Stop Trying to Manipulate Your Life
“Surrender allows the unknown to happen as humbly as possible. Success is when we are ok with the unknown we invite in.” — James Altucher
Who, through this crisis, has realized they put a lot of their identity in their work?
Who, through this crisis, is rethinking their approach to parenthood?
Who, after more than nine months of quarantine life, is seeing everything a little differently?
If you haven’t been in an office, or if you’ve been managing your children’s participation in remote learning, or if you’ve been maintaining social distance for the protection of your loved ones, are you feeling a little bit lost or disconnected?
But also, unexpectedly, a little bit hopeful?
It’s a good thing when we notice a shift in how we see the world. When we begin to question or reevaluate what matters, what is right for us, or wonder what else, it means we are on the precipice of something better, a level-up of sorts. That’s what 2020 has been, an opportunity to level up.
Our roles define us, and when the game changes, our roles are open to reinterpretation, and that can undermine our identity. The cool thing about such a reckoning is that we can recreate our beliefs, be more intentional about our future, and choose more in alignment with who we are.
And because we’ve likely changed, it’s an opportunity to reassess how we want to do life and redefine our future based on our new outlook. The thing is, we can get kind of jaded about work: entitled or consumed. What isn’t such a big deal can seem like a huge deal when it’s our whole world, every day, something we obsess about the majority of our waking hours.
But for many of us, there’s been a new emotional distance between ourselves and our work — one that we didn’t know we needed but now can’t imagine going without.
Our perspective for where our work fits in our life or how we evaluate work/life balance might have changed. On the flip side, if we’ve felt in jeopardy of losing our income or have been working more than is healthy, our quality of life might be at risk, and we may be contemplating a pivot or some other change.
If that’s you, first, ask yourself, if I never had this role again, what role would be wildly better? Sit with it for a while. It’s probably not an easy answer. Depending on how long you’ve been in your industry, at your company, climbing a particular ladder, or pursuing exclusively one thing, you may not be able to easily identify what other options exist for you.
Or maybe you have some ideas, but they seem only marginally better and not worth the effort.
If you’re stuck, try the question a different way: Ask, what was missing thus far? What are the top one or two things (no more than two, please) most urgently absent from your career to date? It can be anything — a quality (good pay or autonomy), an environment (team-based or in a high-rise), or a skill (writing or leading).
You may have to link two disparate things or consider where they intersect to find an answer. That’s ok. The world has changed. All career paths aren’t easily defined or forthright.
Perhaps your answer lies in creating your own role or business as a way forward. It might be entrepreneurial or it might be a perfect cultural fit with room to grow in an existing organization.
Once you’ve landed on something that deeply resonates, research it. Where? When? How? Who? Clues are everywhere. Then, try it. Find a way to sample it, so you can see if it fits. The way you’ll know you are in your perfect zone of genius is because, at some point, it won’t feel like a role anymore. It will feel like an extension of yourself — a no-duh.
It will feel like you, being you, doing what you do best, and being sought out and rewarded for it.
In either case, surrendering to what’s calling you isn’t settling. It’s having the courage to find your lane and chart your course, and the best part is when you surrender in this way, by becoming what you are meant to be, it’s easy to let go of the outcome because the journey is just so damn satisfying.
Confession Time: I don’t have mom guilt. It’s not that I think I’m the world’s best mom; it’s that I know I’m utterly committed, in love, doing the best I can, and getting better. I am part rockstar, part hot mess, always actively and intentionally devoted to our kids, and in it to win it with my husband. It’s a solid strategy.
I try to focus on the big picture. And the big picture is motherhood is mine — my journey, my experience, my way. I get to claim it.
It’s one of the most significant roles I can experience in life. I knowingly signed up for it and I want to savor it thoroughly. We waited to have kids, and I didn’t even meet my husband until I was 30, so I had unfettered time to myself. I got to travel, buy my first home, enjoy friendships, pursue my career, learn, and do what I wanted before defining myself as a wife or mom. So, when we became parents, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice; it felt additive. It’s the best.
I think back two years to when I wrote Four Essential Lessons of Motherhood from my daughter’s twin bed. I remember shivering, tossing and turning, trying to stretch a too-small Little Mermaid blanket diagonally to cover my bare toes and shoulders, while she slept peacefully, cozy in the king bed.
At that moment, contemplating where I went wrong, motherhood felt sacrificial. There have certainly been moments when I felt like I was losing something or giving up pieces of myself.
4 Essential Lessons of Motherhood
(one from each child and yes, I’m also counting our dog)
But at that time, I also discovered a Hindi word, बलिदान के विपरीत (balidaan ke vipareet), that means contrary to sacrifice. I’ve loved that concept ever since.
Yes, motherhood is giving up something, sometimes a lot of things, but crucially, there’s a second part, another piece of the equation. It’s giving away something valuable for the purpose of gaining something else potentially even more valuable.
It’s not sacrificing for the sake of sacrifice; it’s betting on a belief that whatever path you are on will get immeasurably better if you go forth as a family.
To become parents, you must give up many things — freedom, time, a flat stomach, control — and the idea of separateness. You become a set — there’s no more I; it’s replaced by us. Even when I act selfishly, it’s in the context of the impact it has on my children. I find it practically impossible to think of anything that doesn’t have an undercurrent of what’s best for them at the heart of it.
In this sense, surrender isn’t succumbing. It’s facing life in a new way, knowing the heightened reality of ever-changing impermanency. It’s giving in to the intensity, fierceness, and wisdom that comes from unconditional love. It’s growing into bigger shoes and embracing a journey that can be life-changing, life-affirming, and just ridiculously clarifying.
Who, through this crisis, has realized they want to live better?
Who, through this crisis, has reconnected with what matters?
After more than nine months of quarantine life, who is feeling braver about declaring, and going for, what they want?
This year has been tough, but also enlightening. It’s not a coincidence that surrender is at the heart of all spiritual paths. Every one of us, at some point, encounters a situation like the one we face now, that rocks the foundation of who we are and what we know. These situations have the power to change us, but not if we resist the change.
When we surrender to what is, we consciously give in to the depth and enormity of life, as it is, right this minute. Even when it starts to feel scary or overwhelming, even if we fear we can’t handle it.
What if instead of trying to reign it back in, regain control, or orchestrate what happens next, you just breathed? More effort, more doing, more thinking, more planning isn’t the way. Kicking, fighting, big emotions don’t help.
What if you tried trusting yourself, believing in the process, and letting go of whatever idea is making you miserable?
When we finally quit fighting, denying, and avoiding, that’s when surrender begins. When we face that we don’t have all the answers, and even if we did, there are still no guarantees, profound peace happens because we don’t have to shoulder responsibility for the outcome. We only are accountable for ourselves.
When we give up the belief that we can make reality different than what it is, we see the present for the opportunity and gift it is to know and love life right now. This moment, as it is, in its exquisiteness, is unknowable until we surrender.
So crazy, right? We have to surrender to know if the payoff of surrendering is real. We have to trust that it’s safe to let go before we have evidence that we won’t drown. That’s surrender. It’s not settling or succumbing or being weak. It a conscious act that releases fear and anxiety to make room for awareness and equanimity, and truth — an experience that’s more real.
“Surrender allows the unknown to happen as humbly as possible. Success is when we are ok with the unknown we invite in.” — James Altucher.