How to Live and Let Live

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. – Morrie Schwartz

I tend to be a controlling person.

This helps me a lot in life, but at times it can negatively affect my relationships.

It is not easy for me to “let live.” I want to help people live their best life, and sometimes, I swear they are set on doing the opposite. They make choices that negatively affect their health, their reputation and their future.

Watching that happen can be hard. It can be hard because you love them like crazy.

Maybe you tend to be controlling (“overly helpful”) and know what I mean.

As much as I try to let Mr. Right be the bad guy, sometimes I’m dying to put in my two cents. Even though my two cents won’t change my kids’ behavior. I have a hard time letting them learn from their mistakes.

As much as I wish I could force my loved ones to work out and eat healthy, sometimes they don’t. Even though they know they should … they just don’t want to. I have a hard time letting that go. I have a hard time not nagging them and acting like their Mom.

How to Let Live

1. Remember what you can control. It is not easy to put this into action. If it was, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I’ve found this mindset is a good start in order to let people live their lives.

When you realize your tendency to control will do more harm than good, take a mental break. Say out loud, “The only person I can control is myself.”

Natural consequences are part of life. Let live and control yourself, first.

2. Ask yourself if you’ve done your best. Sometimes, no matter how great of a parent I try to be, my kids make wrong choices. This makes me feel like a horrible parent, even though that’s not the reality. I am not a horrible parent.

Next time you feel burdened with the responsibility for other’s mistakes, ask yourself, “Have I done everything possible to make this better?” If the answer is yes, it’s time to kill the guilt.

It’s time to release yourself of their bad decisions and live.

3. Go to bed. Sometimes the best way to handle a draining day is to sleep on it, no matter what time it is. You are not a bad parent for doing this. It’s okay to say, “A new day starts tomorrow, but this day is done.”

4. Focus on the good. Can you focus on your sister’s loving personality, and not her poor eating choices? Can you love your friends for the way they make you laugh, and forget about their faults? Can you appreciate your parents for their love and support without criticizing their lifestyle?

5. Cultivate compassion. One of the most powerful ways to gain perspective is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This post on Zen Habits offers 7 practices to help cultivate compassion.

My favorite go-to thought is: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.” That really hits home. It reminds me what it means to be human.

No matter how old, we are all learning about life. You can’t make someone else live their best life. They have to want it for themselves. Just like I have made mistakes, those I love will, too. They will fall down, just as I have.

They will be there for me when I do again. And me for them.

How to Live (My Personal Advice)

Eat right, exercise, give more than you take, believe unicorns are real, work hard, relax often, nap, shop local, recycle, do something you love more than something you hate, look up, stare at the moon, read, sing, dance, tell corny jokes, tell your kids how cute they are, hug, kiss, high-five, be nice to animals, be nice to the Earth, have dinner parties, cheers to life, unplug, be present, be full, be beautiful, be you.

Live life alive.

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.


1 Jen Gresham April 14, 2011 at 8:05 am

Obviously you and my daughter would get along famously. She believes unicorns are real too. Though just this morning she despaired because despite all the stories I spin for her about she and Elmo having adventures, her own Elmo “doesn’t move.”

I let her feel the sadness, because I know at its base is compassion, a trait that will serve her well the rest of her life.

2 Melissa April 14, 2011 at 9:26 am

Lovely, Jen! Compassion is so important, and it’s thrilling to see how younger children (at times) let it manifest even better than adults.

I don’t believe Elmo is real … so that might put a damper on our relationship. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!

3 Grace Kelly April 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

Great post Melissa,
Love your honesty.
Interestingly we always attract our “dis-owned” part, the purpose of kids therefore is to express the parts we may repress and certainly to express our opposite, your partner the same no doubt.
You love people when you don’t want them to change relative to you, ever
this is a hard act and I have only experienced it a few times in my life having completed a powerful tool known as The Demartini Method.
I am curious about your Unicorn idea….I am seeing them in meditation!
“Live the life you so deserve”

4 Steve Rice April 14, 2011 at 11:24 am

Great post, Melissa!

I have been thinking (and blogging) about this topic the last day or two. It is *really* hard for me to watch others self-destruct (from my perspective). It is really hard to watch then *not* do what I think they should.

Years ago I read the most profound book on relationship called “The Mastery of Love” by don Miguel Ruiz. It really helped me to see that I when I seek to take control of someone else’s emotional welfare and tell them how to live their life it is disrespectful and selfish. (i.e., essentially, I’m saying “You’re not good enough at being you, so I need to give you some instructions”)

Thanks for such a thought-provoking article.

5 Tyler Molamphy April 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Hope you don’t mind if I spread this

6 Angela Artemis April 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Hi Melissa,
This is a terrific article! I so agree with all your points. I especially find going to bed very helpful. Some days no matter how hard I try to be a saint and forgive I just can’t overcome my hurt and anger. I find sleeping on it and waking up and starting anew the best medicine!

7 Suzita @ playfightrepeat April 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Such good, grounded reminders in this post. I too struggle with “letting my kids struggle.” It is important to take a step back and remember that we are all human and in being human we all struggle. I think seeing others have a hard time and trying to fix them is so much easier than looking inward at these same issues in ourselves. Lately doing yoga helps me to remember this message (for perhaps up to thirty minutes after the class.) Then the feeling fades, and I have to make my way to another class to get it back. 🙂

8 Linda Lee April 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm

I especially appreciate the comments suggesting it’s not just about “forgiving” or “letting people make their own mistakes” but rather they might actually know how to live their own lives better than we know how to live their lives — even if we disagree. That is the true meaning of “giving up control,” especially when dealing with adults.

Thought provoking — Thanks!

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