Art of Life/Donna Parker
Letting Go To Create Space for Better
“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” — Sonia Ricotti
Letting go of control is hard.
In times of uncertainty, people feel safer when they have a sense of control. Control is a result of being attached to a specific outcome — an outcome we are sure is best for us, as if we always know what is best. This often leads to attempts to control outcomes, situations, others’ reactions, or the environment. The more uncertain the situation, the more people cling to attempts to control.
Many of us hold onto control for dear life. We attach ourselves to outcomes, push for things to happen the way we want them to go and try to run the show. The reality is that things go much more smoothly when we allow them to happen instead of making them happen.
Mindfulness experts and psychologists often tout the benefit of letting go of control and accepting uncertainty. An excessive need to control can lead to unproductive stress, because it often puts people in an extended “fight or flight” mode and operating in this state exhausts our nervous systems and leaves us wiped out, jittery, craving an end.
“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” — Steve Maraboli
When you are able to trust that you are okay no matter the circumstances, you open yourself up to possibilities. These are possibilities that were not there when you attached yourself to what you deemed was the "right" path. Often times, the path we so desperately want to be on is not the most valuable or productive one. Also, letting go of control means more joy, freedom, peace, connection and support.
Surrendering to the unknown can be scary. To most, surrender signals vulnerability. This is rooted in the belief that we know the right path, and we know how to get there. Sometimes it is a little hard to make the shift from control to surrender.
“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” — Unknown
You can develop your skill to see uncertainty as a part of life. For example, we tend to ask questions and generate “what-ifs” as an attempt to introduce some certainty when we are uncomfortable with the unknown. But a more mindful way to approach this is to build tolerance for uncertainty. Then, you can slowly identify which of your worries are “useful” and which are making you “unnecessarily miserable.” You can choose to let go of the latter and prepare “strategic solutions” for the former.
Here are a few questions that can help:
What am I afraid will happen if I let go of control? When you pinpoint the fear, question its validity. Ask yourself, Is it true? For example, if you are afraid the night will be ruined if your boyfriend does not remember to pick up the wine (and you have already reminded him five times), question that assumption. Can you really know the night would be ruined? And if it would be ruined (by your definition, anyway), what would be so bad about that?
Determine whose business you are in?
Your business is the realm of things that you can directly influence. Are you there? Or are you in someone else’s business? When we are trying to control things outside of our own business, it is not going to go well.
Consider this: Would letting go feel like freedom?
It almost always would. Let that feeling of freedom guide you toward loosening your grip.
“I’m still a work in progress, but I’m allowing it to become a habit instead of making it a habit.” — Amy Johnson
Once you realize you cannot control external events, your energies can be placed elsewhere. You can focus on the only thing you do have control over such as your responses, your mindset, your attitude, your outlook. By letting go of controlling external factors, you increase confidence in yourself. This leads to improvements in physical and emotional health and a greater sense of strength and mental fitness.
You will experience increases in performance at work and more joy and freedom. Letting go of what you cannot control also opens the door to exciting or interesting possibilities that you have not even envisioned.