The Power of Surrendering: How Letting Go of Control Can Help You Overcome Challenges
Are you struggling with a problem or challenge in your life that seems impossible to overcome? The surprising answer is to surrender and let things fall into place. Over time, a solution will emerge to get you out of that situation.
My story of surrendering
My first job after business school was working as an executive assistant to the C-suite at a regional airline. The position came with privileges and access to the most prominent figures in the company.
Young and ambitious, I was determined to make a name for myself. I dreamed of promotions and opportunities up the career ladder. That dream, however, was lost after only two years. The job wasn’t right for me: the work environment was suffocating, and I hated playing politics.
Resistance leads to suffering.
Unable to find another position with comparable pay and benefits, I tried harder to prove myself at work. It only made things worse. A senior colleague went out of her way to make my life miserable, spreading rumors, and pitching others against me.
Work felt like a slow torture. I dreaded leaving for work every morning, knowing exactly what was waiting for me. No matter how hard I tried, nothing worked out the way I intended. It was exhausting and dispiriting.
Surrendering brings clarity.
One snowy morning, my bike broke down on the way to work. Stranded by the side of the road, I decided I had done enough. I made a mistake by taking the wrong job, and I accepted it.
From that day on, I stopped trying to fix the situation by pleasing others, in the hope they would act kinder toward me. When unjust things happened to me at work, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I simply surrendered to the situation.
Before long, my colleagues realized they could no longer derive satisfaction from my indifference. So they backed off and moved on to the new hires.
One day, an acquaintance from high school (then an engineer) came to the office for business. Our conversation sparked the idea that I could attend an engineering school and transfer to the technical side of the same company.
For the next three years, I took evening classes at a local university. The daily grind during my work hours only motivated me to study hard for a way out.
When I graduated with a Master of Engineering degree, I felt confident in my ability to adapt and succeed. Eventually, I left the airline.
You see, when we resist a situation, we spend all of our energy fixing it, trying to put things back in order even when it’s impossible. Think of it as a drowning person thrashing in the water, trying to stay afloat, only to tire themselves out faster and sink deeper.
When we resist unfavorable outcomes, we resist reality. Not accepting reality means we can’t maintain clarity of the situation, hence missing the opportunity to uncover the right solution.
Surrendering things that are out of your control can actually be empowering.
Surrendering means stopping efforts to control one’s life, or ensure specific outcomes in one’s life. Trying too hard to control our lives is stressful and ultimately fruitless (Cole & Pargament, 1999). Knowing when to surrender and being able to do so effectively is a helpful coping skill (Cole & Pargament, 1999).
Surrendering ≠ Giving up Hope
When things aren’t going the right way, stop thrashing against reality, and settle in by lying still in the water. With time, your perspective will change. A solution will come forward to get you out of the situation.
A bad situation isn’t the end of the world. Wildfires may claim the forest, but life spouts back as soon as the fires burn out.
Allow yourself to settle in an unfavorable situation, accept what has happened, and wait for a solution to reveal itself.
One common strategy for accepting your current situation is to engage in mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga. This can help you focus on the present moment and let go of expectations about how things “should” be.
Try journaling about your experiences. Write down what you feel, and how you struggle to cope. This can help you process your emotions more effectively, while allowing you to see the situation from a different perspective.
Timeless Widom on Surrendering
I came across this Quora post about the timeless wisdom of surrendering during tough times:
A grandmother’s advice by Elena Mikhalkova
“In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make a soup.
You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Rest a little.
Take another step.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.”
~ Elena Mikhalkova
The challenges to surrendering
One challenge associated with learning to surrender is setting aside your need for control. Adopt an open mindset to take in uncertainty as it comes. Believe there’s a lesson to be learned from the situation and allow time to bring clarity. When you feel anxious or worried about the outcome of a situation, focus on the things that you can control.
Another challenge is overcoming the fear of failure, especially if you strive for perfection in life. Remind yourself that failure is a part of the learning process, a stop sign that urges you to slow down and reflect, an opportunity to grow into a better person, which will bring you a much more rewarding outcome in the long run.
Seek support from those who can offer guidance or reassurance when you are overwhelmed by life’s challenges.
Surrendering can be a powerful tool for overcoming challenges in life. Whether you are struggling with an illness, a relationship issue, or a professional dilemma, letting go of the need for control and accepting whatever comes your way can ultimately lead to inner strength and growth.
While it may not be easy to surrender to things you don’t want, the rewards can be transformative. With time and practice, you’ll find yourself wiser and calmer as you weather hard times. By harnessing the power of surrender, you can rise above any challenge and come out as a winner.