I’m a recovering control freak. When I was at my heaviest weight and lowest ambition I was still a control freak – I had just scaled down the world I was trying to control. As I’ve started trying to live a larger life in a smaller body I’ve had to learn something brand new to me: The Art of Surrender.
I don’t even like the word “surrender.” It’s a weak word. It’s defeatist. It’s for losers.
Here’s the ah-ha moment though. Control isn’t about success, it’s about fear. We try to control things because we fear what will happen if we don’t. Control is about being so attached to one particular result that you reject any others, even though they could be better than what you envision.
I don’t do well with broad philosophy though. I had to think back to moments in my life where my control was limiting my success, and where surrender could have led to a better outcome.
I hit the internet and read up on control and found a blog that talked about “control mode” and “surrender mode” as if there was a switch inside you. It made me recognize what I feel when “control mode” takes over. For me, it always came on the other side of panic, anxiety, or worry. I was hit with a pretty big idea. I realized I only feel that way when I’m trying to control something that’s none of my business. Where does all that unhelpful nervous energy come from? It’s the knowledge that I couldn’t fix this even if I wanted to – because it’s none of my business. The outcome (and the responsibility for the outcome) rests entirely with someone else. Why was I wasting my energy?
So what does surrender mode look like? Well, it’s not about just giving in. It’s not about not having a plan or working toward a goal. Surrender mode is about maintaing focus on the things you can control, and surrendering to the things you can’t. It’s not about inaction – it’s about saving that energy and using for the things that are my business. It’s about choosing to invest your energy into the outcomes you’re responsible for.
It’s been rare on this journey that I’ve encountered something that has so immediately had a dramatic effect on my personal and professional life. Learning to surrender has given me great focus. There’s a notepad on my desk and on the back page are the six outcomes I’m honestly responsible for right now. There are just six things in the whole world I’m working toward right now. That’s hardly overwhelming or panic inducing.
There are still moments where I’ll fall into control mode by default and catch myself and force myself to surrender. It’s not an easy process, and you have to learn to ignore the thoughts and questions that pop into your head. You still have to deal with the doubt and worry but you don’t feed it. You don’t plan for it. You don’t pretend that you have any control or even influence over things that aren’t your responsibility. It can even build stronger relationships because your control issues impact the lives of those closest to you, and you disrespect them every time you think you know best.
When you leave room for surrendering in your life you’ll find the time for things you didn’t before. If you’re reading this blog you know how valuable time is. You know how frustrating it can be to know you’ve given years of your life to anxiety and worry about things you couldn’t possible change if you wanted to. You know how much time and energy you’ve spent on others that could have been spent bettering yourself.
When you focus on the things you are responsible for, you leave room for happiness in places you never expected to find it. Do unexpected things. Say yes to someone when your gut is saying no. Take someone’s hand, give up control, and follow them somewhere new. There’s not a plan in the world that will make you feel better than just living in the moment, knowing you have plans for the things you can, and the freedom to enjoy the rest. And if something comes along that’s simply beyond us, well, we will cross that bridge when we get there.