The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on October 21, 2010.

Every so often I come across some deceptively-simple advice. It is condensed to just a few simple words, but could replace volumes that have been written on the subject. One example is the five-word directive to “Eat less, exercise more, repeat,” which could replace thousands of books about how to lose weight.

Last week I heard another five-word piece of advice that could benefit many people, myself included. It came from a client who was working through an “assignment” I had given him that was designed to process, complete, and eliminate the type of excess baggage, clutter, and unfinished business that many of us carry around with us. It can be physical, mental, or emotional, and consists of things that haunt us or nag at us, and that take up space in our homes and our heads. And because it can weigh us down or keep us anchored to the past, it also keeps us from moving forward on our dreams and goals. At the very least, it slows us down more than we realize.

The exercise involves making a list of things that are “incompletions” in our lives, and getting to work on whatever it takes to complete them. It seems at first like a “to do” list, but it doesn’t consist of chores and tasks, or things that we’re in progress on. It consists of bottlenecks, sore spots, and areas in our lives where we’re “stuck” for some reason or another.

Depending on the number and type of incompletions we have, it can take a long time to clear them away, especially the ones with emotional baggage from unfulfilling relationships or unfulfilled dreams. But the client I was working with went through his entire list in a week. I’ve never seen this happen before, and my first thought was that I hadn’t explained the exercise properly. But that wasn’t the case.

“I went through each item,” he told me. “And I decided that I was going to recommit to it or let it go.”

I was struck with both the simplicity of his words and the power of their impact. All contained in five little words: Recommit, or let it go.

Imagine how clear, focused, and unencumbered our lives would be if we all took that advice to heart. Plans and projects that we started and abandoned would stop taking up space in our closets and corners. Guilty feelings, nagging doubts, and longtime regrets would disappear as we addressed whatever situations caused them and made a decision either to confront and complete them or to acknowledge and accept that they’re not important to us anymore.

Recommitting to something would mean welcoming it back into our lives and deciding what we’re going to do with it, as well as when, where, and how. Letting go means putting our past behind us, and forgiving ourselves for the mistakes and missteps we had while getting to wherever we are today. Whatever we choose about each item on our list, it will either give us welcome closure or open up exciting new possibilities.

I’m taking a fresh look at my own list of incompletions. I don’t think I’ll be able to fit everything neatly into the two categories of “Recommit” or “Let it go,” and I’m sure I won’t be able to complete it in a week. But I know it will make a powerful and noticeable difference in my life. And it’s an exercise I plan to repeat.

© Betty Liedtke, 2010