The art of moving on from what doesn’t serve you

“Just get over it”

“You need to move on!”

“Let it go, will you?”

You’ve probably heard all these phrases before if you’re struggling to let go.

These comments are generally pretty insensitive. But most of the time, they come from a good place.

No good ever comes from clinging to things that don’t benefit your life.

Like relationships (particularly those that have ended or run their course), friendships, jobs, past traumas, or even grudges from years passed.

But moving on isn’t as simple as it sounds – as anyone who’s ever tried to “just get over it” will know!

There’s an art to moving on. And it’s something that requires careful consideration, commitment, and a ton of work to achieve in the best way.

Here’s how:

1) Define what it is very clearly

Experts say that the first step to change is gaining self-awareness.

So before you can start moving on, define very clearly what it is you want to let go of.

Is it a person? A relationship you’re still in? A guy you dated briefly? A house you lost out on? A job (or the dream of one)? A trauma you experienced years ago?

Or a collection of different things that are all holding you back in life?

Whatever it is, say very clearly in your mind or write down what you want to let go of.

2) Understand why you want to move on

You can’t let go of something if you don’t know why you need to let go of it.

So you need to understand why this thing is bad for you. Make a cons list of what holding onto this person or thing will (negatively) do to your life.

Or answer questions like:

  • Why doesn’t this thing serve me anymore?
  • Why do I want to move on?

Say it’s an ex-boyfriend you want to move on from, think about it this way:

Why doesn’t this thing serve me anymore? This person treated me badly and doesn’t want to be with me. It hurts that he left but I know I can’t be with him, so holding on is only going to cause me more pain.

Why do I want to move on? I want to move on because I want to be happy again, to find peace without them, and to find someone who loves and appreciates me.

3) Let yourself feel it all

You can’t move on from something you’ve never truly felt the pain of or acknowledged at a deep level.

Like if you’ve just been broken up with, you can’t simply move on within a couple of hours or days.

You might need to cry it out, feel the pain and sadness, and process it in whatever way you need to. Like talking it through with a trusted friend or journalling it out.

When I went through a bad breakup, I gave myself two weeks to feel sorry for myself.

I spent those two weeks talking about it 24/7, crying constantly, skipping all my usual hobbies, and generally being a bit of a bummer to be around. But I acknowledged all the pain and hurt – and truly felt it all.

And once I’d felt it all so deeply and painfully, I could take the next step toward healing and moving on.

If I hadn’t given myself that time, I probably wouldn’t have been able to move on in the way I did (or as quickly).

How long you give yourself will differ depending on what the thing is and how badly it’s impacted you.

Just make sure the period you give yourself isn’t too long (we’ll talk about why shortly).

4) Create a plan

Moving on from something you’re attached to isn’t easy. Most things you do that keep you attached are done out of habit.

So if you want to detach and move on, you need to create new habits. And you can’t build new habits without a plan.

It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. You don’t even have to write it down (but it’ll help if you do). It just needs to be something that defines how you’re going to move on.

Like if it’s a person, your plan might include things like:

Cutting all contact, deleting their number, messaging to request they don’t contact you anymore, unfollowing them on socials, starting a new hobby, reading a self-help book, going to places you used to go with them alone to create new memories, etc.

5) Be a little bit hard on yourself

Moving on from something is difficult for many reasons. Most of the time, it’s hard because you’re attached to it or you don’t really want to let go.

But when you know it doesn’t serve you anymore, you have to let go of it for your own sake.

And you have to be a little bit hard on yourself to get there.

Sure, moving on isn’t linear and there may be some setbacks. But be careful about cutting yourself too much slack.

Telling yourself: “It’s OK that I had a little setback today, but tomorrow I won’t do that” – is a good way to cut yourself some slack.

But if you tell yourself: “It’s OK that I haven’t done anything about this yet because it’s only been three months since it happened” – you might be giving yourself too much slack.

If you truly want to move on from something, you have to tell yourself no sometimes.

Like: “No, don’t message them” or “No, you have to get up and do that even though you don’t want to” – or even “No, you can’t think about those things anymore”.

Otherwise, you can stay stuck in the cycle of ruminating on it and feeling the pain – sometimes forever.

Final thoughts

Moving on isn’t easy – no one ever said that.

Letting go of a grudge, forgiving someone who wronged you, or cutting someone out of your life who doesn’t serve you anymore is a very, very difficult thing to do.

But it’s a necessary part of life.

Constantly living in the past and holding onto things that no longer serve you will only cause you more pain in the present.

It’ll also hold you back from finding your true purpose in life and the thing (or relationship) that’s really meant for you.

So even though it’s hard, you have to let go. And you have to do it in a way that feels right, but also in a way that’s strict and gets you where you want (or need) to be!

Picture of Amy Reed

Amy Reed

Amy Reed is a content writer from London working with international brands. As an empath, she loves sharing her life insights to help others. When she’s not writing, she enjoys a simple life of reading, gardening, and making a fuss over her two cats.

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