It’s true, I don’t do new year’s resolutions. Instead, each year I choose One Word that I aim to focus on in the year ahead. In 2018 my word was ‘surrender’ and it was the perfect word for me in a year that involved starting a second business (hello Mumlyfe!), starting a new job, working with several new clients, a home renovation, a new high school starter and living with my in laws for half of the year.
I’m rather glad I chose ‘surrender’ as my word, though I had no idea how fitting it would be. I have come to think of surrendering not as defeat, but rather as freedom.
I learned three more very good things when I focused on the word ‘surrender’, things I hope to pass onto my kids:
1. Stoicism is underrated
I don’t think we live in a world that values stoicism anymore. We tend to see it as on old-fashioned way of ‘putting up with’ things. Modern thinking insists that we change the things we don’t like, that we constantly strive to improve and never accept anything that isn’t optimal. We have a disregard for people who seem willing to make do.
Well, let me tell you, there is something to be said for being able to quietly endure when all around you is chaos. Something remarkably satisfying. Stoicism is very much on board with the notion of ‘accepting the things we cannot change’, and that is a very valuable attribute indeed.
2. Worry isn’t a talisman
About half way through the year, I truly embraced the notion of ‘surrender’. This was when my usual worry about keeping everything on track, doing a perfect job – all the things – left me.
Now, this nagging worry is something I usually carry around in my head and heart like a beacon. I think I truly believed that if I worry enough, I could worry an outcome away. If I didn’t worry enough, bad things would happen.
This year, balls got dropped, mistakes were made, everything came undone and… nothing much happened. Instead, over the course of the year, I simply let the chips fall as they may. Didn’t worry about much at all.
Guess what, the chips were fine.
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3. Freedom to surrender brings peace
When we surrender to whatever life is going to show us on any given day, we allow ourselves to be present. Worry takes us away from what’s right in front of us. It leads us to second-guessing, over-thinking, controlling, guilt-inducing kind of behaviours that, let’s face it, no good can come from. By allowing ourselves to surrender – to just melt into life’s pattern and rhythm – we are here and now.
This is not to say that I think we should all just lie down and let life ride over us. No, no, no. You only get to surrender if you’re busy fighting in the first place. Rather, I see ‘surrender’ as a way to gently calm our restlessness through acceptance.
It’s not an easy thing to do, either. When you’re a natural worrier and control freak like me, it can be especially challenging to stoically accept. It took me a good six months of carefully re-focusing myself back to that word: surrender. It took the full year to understand the benefits of that focus.
Here are some of the ways I learned to surrender:
• Focus on changing yourself, rather than others
• Be grateful for what you have, don’t pine for what you want
• Take things slower, there is no rush
• Let mess go – you can always clean up tomorrow
• Give control to someone else for a change
• Accept that you don’t need all the answers to understand the question
• Feel the freedom that comes with saying “not today”
What does ‘surrender’ mean to you? Do you see it as defeat?
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Image by Javardh