The first book I wrote was called, Taking Control of Your Life, the secrets of successful, entrepreneurial women. Its mission was to encourage women to create the lives of their dreams by creating businesses they loved. And it was pretty good, too - sold over a half million copies. And I stand by the premise. I'd better. I've been running a business that I love for almost twenty years...
But now I'm recommending that you consider taking action on another of my favorite topics. It's the opposite of "taking control." It's called... "letting go." In fact, I'm inviting you to choose specific times in your life when you decide to let go of taking control, to let go of rigidity, to let go of needing to know at the beginning how it's all going to work out in the end - and instead embrace an attitude of "fluid serendipity" and trust - trust in yourself and trust in others. I'm inviting you to pick moments when you go with things, rather than against them, when you lean into a situation, rather than away from it.
Listen, if your flight were circling the airport for an hour and a half and you knew you were going to be at least two and a half hours late for a very big deal meeting, would you barge into the cockpit and wrest the controls away from the pilot? (Actually, I overheard someone talk about doing that once.) No, you'd sit quietly in your seat with your seatbelt fastened, take deep breaths and maybe even take solace in the realization that there was absolutely nothing you could do about it. Here's the thing: "Surrendering" yourself to a situation you can't possibly control can be soothing, even strengthening. And it doesn't mean "quitting, " or losing control, it means taking control of yourself by deciding to give control to someone - or something - else." Not forever, just for now.
"Surrendering" or "turning over control" can even make a physically painful situation hurt less. Here's an example: I have a "bad knee." I'd like to avoid replacing it for as long as possible so I'm undergoing a series of shots to reduce inflammation and lubricate the joint. The shots can really hurt. So here's my method for dramatically reducing the pain: When the nurse finishes disinfecting the area, she always says, "Are you ready?" And I always nod, take a deep breath, let it out and completely "surrender" my knee to the procedure. Then the nurse always says, "Did it hurt?" And I always say, "No, not really." And she always smiles.
I taught the same "surrendering" technique to our older daughter, Kate, when she was just a little girl. We were at the pediatrician's office and the doctor needed to give her a shot. I put my arm around Kate and said, "Let your arm go, sweetheart. Just let it go. Pretend it doesn't even belong to you. Turn it over to the doctor. He'll take care of it." She closed her eyes and did just that. When the doctor finished, Kate actually asked, "Did you do it yet?" The doctor glanced at me and winked...
"Surrendering control" not only works to lessen pain - but to increase pleasure. You can surrender or abandon yourself to something really good ,too. Like love. Love of your favorite Puccini aria, love of an incredibly delicious plate of pasta with fresh basil and tomatoes, love of the sweet smell of blossoming hydrangea...or the total and unconditional love of a person. Or maybe even the world.
Here's an experiment I'd like you to try: Every day this week, choose a moment - at work, in a social situation, wherever - when you find yourself in a potentially tough - or potentially delightful - situation and your old habit of "taking control" kicks in. You feel the urge to brace yourself for the "pain" - physical or emotional - of the "tough" situation... or rein in your emotions so you don't look "foolish" or somehow get "hurt," in the "delightful" situation. But this time you don't do that. This time you "lean into it" and "surrender control." This time you trust your instincts and let the situation wash over you. Maybe you belt out "O Soave Fanciulla" from La Bohème, at the top of your lungs. Or say to the guy with the needle, "I'm all yours, Doc." And if you do, and you will, here's my promise: You'll be thrilled by how much stress, or even pain, you eliminate from your life...and even better, how much pleasure and love - you generate. And that will be sweet, indeed...
"Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. the world, softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world." - Marianne Williamson
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