The Act of Letting Go:  The Secret Path to Financial Peace

The Act of Letting Go: The Secret Path to Financial Peace

Letting go, Sharon ODay, Harry LeymanRather listen than read? Click on the audio link below:

Audio The Act of Letting Go

The massive banyan shot fifty feet into the air in the front garden, creating a perfect canopy for the bromeliads and orchids I had collected over the years.  A straight line of old oaks stood like sentinels along the driveway.  Old bricks shipped to Miami from Chicago, where they had been salvaged from old torn-down buildings, led a second life as the courtyards and walkways throughout.

This is what surrounded the perfect house.  At least the perfect house for me.  Proof of my achievements … of having grabbed the brass ring … of living the American Dream.

Charmed Sunday breakfasts under the arbor.  Rowdy dinner parties with a dozen friends voicing their political opinions.  Romantic dinners for two.  Weekends hosting foreign friends.  Christmases with loved ones.  New businesses.  Failed businesses.  Hurricanes.  Lost kitties.  Lost loves.  The house had witnessed it all.

Then the economy shifted on me and my business took a hit.

The first step was to review expenses, line by line, and cut out everything I could live without.

And then one night, another round of analysis told me that the economy had hurt me more than I had calculated and I could no longer afford my dream house.  I could no longer afford my American Dream.

I had a choice.  I could wallow in my sadness.  Or I could get proactive, save as much as I could and quickly get out from under the weight of my familiar lifestyle.

I chose the latter.

I invested the time to get very clear on my exactly numbers:  what I owed, how many days until next payments, what I could negotiate … and what options I had.  Clearly the house had to go.

I put the house on the market (it was easier then), then took the intermediate step of putting everything in storage and moving in with a friend.  Where I’d live next would come with time.

Throughout that process, the healthiest thing I did was to keep looking forward.  Not looking back and thinking about what I had lost.  What was behind me … the fulfilled dreams and the not-yet-fulfilled dreams … went into a figurative box called “yesterday’s fond memories.”  They were safely set aside to be taken out one day and revisited, when I could afford to.

And meanwhile, all my energy went into planning how to move ahead.  What I envisioned.  What my ideal was.  What I’d accept as I waited for the ideal to arrive.  The steps I’d take to get there.

And then I took the first steps.

When I look back to that winter of 2001-2002 and think of what I left behind, it is not wrapped in pain and loss.  It’s wrapped in reality.

I took responsibility for what had gotten me where I was.  I learned from everything.  Then, except for the good bits, I let everything go.  I did what I had to do in order to give myself the greatest chance to succeed.

Most important, I safeguarded the energies I’d need to reinvent myself.  My next “incarnation.”  My next home.  My next business.  My next life.

For many people, the past few years have meant giving up something, being forced to let go.  Maybe you’re even still hanging on to something that’s very heavy and making it difficult to move forward.

My greatest advice is that, in order to move ahead … towards peace of mind in your finances … the lighter you travel, the better.

As my friend Carly said recently,

I have lost everything and nothing.  All things LOST served their purpose. If we all looked at loss like this, we would realize what we have gained – we actually haven’t lost anything – for without those experiences we wouldn’t be who we are NOW…

Let me know in the Comments section below what you may have let go of in order to move ahead.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her tell-it-like-it-is posts and articles. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Sharon, you stories of your life never cease to amaze me. I was so blessed the day I met you and learned from you. You are a shiny example to me. I remember telling my husband all about you when I came home from that amazing trip where I met you. You have stuck by me in my journey and I have grown so much from following your blog and meeting you in person. Thanks for all you do! Blessing!

    • Angela, that was such a charged time in Chicago! I knew the transition you were in and felt you just needed to be accompanied. And look at all the growth and changes you’ve brought into your life since then. I’ve loved watching your progress, and can feel how much more you will make!

  • Yikes is it a matter of letting go of what we know we can do without. We are just so spoiled and think that there is nothing we can let go of! I have had to let go of a lot and it’s so much easier now that the kids are adults though!

    • Some things we let go of by choice, Elizabeth. Others we are forced to let go of. They generate different types of energy … but in both cases the feeling of “lightness” makes is so much easier to move forward!

  • Sharon, you have such a persuasive and creative hand when you write. If you had put your cell phone in the post, I would have called you up that is how “close up and personal” this prose felt. Thank you for putting it into perspective. Indeed, we would not be where we are today had we not passed through what we did in the past. That helps me focus as I go through my own personal transition. PS Other readers who felt as i did when I read this, may want to jump over to the CONTACT button on your blog

    • You know, Diane, that I will help you in any way I can. I know the personal transition “journey” you are on and honor the courage and grace you are bringing to that process.

  • Sharon, this is such a powerful post. What a great example of “walking your talk”. Choosing to move forward and not wallowing in the past…brilliant steps to take to achieve that reinvented life. You touched my heart…

    • And my heart is where my writing comes from, Sherie … 😉 … because I know how important it is to give women like you the motivation and tools to take full control of your finances and your lives. The joy that comes with financial peace of mind is palpable, and I want you to have that …

  • MamaRed

    What an amazing share of who you are and thank you for taking those steps. I’m in that process of looking, hard, at how I’ve gotten where I am and what is next. Muah!

    • It’s an ongoing process, MamaRed, but at some points we seem to step on the accelerator!

  • Great post Sharon! Looking forward – always forward!!! : D

  • Letting go of what holds us back… Thanks for all you share Sharon. x0x

    • Often the things that weigh heavily are things we don’t even think of, Norma. Until we have to. 😉

  • Edel O’Mahony

    Beautifully put Sharon. It really is about no blame, no guilt , just experience. 🙂

    • It’s all about the journey, isn’t it, Edel? As I see it, blame and guilt don’t add anything useful to that journey …

  • Great… Everything has actions and Key to taking responsibility for our life…

    • When we take responsibility, we do take action … and so often our paralysis comes from denial, right Carly?

  • I had to give up a job that I loved for medical reasons. Then I had to give up many luxuries my job afforded me…I became real clear on my necessities and obligations. Since I’ve cut back on the luxuries, I easily afford my lifestyle and am having the time of my life. 🙂

    • The key phrase, Carmen, is “I easily afford my lifestyle.” Regardless where that point is, it’s where the peace of mind begins. Good for you!

  • Cathy Taughinbaugh

    Love this line – the lighter you travel, the better. Sometimes our “things” can hold us back. When we shed them, life feels so much easier. Thanks for sharing your great advice.

    • Especially when we’re in transition mode, Cathy, traveling light makes all the difference. And if we could do it the rest of the time … wow! 😉

  • It’s amazing what we can live without if we have to! Love your post and it’s message that you can live lighter and better with less.

    • At first may we do it because we “have to,” Carolyn, but as you know it then feels so light and right!

  • Great post, I too know what it feels like to lose everything. When my husband and I split up, I moved to a new state and started fresh with my 3 kids, I think that the best advice you give is to get proactive and concentrate on how to make things better. BTW I recognize that beach in your intro video, I have only seen those structures you are sitting on at one beach here in Florida : )

    • Yes, Karla, we’re neighbors, sort of. And that’s my very favoring haunt … Hollywood Beach! We should meet for coffee, no?

  • Lisa Frederiksen

    You are always such an inspiration of courage, Sharon, and proof that change and loss don’t have to be bad or negative. I loved this line, “Throughout that process, the healthiest thing I did was to keep looking forward. Not looking back and thinking about what I had lost.” Thanks for another great post!

    • There’s a point in our lives where we think everything is “the end of the world.” I’ve learned that very little truly is … as long as we have our health, we can do (and rebuild) most anything!

  • I love this Sharon! You are a wonderful inspiration of what it is to face a rough patch and keep going. It’s so true that if something can be let go, it’s time to be grateful for the experience and look forward to the new ones.

    • What was interesting, Moira, is that all the stress came before I made the big decision. Once made, my entire focus was on “what’s next” and seeing it as an adventure — or challenge. I don’t ever remember feeling like a victim …

  • Aimee

    One of the most important things when I backpacked for several years, is that all I really needed was what was in my backpack. I could live without everything else. It has kept me realistic about what I really “need”.

    • Aimee, I did it for two years, shuttling between Europe and the U.S., when starting up my own international consulting practice. I had one suitcase … which included a favorite small oil painting and all my Brazilian music … on cassettes. That’s when priorities shifted from things to experiences. I would imagine the same for you?

  • Sharon, this is so beautifully written! It stirs up the emotions, and I am really moved by your story, and your strength to pull up the boot straps and move forward in such a positive way.

    • Patti, if I can use my writing to move people into action who need the action, I’m fulfilled! Thanks for the kind words; they tell me I’m on the right track …

  • Your writing is such a delight to read. Thanks for sharing this, Sharon.

    • And thanks for being a steady supporter of my writings, Meryl!

  • Sharon, you always seem to say exactly what I need to hear in the moment. Thanks!

    • If my timing is right, Lena, it’s because you’re looking for answers! 😉

  • What a powerful post, Sharon. i downloaded your Money After Menopause she and am going to use it. Thanks so much!

    • Happy to know that whatever I’ve put out there is useful, Lisa! That’s what it’s for … you see, I know we’re all on this journey together and sharing makes it easier for all.

  • Marylfloyd

    We are struggling a bit more than we thought we would have to in this stage of life but then so is everyone. We’re not backed into a corner but do realize that we have to think about selling our house for a number of reasons. I’m actually ready to do that but the house has so many memories as did yours. This is what I have the hardest time with…being able to let go of the past and look forward to a new way of life, which I do want. This holds for my attic too. You won’t believe what I wasn’t able to let go of and stowed up there. I think I’ll work on visualizing that future so that it looks much better than the past. Thanks for your encouraging words.

    • Mary Lou, it’s so difficult when you look at letting go of things from your side of the action. All I can tell you is that it’s infinitely easier from mine. Once completed, I looked at that struggle–from a place of new peace of mind–and realized it was so much easier than I ever expected. I wondered why it took me so long. I hope any encouragement I can give you helps you make the right decision, for you, whatever it is!

  • cathsj

    Thanks for that. I really need to get to know my numbers better too.

    • Just knowing your numbers intimately, Cath, is so liberating. I know it sounds crazy, but it really works!

  • Love your posts and your messages of hope. We all need to know our numbers better 🙂

    • Anita, to not know them “enslaves” us … because we’re dealing with conjecture. Much better to know what we’re dealing with … and deal with it! 😉

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  • jiji

    It is easier to wallow in sadness but really we all have to move on ..not only for our sake but for the sake of our family. Thanks for this, Sharon !

    • Jiji, I haven’t heard from you in so long! How are you? And how is your family? I hope this article reinforces the power of moving on … of taking our energy to build something new and better, rather than using it to feed something in the past that has been sad. We do all have the right to joy, right? 😉

  • Thanks for sharing your experience. We can take all of our good memories were ever we go to live.

    • Fortunately, MarVeena, you’re right! Especially the good ones!