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Let It Go: Your Baggage Damages Both Your Health and Your Career

Stewing on the past may bite you in the behind in the future. It's best to deal with your issues now.
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Entrepreneurs work hard and rack up plenty of mistakes and failures along the path to success. Chances are that on your way to where you are, there were some tough times.

Whether in your personal life or in your business, you will inevitably encounter dishonest or lazy people, bad situations and events outside your control. Everyone has been there. What separates the successful entrepreneur from the spiteful one is how they handle disappointments.

The victors adjust their game plan and overcome by doing the right thing, both mentally and in their actions. The victims stew and brood, dwell in revenge fantasies and never forgive any offense.

Related: Seeing Red? How to Avoid Blowing Up at Others.

So which are you -- victim or victor? Here are three types of baggage you need to let go of and how to start:

Fixation on past offenses. You don’t need to run out and do business with someone who has burned you once already. You certainly don’t need to answer the phone when a trash-talking former employee calls either.

However, for your own sanity you should find a way to analyze what happened, make your peace with the person or situation and move forward. Can you objectively pinpoint where you overlooked a character flaw that when left unchecked, ultimately allowed an employee to take advantage of you or your resources? Can you look at the bad business deal and see where the former client had warning signs you ignored?

Dwelling in the past is not a healthy attitude to carry forward, but if you can critically review the past for signs where you could have done better, taken quicker action or recognized the signs of a brewing bad decision, you can apply those lessons to future dealings and come out of the situation better prepared.

You take offense at everything. Did you know that whether true or not, perceived offenses store stress in your body? That causes your body to pump out cortisol, the primary stress response hormone.

In his book, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D., explains, "If you are a normal mammal, stress is the three minutes of screaming terror on the savanna after which either it's over with or you're over with."

But you’re not a "normal mammal." You’re a human with enough normal stress to contend with in a day. Why heap onto that a helping of perceived stress by taking offense too much, too often?  

That client didn’t call you back when he said he would. What did that comment mean from your graphic designer? Why is your wife or husband being so insensitive?

Related: These 4 Feelings Could Hold You Back From Greatness

All that is perception that you control, which in effect is like you choosing to add stress to you life and inviting massive amounts of cortisol to pump through your body. Cortisol in excess causes anxiety, weight gain, depression and sleep problems.

Learn to assume the best in people -- practice giving others the benefit of the doubt. One good way to begin is to start with you.

Do you always return your calls when you say you will? Are you current with all of your outgoing invoice payments? How are you treating your spouse and family?

Be the example in your own life and learn to let go of perceived offenses by ensuring you are walking your walk. When you learn to let go of what you can’t control, you will reduce stress and increase your lifespan. It’s that serious.

Burning bridges whenever you have the upper hand. Remember this very important principle from this day forward. In fact, write it down or memorize it: Be nice to the people you meet on your way up, you may need them again on the way down.

Do not burn bridges with anyone when at all possible. You really don’t know when you may need their help or that of their network. There is no accounting for the true adage that life is stranger than fiction, so don’t discount when you may cross paths again and need the very person you want to gloat over.

When you feel yourself reacting to a tense situation or enraged at someone’s behavior -- pause. Always take a pause. Whether it’s a five-minute walk to cool down or a night to sleep on it, take a proper moment to cool down before responding.

Even if the situation is in-person, recognize you are no longer being objective because of your anger and excuse yourself. Be honest. Say you’re upset and need to cool down or think objectively before you can continue the conversation.

You won’t regret waiting, but you might regret speaking.

Related: Don't Get Stupid, Use Your Anger for Good