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Letting Go of Guilt

Guilt fascinates me. It is such a powerful emotion, yet it serves no purpose. When we feel guilty-we aren’t helping anyone, we aren’t accomplishing anything we aren’t even processing through a legitimate emotion. We are just spinning our wheels. We justify actions (or non-actions) by feeling guilty about them.

For example, I have a client who wants to add working out into her life. About a month ago, she decided that morning was the best time to workout. She set her alarm an hour earlier so she could get up and go for a walk. However, she found that when her alarm would go off, she would hit snooze and then lay in bed for 2-3 minutes debating getting up and working out. During this time she would tell herself that she was ‘fat and lazy’ for not getting up. And then eventually she would tell herself that she didn’t have time for a workout and would either stay in bed beating herself up and feeling guilty or she would fall into a restless sleep.

I gave my client the assignment for 1 week that she had to embrace whatever it was she was doing. So if her alarm went off 60 minutes early she had to decide if she wanted to get up and workout OR if she wanted to sleep in. The catch was she COULD NOT lay in bed and debate it or feel guilty.  She had to immediately make a decision, and then follow through. If she decided to work out, she had to get up and work out, and if she decided to sleep then she had to sleep in and enjoy it. She couldn’t just lay there as she had done in the past and spend the 60 minutes beating herself up for not working out. She either had to truly enjoy the 60 extra minutes of sleep or get up and workout.

She came back a week later and said that it was amazing how different her choices were. She was starting to learn to listen to herself and make intentional decisions. It wasn’t that she got up every morning and worked out. Rather she paid attention to herself and when she needed more sleep she let herself sleep in for 60 extra minutes and when she wanted to workout but was just reluctant to do so she pulled herself out of bed and took a walk. She realized that her decisions became more deliberate and she started to let go of the guilt and the “shoulds”. She started to live her life spending her time intentionally and not unconsciously. (Actually after a couple of weeks with this exercise she realized that the morning wasn’t the best time for her to add a workout routine and she decided to add it in at lunchtime.)

So let’s say that the kitchen needs to be cleaned but there is a good show on TV. You have to decide: Do I want to clean the kitchen? Do I want to watch and enjoy the TV show? Do I want to record the TV show so I can watch it later? Because it is no longer an option to watch the TV show and not really enjoy it because you are feeling guilty for not cleaning the kitchen. Try it–I know it will make a big difference in your life!

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