Giving Up Is Not Letting Go

Words by Shawn Mihalik

Some lessons we must learn over and over again, and a lesson I am forever learning is that fulfillment can come only from within. Neither eliminating from nor adding to our lives any specific thing or practice will make us happy.

I struggle constantly with feeling I need to give up things that I like in order to live a deep, productive life, but every time finding myself incapable of fully doing so.

I vow to stop playing video games, for example, even selling my console or computer, only to eventually buy another one. I delete my social media accounts, and then I create new ones a few months later. I swear I’m going to quit caffeine, but after a couple weeks I give in to the smell of freshly roasted beans and make a cup of coffee, desiring not so much the caffeine but the fruity, earthy taste that’s just impossible to find in a mug of decaf.

Each time I give up things like these, I swear I’m doing so for good, convinced that their harmful aspects are what’s limiting me, that they’re the sole cause of the sense of discontent I’m feeling in that moment.

But inevitably, I return, drawn magnetically to what I keep giving mental energy to. And with that return comes guilt, because I hadn’t, ultimately, given up what I said I would.

Giving up a thing is not the solution to our discontent. Letting go is.

When we give something up, we attach too much importance to it. We cling to it. And in clinging, we increase our suffering.

When we let something go, we accept that it may or may not have a place in our lives, depending on the day, the week, the month, the year. We detach from it, letting it flow in and out of our lives as it may.

The truth is, we don’t have to give up things we like to be happy. We have to stop ascribing so much importance to them.

Shift your mindset from one of giving up to one of letting go, and you’ll find that balance has a way of achieving itself.

Shawn Mihalik

Shawn Mihalik is a writer, editor, and photographer. He’s the author of five books—three novels and two novellas—as well as short stories, essays, and journalism. After a year studying journalism at Youngstown State University, he dropped out, moved to Pittsburgh, and wrote a scathingly hilarious novel about the world of American restaurant chains. In 2013, Shawn drove across the country, to Missoula, Montana, where he became The Minimalists’ first tour and operations manager and, eventually, editor-in-chief of Asymmetrical Press. For two years, he was the managing editor of Paleo Magazine. Now, as an independent author and editor, Shawn dedicates his non-writing time to practicing martial arts and helping other independent authors get their work into the world. He teaches a popular online writing class, How to Write Better, with Joshua Fields Millburn.


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