The other day, my kids were fighting over a toy (a Shopkins… *insert collective sigh from all parents of girls between the ages of 3 and 9*). Big Girl had it first; Middling wanted it. And so, to prevent Middling from getting it, Big Girl clutched it in her hands. White-knuckled it. Screaming, flailing, running around, holding it way up high in the air.

“But I want it! I want it! I want to play with it!” she yelled.

What does this have to do with you?

Everything, if you’ve ever wanted something a bit too much.

See I tried to reason with her. Tried to get her to just sit down and play with her toy (her sister, at this point, was just having fun aggravating her and watching the resulting reaction… ah, sisters). But she was not having it.

*The perceived risk of losing something she wanted, made her hold onto it so tight that she couldn’t enjoy it anymore.*

Her words said, “I want this thing,” but her actions said, “I have to make sure I don’t lose this thing.”

Ever done that? Ever held on too tight for fear of losing something?

Like maybe a passion project that tanked. A service that outlived its good fit for you or your customers. A relationship that had run its course. Even an entire business that needed restructuring (or shuttering).

There are a couple reasons you may do this:

  • Scarcity
  • Vulnerability

Let’s break it down…

Scarcity

My kids have WAY more Shopkins than I care to admit buying (whoever designed a $3 toy of which there are 10,000 varieties was a genius). Either of my girls could have just gone and gotten a different toy. But they perceived that THIS was the one they both needed. That there were no other toys that would make them happy in this moment.

You may do the same. Clutching ideas, people, money, or your business as if it’s the only way to feel good, fulfilled, whole, happy, successful, {insert adjective of choice here}.

But…

  1. Acknowledging the rarity of something should ideally inspire deep feelings of gratitude for having it to begin with and
  2. Acknowledging that there are, in fact, other options out there gives you reassurance that there are plenty of ways to make yourself feel the way you want to feel (which is the only reason you want {your.thing} to begin with).

Vulnerability

Holding something – an idea, a business, a relationship – in the open, means someone or some circumstance may take it away from you (or in the case of people, they may choose to walk away on their own!).

And so, like many high-achievers, you choose to (try to) control.all.the.things.

Playing with her toy in the open meant that her sister had the opportunity take it away. Sharing your idea with the world means someone may copy it. Writing your book may mean someone gives you a 1-star review. Focusing on {Big Heart Project of Epic Significance} may mean needing to ask for help or putting a big dip in your previously-steadily-climbing revenue chart.

But nothing grows to its full potential by being smothered. An environment filled with fear over what could go wrong is never as much fun as one that is, yes, slightly riskier, but open to seeing what could go oh-so-right.

“Playing” means choosing to focus on exciting possibilities, not potential calamities.

The Shift

What do you do about all the scarcity and vulnerability that makes you hold on too tight?

  • Run through the worst-case scenario. You lose said thing. Shitty friend stops calling because you put up healthy boundaries. Profits drop by 40% for 3 months because you axed an offering that you hated. Whatever it is. How bad can you picture it getting?Of course, the likelihood of that happening is probably small, but can you see that even if worst-case scenario happens, you’d still live? It may suck. It may be painful. But you’d find a way to deal with it. To adjust and bounce back (that’s what humans do!). Learn to trust your ability to cope with things as they come up.
  • Identify who you are outside of “the person holding on to {your.thing}.” You are not defined (solely, at least) by whatever you’re so enamored with. Draw a more complete picture of yourself in your head by thinking through who else you are. What other roles do you fulfill? What else makes you, You?
  • Get present and get grateful. You have {your.thing} right now. Look at it. Enjoy it right now. It.is.yours! Make use of it and appreciate what you get from it. And don’t mess it up by scenario-ing about what could happen. Just go back to feeling it (physically, mentally, or emotionally) and wallow in how fucking fantastic that is.

Are you brave enough to tell us what you’ve held onto too tightly? Which of these three solutions ^^ are you committed to trying in order to let go a bit?