One of the strongest signs of your growth is realizing you’re no longer limited by the beliefs that once used to drain you.

Marc and I received a thank you email recently from a longtime reader and coaching client named Kevin (we’re writing about him today with his consent). He said our books and life coaching sessions helped him and his wife maintain a positive, intentional mindset as they struggled and grew through one of the most difficult periods of their lives. Certain sections of his email nearly moved me to tears:

“As you know, after injuring my back, losing my job because of it, being evicted from our apartment, moving in with Laura’s parents, nursing my five-year-old through a nearly fatal bout of strep throat, I was stuck in a deep rut for a long time. And I was sitting on the front porch of my in-law’s house feeling sorry for myself, yet again one morning, when one of my best friends called me crying and said, ‘Mel-Mel-Melissa, my baby girl, was paralyzed in a car wreck yesterday.’ And suddenly I felt like the lucky one…”

Kevin then went on to say, “It was the shock of Melissa’s tragic accident that motivated me to review ten pages of notes I had previously taken from your books and our most recent coaching sessions. And this time your wisdom sunk in! It’s like a light bulb suddenly illuminated in my mind, and it literally changed my entire outlook from negative to positive. In that moment I realized there were people who needed me to get back up, and infinite reasons and ways to do my very best with what I had. So I started challenging myself and letting go of the negative beliefs I had been holding on to, and then I took a bold step forward, and another, and another. And it’s been almost a year now, and I’m grateful to say you were right!”

If you can relate to Kevin’s situation in any way, and you’re ready to move forward, I want to remind you that today is the first day of the rest of your life. You can get yourself back on track!

But first, you have to…

1. Let go of believing you have to be who you used to be.

When times get tough, our worst battle is often between what we remember and what we presently feel. Thus, one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make is when to stay put and struggle harder or when to take your memories and move on. Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you’ve been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you are capable of being, and the person you truly are today.

In other words, you are not what happened. You are what you choose to become in this moment. Let go, breathe, and begin again.

2. Let go of believing you have to be someone you aren’t.

Being kind to yourself in thoughts, words, and actions is just as important as being kind to others. Extend yourself this courtesy today. Love yourself — your real self. Work through your fears (dive deep), your insecurities (speak honestly and loudly), and your anger (scream into the pillow and at therapy — not into the mirror, nor the people you care about; they don’t deserve it.) Instead of hurting yourself by hiding from your problems, help yourself grow beyond them. That’s what self-care is all about. It’s about facing the inner issues that make you believe that you are less than you are. It’s learning to see that you are already beautiful. Not because you’re blind to your shortcomings, but because you know they have to be there to balance out your strengths.

3. Let go of believing you missed your chance.

When you stay stuck in regret of the life you think you should have had, you end up missing the beauty of what you do have. Not all the puzzle pieces of life will seem to fit together at first, but in time you’ll realize they do, almost perfectly. So thank the things that didn’t work out, because they just made room for the things that will. And thank the ones who walked away from you, because they just made room for the ones who won’t. As they say, every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.

4. Let go of believing in all the negativity surrounding you.

To be reasonably positive in negative times is not just foolish optimism. It’s well grounded by the fact that human history is a history not only of tragedy, but also of success, sacrifice, courage, kindness, and growth. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine how well we live. If we look only for the worst, it destroys our capacity to do our best work. But if we also remember those times and places — and there are many — in which people have behaved magnificently, and things have gone well, this gives us the inspiration and energy to push forward with great intention and grace…

And when we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to sit around waiting for some grandiose and perfect future to celebrate. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live right now in defiance of all the negativity around us, is in itself an amazing victory. Yes, our lives are worth celebrating every step of the way, and life gets better and better when WE get better. So start investing in yourself mentally and physically. Make it a priority to learn and grow a little bit every day by building positive rituals and sticking to them. The stronger you grow and become, the better your life will feel in the long run.

5. Let go of believing everyone else has it so much easier than you.

Just because someone else can, doesn’t mean you can, right? Because you’re not good enough, or you’ve already missed your chance, or it’s just not in the cards for you. You look for reasons they can do it but you can’t…

  • “Maybe he’s an internet entrepreneur and freelance writer because he has no kids.”
  • “Maybe she’s way fitter than I am because she doesn’t have all the work and family obligations I have, or has a more supportive spouse, or doesn’t have bad knees.”

OK fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who also have considerable obstacles and have done it anyway. Marc and I have a family, and have coped with significant loss in our lives, and still managed to make meaningful progress in our lives. And just as we’ve turned things around for ourselves, we know hundreds of other people who’ve done the same. Through nearly 15 years of work with our students and our coaching clients, we’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages — 48-year olds starting healthy families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth. And stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve incredible outcomes.

No one else can succeed for you on your behalf. The life you live is the life you build for yourself. There are so many possibilities to choose from, and so many opportunities for you to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. NOW is the moment to actually step forward!

6. Let go of believing you should be exactly where others are in life.

The truth is, there is no one correct path in life. A path that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be a path that’s right for you. And that’s OK. Your journey isn’t right or wrong, good or bad — it’s just different. Your life isn’t meant to look exactly like anyone else’s because you aren’t exactly like anyone else. You’re a person all your own with a unique set of goals, obstacles, dreams, and needs. So stop comparing and start living. You may not always end up where you intend to go, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be. Trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now. And trust yourself to make the best of it. (Read The Untethered Soul.)

7. Let go of believing everyone else’s opinion of you in correct.

People know your name, not your story. They’ve heard what you’ve done, but don’t understand what you’ve been through. So take their opinions of you with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that counts the most. Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s right for you and your life, without giving a darn what your life looks like to everyone who doesn’t even know you.

8. Let go of believing you can’t have boundaries with those who bring you down.

Not all toxic relationships are agonizing and uncaring on purpose. Some of them involve people who care about you — people who have good intentions, but are toxic because their needs and way of existing in the world force you to compromise yourself and your happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right people to be spending time with every day. And as hard as it is, we have to distance ourselves enough to give ourselves space to live.

You simply can’t ruin yourself on a daily basis for the sake of someone else. You have to create boundaries and make your well-being a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone, loving a family member from a distance for a little while, letting go of a friendship, or removing yourself from a daily situation that feels painful — you have every right to create some healthy space for yourself. (Note: Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the Relationships chapter of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)

9. Let go of believing so deeply in every worry your mind produces.

When your worries and fears have you looking too deep into things, it creates problems, it doesn’t fix them. If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it. Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential. And life is just too short for that.

So when you catch yourself going down a rabbit hole of worry, try using the simple phrase “The story I’m telling myself” as a prefix to your troubling thoughts. Here’s how it works: The story I’m telling myself can be applied to any difficult life situation or circumstance in which a troubling thought is getting the best of you. For example, perhaps someone you love (husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.) didn’t call you or text you when they said they would, and now an hour has passed and you’re feeling upset because you’re obviously not a high enough priority to them. When you catch yourself feeling this way, use the phrase: The story I’m telling myself is that they didn’t call me because I’m not a high enough priority to them.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I be absolutely certain this story is true?
  • How do I feel and behave when I tell myself this story?
  • What’s one other possibility that might also make the ending to this story true?

Give yourself the space to think it all through carefully.

Challenge yourself to think better on a daily basis — to challenge the stories you subconsciously tell yourself and do a reality check with a more objective mindset.

10. Let go of believing you aren’t strong enough for the next step.

It’s always possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems. Remember that you’ve been in this place before. You’ve been this uncomfortable and unsure, and you got through it. You can get through it this time too! And yet I know how incredibly hard it can feel. This is how Marc and I felt a decade ago when we were knocked down and stuck in a rut after simultaneously losing two loved ones to death. It was nearly impossible to move anywhere significant when we didn’t feel we had the strength to push forward. So if you’re feeling this way now — like it’s impossible to make significant progress today — you aren’t wrong for feeling what you feel. In many cases, you’re right: significant progress comes gradually with time and consistency. It’s all about taking one tiny positive step at a time, and staying the course…

Consider the rest of this section, which is an excerpt from “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts and Reflections to Start Every Day”:

Think about the fact that it only takes a one degree change in temperature to convert water to vapor, or ice to water. It’s such a tiny change — just one step in a different direction — and yet the results are dramatic. A tiny change can make all the difference in the world.

Now, consider another example where a tiny change is compounded by time and distance. Perhaps you’re trying to travel somewhere specific, but you’re off course by just one tiny degree in the wrong direction…

  • After one mile, you would be off course by over 92 feet.
  • If you were trying to travel from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., you would land near Baltimore, Maryland, over 42 miles away from your desired destination.
  • Traveling around the world from Washington, D.C. back to Washington D.C., you’d miss by 435 miles and end up landing near Boston instead.
  • In a spaceship traveling to the moon, a one-degree error would have you missing the moon by over 4,100 miles.

You get the idea — over time and distance, a mere one-degree change in course makes a significant difference…

This same philosophy holds true in various aspects of our lives. The tiniest things we do each day — positive and negative alike — can make all the difference. They either bring us closer or farther away from where we ultimately want to be. Know this! And take the next tiniest step forward for yourself today.

It’s your turn…

Today, I hope you will let go and have an inspired day, that you will boldly believe in yourself, that you will make just a tiny bit of progress that didn’t exist before you took action, that you will love and be loved in return, and that you will find the strength to accept and grow from the troubles you can’t change. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and wisdom in this world), that you will, when you must, be wise with your decisions, and that you will always be extra kind to yourself and others.