What is it about the holiday season that allows us to reflect on our lives? It pushes us to think about how we are living, why we are living that way, and what we really need to change. That usually translates into a New Year’s resolution or two and a promise to ourselves that we won’t keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them (insanity, right)?
Spending time with my sister, Anna, on the farm over Christmas reminded me of the importance of the simple things in our lives. There is something special-and spiritual-about the farm that forces you to slow down for a moment and evaluate your life. The farm invites you into its peace. It’s quiet. Begging you to let go of the trappings of a modern society that have pulled you away from your center.
As we were walking, I asked myself one simple question. Why? Why am I doing all of this? Why am I working so hard? Why do I strive to achieve, achieve, and then achieve again? When is it ever enough?
At first, I heard nothing. Just crickets in my head. The truth was, I didn’t know who I was really asking. Who was going to answer me?
Then an answer seemed to pop into my head out of nowhere. The voice was unfamiliar. I heard it say, “Let go. Just let go.”
Really? But there was so much truth in the voice that I had to exhale. Then one more word, “Surrender“.
Random House dictionary defines surrender as “to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.” Looking back, I realized that I had allowed myself to be influenced by our society’s ideas of achievement. That to be successful, things had to look a certain way or be a certain way, but standing on the farm that day, I realized that none of that really mattered. Yes, I still have goals that I want to achieve, but whether or not I achieve them does not define who I am. It also doesn’t define the goals that I might achieve in the future. In that moment of recognition I realized that I could let go. A peaceful feeling washed over me and I knew the truth. The truth was that everything can come easily, magically at times, when we just let go.
I have often gone through this process of surrendering and letting go, but, as humans, we easily forget what we know and get pulled back into our old ways. The reminders always come though. The feelings of frustration, emptiness, and even depression can remind us to focus on what’s most important in our lives and it’s never the goals that we want to achieve.
I’m not saying to not focus on the goals. What I am saying is that when you know who you are and you are clear on your values and priorities, the goal-achievement process begins to flow again. Choosing surrender over achievement is the key to the magic that makes it all look so effortless!
Do you need to let go and surrender? Test yourself with the following 5 questions to find out:
1. Do you often compare your success to the success of others?
2. Are you disappointed in your lack of goal achievement?
3. Do you often think that if you could, “just accomplish that“, you’d feel better?
4. Do you have feelings of frustration when you think about the goals you’ve set for yourself?
5. Do you procrastinate on your goals?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above it’s possible that you are focused so much on achievement that it is taking the joy out of your life. Over the upcoming days and weeks, notice when you are getting pulled into the old “achievement” or “compare and contrast” trap. Remind yourself of your priorities and give yourself time to rejuvenate. Sometimes just taking a walk outside and being in nature is enough to pull you out of the funk. Keeping a gratitude journal every day is another excellent way to stay in that place of surrender and flow.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Do that thing, but give yourself the gift of surrender along the way.