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To Know How You Feel About Something, Say Goodbye

My wife and I recently made a big life decision.

We traded in our relatively spacious apartment (by Spanish standards) at the base of the Pyrenees mountains and moved into a relatively small apartment (by anyone’s standards) near the Mediterranean Sea.

If it was just the two of us, downsizing wouldn’t have been a big deal as we try to live light. But with two growing kids who have a deep passion for all things toys, we’ve spent much of last summer in negotiation mode.

In the beginning, my wife and I were getting spanked.

Not gently.

It seemed like the dustier the toy, the more our kids put up a fight. Things really got heated when one of them burst into tears at the thought of donating his mini-sandbox despite us moving to the beach.

But the tides began to shift thanks to my wife doing something really smart.

“I’ve got an idea,” she said one afternoon. “Each night, until we move, we’re going to put five of the toys you haven’t played with in a while by the front door to donate, and in the morning, you get to keep the one you missed the most.”

I’m not going to pretend this solved all our problems.

Kids can be persuasive.

Some mornings, one toy turned into two.

But regardless, it was interesting to see that the very idea of saying goodbye to a bunch of toys gave our kids clarity on which ones were worth keeping.

If you want to know how you feel about something, say goodbye.

My wife’s actions reminded me of the value of this thought. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. Rather than permanently cut something out of your life, test the waters first by temporarily saying goodbye to it.

Even though I didn’t have the words for it, I’ve done this numerous times in my life. From stepping back from certain people to get a gauge on how much they mean to me to getting clear on how much I liked what I was doing professionally.

I did this very thing over the last nine months with writing. It used to light me up. And don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But what I don’t enjoy at times is the online aspect as I wasn’t born with apps on my lap and I didn’t like the direction I was heading of spending more and more time online.

So when life got hectic — and since a big part of the “hectic” involved people I’ll never want to say goodbye to — my online life was the first to go.

To my surprise, after I got back into the rhythm of “full-time real-world,” even though writing online has been a big part of my life over the last five years, I considered saying goodbye for good.

But something interesting happened around the six-month mark as every time I had a few hours to myself, I’d get an itch to start digitally-scribbling.

And in those moments, I knew I was close to saying hello again.

If you’re on the fence about something, give this exercise a shot.

The beauty of it is you don’t have to leave something for very long or even at all.

Simply take the time to imagine you had to say goodbye to something and really sit with the honest feelings that rise to the surface.

  • “Would I wake up feeling incomplete if this wasn’t in my life?”
  • “Is this holding me back from something that matters more at this stage of my life, right now?”
  • “Would I have more energy for this if I gave it some space?”

Responsibilities stack as we get older. Decisions on how we spend our time and who we spend our time with become more and more important — the adult equivalent of choosing one out of five toys.

I’ll write for the rest of my life.

But my kids won’t stay young forever and many of my loved ones won’t be around forever.

Saying goodbye helped bring what matters most in the entirety of my life into a better perspective. By doing so, it also created the much-needed space to better prioritize making more present memories.

Like most people, I want it all.

I don’t want to say goodbye to aspects of my life that I love.

But like a lot of creators I know, I also have an obsessive personality.

And sometimes, we need to take inventory to make sure we’re obsessing about the right things.

What’s temporary?

What aspects of your life do you want to be permanent?

I fell off track for a bit regarding the things that matter most.

Saying goodbye reminded me of the things I never want to stop saying hello to.

Make space to ensure you’re carrying the right things with you.

If you want to know how you feel about something, say goodbye.

Thank you for reading,
— Michael

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