By Patricia: There are times in our lives when it is time to “clean house”; times when the best thing we can do is let go of the things in our lives that no longer work for us, that are causing us unhappiness. The problem is, letting go can be very hard, in part because however toxic something might be today, there are still good memories and feelings attached to whatever or whoever is involved in the toxic situation.
If a relationship has gone bad, we remember when it was good and hope to return to the good times, which makes us unwilling to let go, even if the good times will never come back. If we are stagnating in a job that was a good opportunity when we got the job, we remember the challenge and the joy when we started, and don’t want to admit we have outgrown that job and it is time to take a step up. Not to mention that it is very scary to leave that relationship or position or home or friends and take a chance on something new, something that might be worse than what we have. So how do we know when it is time to let go, and when it is time to keep trying?
There are a lot of ways people make decisions. Some let their emotions guide them to a decision. Some make lists. Some ask their friends and take their advice into account. Some go with the impulse of the moment. Most of these methods have problems. Emotions and the impulse of the moment rarely allow for the realities of the situation, and you may find yourself in a situation that sounded good at the time, but is not so good in reality. Our friends may be doing their best to help, but they can only give you ‘their’ answers – the answers that would work for them, but not necessarily for anyone else. Making a list can be very helpful, but doesn’t always get you all the information you need.
So, what do you do? There is a tool called a Decisional Balance that can be very helpful. It is similar to making a list, but breaks things down just a little more by asking specific questions to guide you in the process. The Decisional balance is usually shown as a large square with four smaller squares inside. Each of the four squares is filled in with the answers to one of four basic questions.
When you are considering a situation, person or thing you might want to let go, you are going to ask yourself four questions. Fill the answers in each respective square.
For the first square, ask yourself “What are the benefits of letting go of this thing or person?” If it is a relationship you are considering letting go, the answers might include, “I will have more time to do what I want to do” or “I can eat what I want to eat and not what my partner wants to eat” or even “I won’t have to argue with him/her all the time”. If you are considering letting go of your old job in favor of a new one, the answers might include, “I will get better pay” or “There is more opportunity for advancement at the new job” or “I won’t have to deal with my really obnoxious boss anymore”. Get as many answers as you can think of in the squares.
In box number 2, you are going to list all the “costs” or consequences of letting this thing or person go. “Costs” can be in terms of money, but they can also be in terms of more emotional or social “costs”. Costs are any negative results of letting go, whether they be emotional (loneliness, grief, etc.), social (no one to go out with), financial (loss of income or resources), or something else entirely. For instance, if you are thinking of giving up a relationship, the answers might include, “My partner won’t be helping with the rent anymore”, but you might also include answers like, “I won’t have anyone to talk to in the evenings” or “I’ll end up the odd person out when I party with my friends” or “I might get really lonely without my partner”. Again, list all the things you can think of. The more items you have in each square, the better you will be able to make your final decision.
In the third square, you are going to answer the question “What are the benefits of keeping things just the way they are?” These answers might include things like, “I like the security of having my partner to help with the rent and utilities” or “I am comfortable in my current job and I know what I am doing”.
Finally, in the fourth square, list all the costs or consequences of keeping things just the way they are. These might include things like, “I feel stuck in my job, I’m not getting anywhere” or “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life arguing with my partner”.
You will notice that some answers will show up in more than one square, and will be related to answers in other squares. You might have “I won’t have to put up with my really obnoxious boss” in two squares, while having something like, “I might end up with a boss I can get along with” in other squares. That’s okay – having duplicate answers in some of the squares can help you know how important that reason is to you.
When you have come up with all the reasons, both for letting go and against letting go, you will have a much clearer picture of the situation, and will be able to make a decision based on what you really want, instead of just going with your first impulse, or letting someone else tell you what to do. This is a tool that can be used in a lot of situations, not just when you are deciding whether you want to give something up or not. It can be used when you are deciding where to go on vacation, or which apartment you want to live in. The more you use this tool, the easier it will get, and you will feel much more in control of your own life. When you feel in control, you will find you feel more secure and much happier.
Love and Light,