How To Let Go Of What You Think Life “Should” Be Like

Thanks to many years of hearing about other people’s expectations (and developing plenty of our own), we’re prone to having rather fixed ideas of what life “should” be like. However, this approach is problematic for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, it confines you, stopping you from thinking or dreaming outside of parameters you previously set for yourself—parameters you may have outgrown.

Secondly, it leads to a tendency to be particularly hard on yourself, harshly criticizing your actions and goals when your life doesn’t match up to your image of how it “should” be.

To manifest a freer, more satisfying life, follow these six steps and begin to let go.

1. Reject Old Assumptions

Just like getting rid of any limiting beliefs that undermine your ability to use the Law of Attraction, letting go of what you think life “should” be like involves taking a critical look at your assumptions.

How to: Try writing down ten sentences capturing potentially unhelpful things you’ve always believed about life, e.g. that you don’t question those in authority, that everyone should have children by their 30s or that pursuing creative endeavors isn’t worthwhile.

For each belief, write down where it comes from (thereby demystifying it), then write down an alternative belief that is more positive and authentic. For example, “Everyone should have children of their own by now” can become “I will have children when or if it is right for me.”

2. Picture Yourself Letting Go

You can also use a meditation exercise to let go of your old ideas about how life should be.

How to: Imagine them as negative darkness you’re holding inside, or as something like a glass box holding you in—feel free to be as creative as you like when it comes to visualizing these toxic “shoulds.”

Next, do something that release you—let the darkness flow out of you, or break through the glass and breathe in the fresh air. If you do this every day for a week, you’ll reinforce the message that you’re moving out of an old way of thinking.

3. Let Yourself Feel Everything

Ideas of how life “should” be can engender a bit of repressing emotions that don’t fit with that image—so, for example, you might try to ignore the fact that you don’t like your career path (because it’s what your family always wanted for you), or you might push down feelings of emptiness associated with settling for a relationship that doesn’t fulfill you.

How to: Instead, start actively connecting with your feelings, whether through daily reflection or in a journal dedicated to your emotions. Let this connection tell you what you really want life to be like, and allow yourself to process grief that comes when life isn’t as you hoped.

In this way, emotions can be acknowledged and then move through you, rather than undermining you and negatively influencing you through your subconscious.

4. Drop The Comparisons

These days, it’s all too easy to compare yourself and your life to what you see of others on social media—their happy pictures with their partners, their parties with friends, and their announcements of new engagements.

How to: Remember that these people have a huge amount of control over the way they portray themselves, and comparing yourself to the online presence of others is as unrealistic as comparing your life to a Hollywood film.

In truth, all of these seemingly perfect lives involve hardship, difficult emotions, and times when things don’t go to plan. Your life should not be like what you see on Facebook, because no life is the way it looks in this context. Keep reminding yourself of this, and it’ll be easier to let go of the fantasy of perfection.

5. Stop Looking For Permission

Cultivate a habit of trusting yourself—your desires, your dreams, and your powerful sense of intuition.

How to: You don’t need to seek anyone else’s approval, permission or endorsement in order to pursue what you want, and the sooner you act as though you’re fully autonomous the sooner you’ll be able to drop the “shoulds” other people have passed on to you.

If this is difficult, start small by not asking advice or approval for little decisions that you used to want input on. Then, gradually build up so that you’re no longer dependent on others to validate your choices or your identity.

6. Embrace Every New Beginning

Finally, try saying the mantra or affirmation “Life is change”—things will never go back to the way they used to be, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Every day is a chance for a new beginning, and a chance for everything in the world to change. Viewed through the right lens, this can be an inspiring and freeing thought, emphasizing that anything is possible.

How to: Become more of a “yes man”. Try new things, seek new experiences. Do not be afraid to let go of things that aren't making you happy and do something else instead.