Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
There's a rather famous story about a clever method an African tribe used to capture monkeys for food. Supposedly, they would lure the monkey by setting an ingenious trap: a hollow gourd full of food with only a small opening, big enough for the monkey to reach in and grab the delicious prize, but so small that the monkey's closed fist can't back out. Meanwhile, the tribesmen, who were keeping watch, swooped in to capture the animal.

The monkey, scared and confused, was faced with a tough decision: let go of the food but keep their freedom, or cling to the food and end up captured. As you might have guessed, the monkeys always chose the food.

Although we may think we're more sophisticated and rational than a monkey (and in many regards we are), humans aren't immune to this kind of behavior. Our evolutionary history made sure of that. We're prone to cling to stuff more than we are to let things go. Letting go doesn't come easily to us. A loss will always affect us more than a win will make us happy, a phenomenon called loss aversion, numerous studies have shown.

The trick is that it's not always obvious what we should eliminate from our lives. Life is intricate and nuanced, and a black and white approach would be foolish. Let's say you're feeling anger over an injustice. This sounds pretty straightforward. Anger is not a constructive emotion, so you should learn to manage it. Let it go. But what if the state of mind it puts you in is a catalyst for you to take appropriate action against that injustice?

Our loss aversion combined with our tendency to preserve the status quo can make it difficult to evaluate our circumstances and move on.

Let's look at another example. Imagine a driven manager at a profitable firm whose physical and mental health are deteriorating due to the increasing demands of his position. His goal is to advance to the level of executive, so he's reluctant to back down. Telling him to abandon his dream might sound like awful advice, but perhaps that's necessary if he values his well-being.

Perhaps you can relate. You've set out on a path to achieve a certain outcome, and along the way you realized your outlook on life and values have shifted and the initial goal is no longer meaningful to you. But you're like that monkey, afraid to open his fist to free his hand. This unwillingness to let go not only keeps us stuck, but it's also eating away spirit.

It's okay to outgrow the life you thought you wanted if that vision is no longer aligned with your values. And when that happens, you need to be wise enough to let it go.

Timeless Content

Mastering the Art of Letting Go
Zen Habits | 3 minute read
In his characteristic clear and straightforward style, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits distills a simple 5-step practice for helping us let go of beliefs, concepts and feelings that aren't serving us anymore. He views the act of letting go as a service we do to ourselves for freeing our minds of burdens and constraints that hinder our growth.

Picture of the Week

Quote I'm reflecting on

Anaïs Nin on changing as a person, in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 4:

In order to change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one has to learn to discard. If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects. They reflect one’s mind and psyche of yesterday. I throw away what has no dynamic, living use. I keep nothing to remind me of the passage of time, deterioration, loss, shriveling.

Question for you to ponder

Are there any ways in which you're clinging to an outdated goal that doesn't represent you anymore?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
To respond to this email, just hit reply. I'd love to hear from you.

If you think someone you know might enjoy this newsletter, feel free to share it. If someone else forwarded this to you, you can subscribe here.
Email Marketing Powered by MailPoet