Baggage. Everyone has some. To what extent you’re able to maneuver through it is what determines your ability to achieve the success and fulfillment you want—in any area of your life. The key is learning how to know when your baggage is what’s holding you back from living a purposeful life.
What Is Baggage?
Baggage is a loosely wrapped term for unresolved mental and emotional toxicity. The word baggage is used a lot and everyone has a general understanding of what is meant by it. Interestingly, however, if you ask a person what baggage he or she carries or how, specifically, it prevents them from being the person they are meant to be you’ll likely be met with a blank stare. You know you have it and yet you don’t necessarily know what it is, where to find it, or how to go about offloading it.
Baggage is anything that prevents you from achieving your goals and creating the life you dream of, such as:
- Overwhelming past negative emotions
- Beliefs that limit you in any way
- An inability to get rid of unwanted behaviors
- Conflicting parts within you—part of me wants to start my own business and part of me wants to stay in corporate where I have a salary and benefits
What you may not realize, usually because it’s become a normal way of being, is that your unresolved baggage is what drives every negative thought, word, decision, and behavior. Sometimes, even the choices you make that you think are positive—I’ll put off my day of self-care because my family needs me—are driven by your deeper-level programming.
One of the most important things you can do in life is to recognize when your baggage is holding you back from being who you are meant to be. Yes, you have obligations and responsibilities but, at the end of the day, if you don’t know who you are, where your choices come from, and how to manifest a life of happiness, joy, and fulfillment, you may end up with regrets.
The ability to pinpoint the specific things that derail your behavior helps you regain control of your mind and emotions, enabling you to respond consciously and productively. How would you like to be the calm one in meetings who brings the agenda back into clear focus so important decisions can be made? How would it benefit your relationships if you were able to resolve conflicts without arguing for days? How would you like to become aware of the behaviors that need changing so you could be strong in your resolve to create a positive outcome? What if you could feel clear about big life decisions that enable you to take the next step in your life? How powerful would that be?
Knowing what your issues are and what types of things trigger you is a huge step in knowing if it’s baggage that is holding you back. Start by seeing if you fall into the traps of denial, naiveté, or not taking action.
You may like to believe that all your problems stem either from other people or society. It’s easier to point the finger outside of yourself and continue to go on about your days. This is how you deny or avoid dealing with your own stuff. In doing so, you’re able to effectively go on pretending that you don’t have any issues to deal with and the problems are all “out there.” You know you’re in denial when you’re always blaming other people, external circumstances, or the world in general.
You may be genuinely unaware that you have any baggage. Outbursts of anger, debilitating depression, or settling for less than what you want or deserve may be normal. It’s just “how life is.” A flip side to naiveté is that you may believe you have dealt with something from the past because it’s not something that is easily triggered. In some cases, you may have cleared out the negative emotions and beliefs, but it is possible that you’ve become an expert at burying them. You may be in this boat if you’re simply unaware that there is anything left unresolved.
Lack of Action, Direction, and Focus
You may have effectively released your baggage but if you’re still not hitting your goals, it’s likely an issue of not having direction, not taking action, and not maintaining you focus.
There are four primary requisites for creating change:
- Release the baggage
- Have a direction
- Take action
- Stay focused
For change to take effect, all four of these requisites must be met. Not just Step 1. As importantly, you cannot skip over Step 1. Without taking each of these steps in this order, you will likely continue to cycle back through repetitive themes and patterns in your life.
Is Baggage Holding You Back?
Here’s the big secret. If you overreact emotionally, meaning you have a tendency to blow things out of proportion, it’s baggage. Feeling anger or sadness or fear that is proportionate to something you’re experiencing in the moment is perfectly normal, that is being human—no baggage.
If you have beliefs about yourself that prevent you from going after a job you want, a relationship you desire, or having the ability to create the health, abundance, and fulfillment you deserve, that is baggage. If you yo-yo back and forth, unable to make a decision because part of you wants “X” and another part of you wants “Y,” that is called a “parts conflict” and it is baggage. If your behavior patterns produce negative results and sabotage you, that is baggage.
Moving Past the Baggage
You will know you have successfully released your past negative emotions, limiting beliefs, unwanted behaviors, and conflicting parts, when you are no longer able to access them in a way that triggers you. You will still remember a time when you felt an emotional charge but now, when you think of the thing that used to make you see red, you will no longer feel angry about it.
When you think back to that old belief you no longer have, it will seem ridiculous that you ever believed that. As you observe yourself no longer running old behaviors that used to cause problems, you’ll know you’ve established new, healthy behaviors. When you can make important life decisions without feeling pushed and pulled in different directions, you will know you’ve integrated the parts and resolved the conflict on both your mental and emotional levels. Now you are free and clear of the old stuff that was getting in your way and you’re on your way to creating a new life that is baggage-free.
If you find that you’ve let go of the past and you’re still feeling stuck, it’s because you need to have a direction that you’re moving in and you need to take action toward getting yourself there. This can be scary. Doing something new—going after a meaningful goal—can seem big and unattainable and yet, if you just put one foot in front of the other, day by day you will find yourself evolving and inching closer to a life where you are living your purpose.