We each endure cycles of growth throughout the span of our lives, and the cycle always involves letting go of something and creating space for something new. You are the person you are today because you have experienced the cycle several times already, and you will continue to experience it through the remainder of your life.
No matter how many times it happens, the process of letting go is always frightening. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to make the choice to walk away from something and step forward into growth, even if it’s something you no longer need and even want to release. It’s possible to be both ready for change and fearful of the loss it requires.
Wherever you are in the process, here are three powerful lessons to help you through.
1. You must let go first.
There’s a naturally built-in process in animals of letting go and expanding called ecdysis. It happens when insects and reptiles shed their exoskeleton or old skin for new growth. Slowly, the skin sheds, the insect then enters a period of vulnerability while its soft body literally grows larger, and then a new, hardened skin forms.
Humans go through a similar routine process of casting off parts of ourselves, especially internally. We all follow a unique timeline for shedding and expanding aspects of ourselves or phases of our lives in order to grow something new in its place. If we resist the process, we directly prevent ourselves from growing.
Transitioning from one moment of life to the next is uncomfortable and stressful. Letting go entirely is difficult, and you might find yourself shedding some parts and holding on to others. But shedding portions of yourself is necessary for growth. You can carry with you lessons from the past and gratitude for what was, but you ultimately must let go of the old “skin” – people, jobs, identities, and beliefs – that you have outgrown in your life before anything new can take its place.
2. Growth follows devastation.
Some species of trees hold a specific type of seed in their canopy that is only released during a wildfire. The cones remain glued shut with a strong resin until the temperature is hot enough to melt the resin and release the seeds, which then drift to a burnt but cool bed of soil. The seeds exist entirely to bring new life to a recently devastated area.
You will endure your own personal wildfires several times throughout life. As we all know, life deals everyone unexpected hardships. There will be moments when everything seems to go wrong and you’re at a complete loss: you lose someone you love, you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore, you unexpectedly lose your job or your home, your relationship crumbles and you’re on your own.
Whatever it is, it’ll seem nearly impossible in those moments to look out over the destruction and know that there is growth on the other side.
But nature is wise, and she knows what we can’t always understand. There is a purpose in everything she does, and single events are always part of a greater whole.
Within you are seeds that are intentionally designed to release when a wildfire passes through. Even when you can’t see it happen in the moment, the cones burst open and the seeds are spread across a fertile ground of ash that covers the surface of your life. Amongst destruction and loss are seeds that feel sunlight for the first time, soaking up the ash’s nutrients and beginning their new life.
3. Just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean you aren’t growing.
The process of growth often begins with a seed, like the ones released during a wildfire. Over time, the seed grows into something larger, and like a plant, you’ll find yourself expanding and blooming. In these moments, everything seems to be going well, and you feel content with yourself and where you’re at in life. It’s hard not to want those moments to stay exactly as they are forever.
But eventually you’ll grow so much that the only way to continue to grow is to replant yourself, just like you’d do with those leafy houseplants that just won’t stop growing. The cycle looks like this: seed-grow-uproot-replant-settle. Then the cycle repeats itself.
But even though you know growth is on the other side, the process of replanting isn’t always so enjoyable. It’s really hard, to say the least. You have to make the choice to leave the familiarity of your comfort zone for something unknown. It’s hard to leave what’s familiar, feel exposed and vulnerable, and then find the courage to begin the process of growth once more. But the choice is simple: either choose to stay where you are and prevent growth or choose short-term discomfort for long-term gain.
I assure you that the temporary discomfort is well worth the reward — you’ll gain new friendships, learn exciting things about yourself, find joy in places you never anticipated, discover more of what’s important to you, and achieve the things you only imagined were possible.
The possibilities of your life are limitless as long as you welcome opportunities for growth. The only thing that limits your potential is the pot you’re planted in, like the phases, jobs, towns, beliefs, and relationships you’ve outgrown. And the only way to discover something different in order to become something more is to leave what is no longer serving you and enter the unknown.