When I traveled regularly for business, I was never one of those savvy business travelers who brought a single bag for a ten-day trip. No, I was the person dragging two full-sized suitcases, a briefcase, and a messenger bag (which I used as a purse) through the airports. I brought everything I could possibly need with me. And then some. In a 2 ½ year time period, my luggage and I completed over 260 flights. I became adept at lugging everything through the airport, in and out of taxis and hotels. Even though many of my clothes would go unworn, I felt well prepared.
But over a decade ago, I had an epiphany during a challenging travel day.
A change of flight schedules, some finagling by a kind airline employee, a ten minute window to change planes, and a strong desire to get to my destination – my first weekend with JB after his move to Ohio. I arrived with no luggage except my carry-on, which contained my eyeglasses, my laptop, and a change of underwear.
I discovered that I didn’t need so much luggage in order to survive. In fact, I began to learn that by traveling lighter, I was able to better embrace my soul and enjoy the journey of my travels instead of worrying only about getting there.
Life is full of baggage.
Like the suitcases I lugged everywhere I went we each drag bags full of unnecessary stuff around with us. You know the kind of baggage I’m talking about: emotional baggage that affects your view of life, the quality of your relationships, and your path forward in your work. For some, it may be a painful event from our past, a decision we wish could change, an inability to trust in our instincts, or fear that paralyzes a part of our life.
While I believe that we need to learn from the lessons of our past, pretending they don’t exist can often lead to us feeling stuck.
Sometimes, a piece of baggage becomes so ingrained in our psyche, we can’t imagine living life without it. It could the “fact” that we are horrible at choosing romantic partners and the proof is a string of broken relationships. Or maybe we have labeled ourselves a “quitter” because we believe that a decision to leave a high-pressure college for a more low-key one has permanently seared the letter Q upon our foreheads, which keeps us stuck in middle management.
The question becomes: How do we shed this kind of baggage?
One – Do Some Root Analysis
There are causes and effects in life, and many of us focus on the effect because it’s the easiest to identify. In order to seriously lighten your load, you need to do some root analysis to identify where the baggage originates. You can use the technique of a brain dump, but focusing only on the one topic, to help you with some root analysis. It’s also helpful to talk things through with a trusted friend, family member, therapist or coach to discover the root of your baggage.
Two – Allow Yourself to Feel
Getting to the root of your baggage is the first step. Now you need to allow yourself to FEEL. Acknowledge how angry, sad, embarrassed, dispirited or resentful it makes you feel, because the feelings are what attaches the baggage to your heart.
Working with a therapist or coach can provide you a safe space to work through your feelings. No, this isn’t a time for “what ifs” and “should haves” or any of the other ways we beat ourselves up. It’s a way to allow the healing to begin. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Three – Make a Decision
We often underestimate the power of decision. The next step is critical to releasing your baggage: decide to let it go. This is scary for a lot of people. Many people don’t want to make decisions because they don’t want to lose stuff. Decision is actually a lot about loss, because once you’ve chosen a path, you’re also choosing to ignore all the other paths – you’re losing those other avenues.
However, if you don’t make a decision things will basically stay the same, even if “the same” means excuses, negative self-talk, and baggage. Now is the time to lighten your load, forgive yourself, and drop the baggage in the dumpster where it belongs!
Four – Save the Date
Sometimes, deciding to let it go is enough. But sometimes you need to spend a little bit of time with the decision, and let it marinate. I often advise my clients to pick a date on which they will give their decision legs. Choosing a date comforts your mind, letting it know that you don’t expect to suddenly amputate the hand holding the baggage, but rather that you are releasing your grip in a healthy, intentional manner. Mark it on your calendar. Share this date with friends or family members. Tweet it. Blog it. Sing it to the world.
Five – Create a Ritual
I’m a huge believer in ritual. Daily rituals like mediation, exercise, and savoring my first cup of coffee allow me to create my best days. Rituals are all about the celebration of living and life. When you make the decision to let go of some baggage, do it in a way that celebrates its release from your life. Do something symbolic, like writing it down and burning the paper, or chucking an old suitcase into a dumpster. Light a candle in celebration. Drink a glass of wine. Invite a close friend over to help you celebrate the release. Creating some ritual around the release tells your heart and your head that it’s ok to let go.
Lightening the emotional load you carry with you will allow you to enjoy living the adventures you find in your day-to-day travels. I’m here to tell you that enjoy the journey brings a heck of a lot more joy and happiness than worrying about the destination.