There are probably hundreds of articles written and shared today about the one thing you need to do as the new year begins. Lose weight, get organized, spend more time with your family and less time with your phone, and so on. And those are some good things.

But, I would like to propose to you the predecessor to starting anything. Whether you’re starting a new year, starting a new job, a new phase in life or any other new thing, this will help you.

But before tell you about letting go, let me share with you from my own experience. I’ve been in ministry for 15 years. I’ve been around a lot of people during that time. But, there is something I’ve observed. In nearly every church I’ve worked in, there has been something that people were holding on to that ended up costing them.

For some it was holding on to a traditional style of worship. For others it was control over a ministry or program that they had been running for decades. For others, they got overly attached to a leader or pastor.

Then, when it came time for things to change, all hell broke loose. Quite literally.

When the worship style started to change, people started clinging more tightly to it. The style of worship became the most important thing. More important than anything else.

When the leadership of a program was changed, people would try to subvert the new leadership. They would intentionally set up the new leaders for failure by withholding critical information. Or they would gossip behind the scenes to try to create dissention.

When it was time for the pastor to move on, people never gave the new pastor a chance. They would constantly compare him to the old pastor. They would talk about all the ways the new pastor didn’t measure up, or how different he was or about his weaknesses – never giving any credit for his strengths and differences in areas that the former pastor was weak in.

What many of these otherwise wonderful people didn’t realize is that their clinging was only strangling what they were holding so dear.

If you’re going to have any success moving forward in this new year, you’re going to have to let go of last year. You’re going to have to let go of some specific things that will hold you back.

The predecessor to starting anything is letting go of anything that’s holding you back.

What are these things?

The Past, Control and People

1. The Past 

The past isn’t the past if it’s still affecting your present. The past is over. It’s gone. It’s never coming back. Yesterday is gone. There is nothing you can do to change it. There is nothing you can do to fix it. Whatever yesterday was is what it will always be.

So, stop trying to compensate for the mistakes of yesterday by making up for it today.

Another perspective. Things will never be like they used to be. The world is constantly changing. People change. Churches change. Families change. Everything changes. Don’t forget the past, but don’t cling to it any longer. Celebrate what it was.

When we try to cling to the past (which is impossible), we dilute the possibility of today. Today can’t make up for yesterday, but today has tons of potential in and of itself. You are only defined by your past when you stop doing anything of significance today. Make today great, and be determined to make tomorrow great too.

2. Control

You may be a control freak. I’m not. But I’ve worked for a lot of control freaks. I’ve known a lot of people who have a hard time not being in control. If you’re not a control freak and you have one in your life, you know what it’s like.

When life is only what we can control, we’re never open to the possibilities of what exists outside our own abilities.

You can’t control everything. It’s impossible. All you can control is yourself. You can have influence in the lives of others, but you will lose that influence if you try to control. There will be things that happen that you can’t plan on. There will be things that change that you will just have to accept. You cannot control every situation. You cannot control every person.

If you look around you, and you find that you can control everyone and everything, look in the mirror. You’re a control freak. You need to release people to be who they can be, and focus on yourself. Let go.

3. People

We all have people who used to be in our life that we miss. For some of us it’s family. For others, it’s an influential leader. For others of us, it’s a friend. Losing people is hard. Whether someone dies, moves away or simply moves on, it’s hard to lose someone.

But, if we never move past that relationship, we are yielding control to something that never will be. I miss my grandfathers. But, if I never move on and try to make the most of those who are around me today, I severely limit what today can be. I never open up to new relationships – ones that could potentially create more impact and greater memories that before. Aside from family, most of the significant relationships we have lost were at some point new relationships. Don’t miss out on a potentially meaningful relationship because you’re clinging to the memory of a relationship that used to be.

Celebrate the memories of those relationship. Laugh at the stories. Think fondly of the time you had with them. They shaped your life. They helped you become who you are today. But, don’t get stuck there. Don’t stay there. Start some new friendships. Meet some new people. Stretch yourself.

The gist of what I’m saying is, I want you to have an awesome 2016. It will be tremendously difficult to reach new heights if you have one hand clasping to something that was, but will never be again. Stop choking out the possibilities of today by grasping so tightly to yesterday. Let go of it and reach toward something new and exciting this new year.