can let go of next. You gave me a few good ideas. 🙂
    .-= Manal´s last blog ..Bloggers are at the Forefront of the Collaborative Revolution =-.

  17. Sandra Lee says:

    Courtney, I really appreciate your perspective on letting go and the check list of places to start. I find truly letting go is a lifelong endeavor and learning process. After all, when we die, we have to let go of everything. In the meantime, I often have trouble with 7 – letting go of care providers when the relationships doesn’t fit any longer. But I’ve gotten better. 🙂
    .-= Sandra Lee´s last blog ..101 rays of gratitude =-.

    • @Sandra Lee,

      Good point. You really can’t take it with you! I used to be the same way in having a tough time letting go of providers but I’ve found that practice makes perfect in this case. I always think of it (especially with medical providers) as building my team. I want strong, smart, innovative people on my healthcare team. I also want them to understand that while I know they are the experts in their field, I lead MY team!
      .-= Courtney Carver´s last blog ..Less Stuff More Light =-.

  18. Letting go means giving up all hope for a better past. It is the single most effective way to create necessary space in your life.

    Be well

    coach charley

  19. Aileen says:

    Wonderful post! Letting go can be so incredibly challenging and it helps tremendously to have a perspective that allows us to see it’s not always ‘giving up” – and oftentimes it’s just so wonderfully freeing
    #3,9, & 10 are my favorites!

  20. This is an important concept. It takes powerful courage to do any one of them. Today I’m working on giving myself permission to “not be good enough” and fail. I just started a new website, my first. It is exhilarating and down-right-paralysis-time scary. But, at least it is a step. If it is a failure, I hope I can give it up and walk away. But right now, I’m not giving up.
    .-= Mary E. Ulrich´s last blog ..Happy 20th Birthday ADA =-.

  21. @Mary E. Ulrich,

    I used to own a magnet that said “do something that scares you every day”. It is a great feeling to jump outside our comfort zone and see that we really do have what it takes to do whatever we want!
    .-= Courtney Carver´s last blog ..Less Stuff More Light =-.

  22. Jeri Quinn says:

    How appropriate for these days when we say we have so much to do, that we’re overwhelmed. Letting go without guilt is a real mindset shift. One done through visioning our lives with long term goals accomplished, affirmations about our own self worth, and in some cases delegation. I’d love to say that I have accomplished ‘it’, but for me it’s not so simple. It’s more of an evolution. Every moment is a choice to prioritize according to my vision and values. When both are strong, the choices are clearer and my life feels more fulfilling. I really appreciate your thoughts and will keep them in mind as I make choices in each moment as I run my business and coach others about how to run theirs.


  23. Hi Courtney – Nice to see you on Mary’s blog! I love the title of your post – it really says it all.
    Wishing you peace,
    .-= Melissa Gorzelanczyk´s last blog ..How to Grow a Prairie in Suburbia =-.

  24. Courtney, I really like the distinction between letting go and giving up. We have been taught to think that giving up is failure, and sometimes it may be. However, letting go of certain obligations or relationships or assumptions may be exactly what we need to free up time, space, and energy for other more satisfying things. Fortunately, I seem to be getting much better at letting go of things as I get older.
    .-= Madeleine Kolb´s last blog ..Medical Myths That Can Kill You =-.

  25. rob says:

    love this post. xxxxxxxxxxx

  26. I think this is such an important concept. Time and time again I see clients in my counselling practice who are persisting with things because of internalized messages about the inherent badness of giving up. It’s important to stay attuned to what is really meaningful and fulfilling for you and to base decisions on what you feel rather than what you have been taught.
    .-= Melbourne Counsellor´s last blog ..Find a Counsellor in Melbourne =-.

  27. […] @goodthingZ 10 Things to Let Go of Today: Letting Go Is Not the Same as Giving Up […]

  28. […] here to Download your FREE eBook Overcome Everything Letting Go is not the Same as Giving Up Posted in Sister […]

  29. Jeremy says:

    I can very much relate to point 4, letting go of a toxic relationship. I think we’ve all been there – where you become this different person to who you really are because of the relationship. I’m talking about a negative change that like you said, damages the way you act, feel or think. That’s a bad place to be and a clear sign to let go.

  30. Jeremy, The hardest thing in that situation (besides actually letting go) is seeing the relationship objectively. Congrats on a fresh start. It really takes a lot to recognize the signs AND to take action!
    .-= Courtney Carver´s last blog ..Be More With Less Update =-.

  31. […] Letting Go is Not the Same as Giving Up […]

  32. I’ve always welcomed mistakes as an opportunity to learn. But I will beat myself if I make the mistake again. Sometimes the lesson takes a while to sink in.

  33. Cool article. Agree letting go is not the same as giving up. Letting go involves wisdom and may not contain the kind of anxiety associated with resignation.

  34. Counsellor says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I think it’s easy to forget that taking a step back and setting aside the things that aren’t benefiting our lives isn’t the same as giving up or quitting. Those are great starting places for things to let go of that could be weighing down our mental health and wellbeing. Great post.

  35. […] *Thanks to Courtney Carver of be more with less ( http://goodlifezen.com/2010/07/26/letting-go-is-not-the-same-as-giving-up/) for inspiring the title of this post. Advertisement Eco World Content From Across The Internet. […]

  36. […] Let go – Perhaps one of the most important teachings in the world of Zen is the idea of letting go. We grasp so hard at the ideas of things; promotions, fame, fortune, results, that we end up squeezing the life out of them, ourselves and everyone around us to get them. I see people in both their business and personal lives grasping so hard to be the “most influential leader” or “the best spouse” that they end up losing themselves in these persuits. True success is found in letting go of these concepts and instead just being ourselves, the best possible self we can be and by doing so the promotions, fame, titles all come. Or they don’t. But by letting go we become the best version of ourselves, not the best version of what it takes to make someone else give us something. Be present – You can not practice Zen without being present. We live in a world of distraction. We can communicate with people around the globe while we check the latest stock market analysis and listening to talk radio and watching a basketball game. This makes being present a super human strength! The ability to focus; to put aside distraction and exist in a single moment without thought of past, present and future is what athletes describe as being in the zone. While in the zone athletes describe basketball hoops as being the size of garbage cans and baseballs being the size of beach balls. Distraction makes our problems seem huge, presence and focus make them seem laughably small. Have you ever been in a meeting with an employee and noticed that your kind has wandered to your next meeting? Have you ever been on the phone with a client describing a problem and realized that you’ve been checking email for the last 20 minutes? Have you ever spent time with your kids only you can’t remember a word they said? […]

  37. Bren Murphy says:

    Such powerful benefits from letting go of past hurts and making space for healing and patient acceptance. I love your writing style, thank you.
    Bren Murphy´s last blog post ..Yoga Life Coach | Meditation Mindfulness and Yoga

  38. Purusha says:

    Some powerful information you have provided that helps us to move forward and not keep staying stuck in a dead end street. We are not meant to always be held down by others we were made to move forward in a positive and beneficial direction.

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