How to Embrace Surrender as a Means of Control

We all crave certainty and, even more so, control. Having it makes us feel like we determine our own destiny. Honestly, the idea of control feels powerful, and power feels good; but control is mostly an illusion — the harder you fight for it, the farther away you get. Ironically, the best way to attain real control, power, and mental peace is to surrender. In letting go of the very things that you can’t change, you remain in the driver’s seat of your own life. 

Try conceptualizing control as being the way your body tenses up when something stresses or startles you. If you could just breathe, relax the shoulders, loosen your grip, and gently focus the mind, you would be far more capable of facing whatever came your way. That’s surrender! It’s a scary thought for people, but that may be because they believe that surrender is synonymous with giving up or giving in. The kind of surrender I’m referring to is the bravery to endure. You’re still driving, but your knuckles aren’t white from gripping the wheel, and you have space in your mind to make the next right decision. 

4 Steps to Embrace Surrender as a Means of Control

With practice, surrender doesn’t have to be so scary. When you find yourself tensing up, digging in, and grasping for control, walk through the following steps: 

  1. Make a list of what is within your immediate control: Actually write down all the things that you have a direct impact on. For example, your list might include things like your attitude, your actions, and your reactions.
  2. Make a list of what is outside of your control: Again, write down those things that simply won’t change for you, like the result of choice, other people’s perceptions, or whatever is going to happen next. 
  3. Decide to surrender: This is important, because letting go of anything is a conscious decision. Look at your list of things you can’t control; visualize loosening your grip on each thing and letting it go. 
  4. Enjoy your increased bandwidth for joy: The perk of surrendering is that you have more space in your mind and probably your schedule for doing things that bring you joy. For ideas, see last month’s blog on accessing joy without reflection.

Accept the Fear

I encourage you to think about the difference between control and surrender; neither one will necessarily stop you from making forward progress, but they will change the way you travel. With control, you will move through life with tension and toothaches from grinding your teeth. You may even hold yourself from making a positive impact. With surrender, you wake up each morning, assess what has arrived in the night, and move through it with a level of acceptance. It doesn’t mean you aren’t scared; instead, you accept the fear and move through without fighting tooth and nail.