I am a planner. I like to make things happen when, where, and how I want them to happen. The reason is simple: there's comfort in control. The thought of not being in control scares me.
I am ALSO the queen of what-ifs: If I am not planning and in control, what-ifs run rampant: "What if I'll never get married?" "What if I'll never graduate?" "What if I'll never be able to afford a place to live?" (Real life questions I've often wondered. I don't make this stuff up).
The truth is I do not want to be disappointed by the unknown. However, the irony is that in my efforts to control the unknown nothing ever went as planned and I was left disappointed.
This is because life is unpredictable. This doesn't make life bad, uncharmed or fearful but simply life.
As obvious it is to most of us, it's really not that obvious in the moment.
At least it's not for me. In the moment I am too anxiously preoccupied with what could go wrong and what I hope will be better. My reaction is quick: I need to do something about it. I need to plan and then act.
I like to think that many of us want to be in complete control of our lives and no matter how many times we've been disappointed before by the reality that we are not in control, we often set ourselves up for the same painful outcome. Instead of riding the waves of unpredictable adventure, we'd rather ride the tides of false control.
So as I would plan, plan, plan, thinking I was in control, life would catch me by surprise. The waves would come crashing down and my precious plans would come down with it, then human reactions would follow: Get angry. Blame others. Try to plan a different plan to get yourself back on the "right" plan. Lament over the melodrama that life is terribly cruel and unfair.
This would happen again and again, and again making me feel even more fearful, uncertain and more desperate for control.
This was and continues to be no way to live for me and my hope is it's no way to live for you.
When we live like this we rob ourselves from the present moment. We fail to live with wonder with life's unplanned gifts. We take away any potentiality for greater wisdom to enter our minds and peace to enter our hearts.
Therefore in order to live this wild adventure with peace, we must surrender our false sense of control. It may sound counterintuitive but it's our false sense of control that makes us more afraid. We become fearless when we let go.
It definitely sounds easier said than done but practicing surrender in our daily lives builds our resiliency and capacity to handle life's many stressors. You may be thinking, what does this exactly look like? Well for me, it's about practicing three major exercises of surrender everyday.
- Praying or Meditating- Focusing on the present moment (not the past or the future where control is definitely out of reach) but silencing the noise around you so that you can be still to what is within you and for those who believe in an almighty God, what is above you. These acts are also about acknowledging your limitations with compassion. So whether it's saying "God, I trust in you, let your will be done" or "I don't know what the future holds but I will be okay" you're able to let go of false security and experience peace.
- Forgiving- Sometimes our need to control is all about avoiding hurt and pain, especially for those who know hurt and pain well. However, a daily practice of understanding the imperfections in others and our own imperfections, helps us to let go so that we're not overpowered by resentment or fear.
- Deep Breathing- Something that we can control in our finite world is our breath. Practicing deep breathing can help us gain a sense of power over our lives, regulate our heart rate, lower stress, and can ground us in a reality where we can grasp self-mastery and feel calm in the midst of uncertainty and helplessness.
I leave you with the serenity prayer that I believe encapsulates this all -Accept the things you cannot change, courageously change the things you do have control over, live one day at a time, enjoy the present moment, and allow everything we experience, even the difficult experiences, to teach us and offer us peace.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Grab a pen + journal
1. What do you need to surrender that's not giving your life more happiness and peace?
2. What might be standing in the way of surrender? What might you be holding unto with clenched fists?
3. What would a life of letting go look like for you? How could letting go daily positively impact your life?