Thoughtful Thursday: Is it Better to Take Action or Surrender?
It’s the holiday shopping season and sometimes you want to give in to your impulse and take action NOW, and other times you just want to see how life will unfold and you surrender to fate.
Do you live by a carpe diem mantra? Do you feel like you have to be proactive all the time? In travel, it seems that time in fleeting and you may not get the chance to experience everything. This week, Christine Hassler explores how to find the middle ground between taking action NOW and surrendering for later. Read on!
Guest Blog Post by Christine Hassler
“I will not surrender responsibility for my life and my actions.” – John Enoch Powell
“Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have, now” – African-American Proverb
“At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.” – Maya Angelou
I recently received a question from a reader about how to deal with being feeling pulled between being extremely proactive to make things happen in life and allowing herself the space to let things come organically. She shared that when she pushes herself to ‘figure things out’ she feels overwhelmed, anxious and then shuts down; but when she errs on the passive side she feels like she is not being proactive enough.
Can you relate? Do you work hard to make things happen until you are so exhausted that you throw in the towel of surrender? And then once you let go do you think that you are not doing enough, start to panic and then throw yourself back into trying to make things happen?
Whenever we are bouncing between two extremes like being extremely proactive and being patiently passive, we end up getting nowhere because it’s impossible to really gain any momentum when our attitudes and behavior keep flip-flopping. I call this “pendulum-ing” because it creates a back and forth in our consciousness, never giving us an opportunity to find an equilibrium.
Finding the balance between doing and being is something that comes up a lot with my clients and readers, especially the “do-ers” on a spiritual path who are learning the importance of letting go and allowing the Universe to lead the way. During times in life when there is so much pressure to figure things out, letting go completely can actually feel quite unnatural and scary. So which is a “better” approach: being extremely proactive or allowing things to happen organically? The answer is neither.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience. So unless you are going to go be a monk and meditate on a mountaintop all day long, becoming passive and allowing all things to happen organically is not an option. We are humans living in this physical world reality, which requires a level of doing in order to take care of our basic needs. And as humans with infinite potential and creativity inside of us, there is a desire to co-create things in our lives so that we feel like we are offering all that we have to offer.
On the other hand, pushing ourselves to figure things out creates anxiety because our very human ego takes over and we forget that we are spiritual beings. We buy into the misunderstanding that it is all up to us, and set goals that we feel 100% responsible to identify and then attain. We tend to shut down because pushing ourselves as a form of motivation almost never works. (Review my previous blog here about toward versus away from motivation for a deeper explanation).
So what is the answer? It is the middle way: a balance of what I call aligned action and observant surrender. Let’s start with examining aligned action. If you start to feel overwhelmed when you move into proactive mode, this generally means that your focus is either too big or too vague. It’s great to have a long-term vision, but if you are looking out too far ahead it’s natural to feel overwhelmed because your brain is trying to process all of the steps you have to take to get there. It’s like standing at the bottom of the staircase, staring up at the second floor and contemplating how you are going to take a running leap to get there. The second you shift your focus from the end destination (the 2nd floor) to the immediate first step in front of you, the overwhelm will disappear. So instead of pushing and trying to make everything happen, ask yourself “What is one step I can take that is aligned with my long term vision?”
Now, if you are saying, “But I don’t know what my long term vision is!!!” that is not a problem. You don’t have to know the exact form it is going to take; all you need to know is the essence. For instance, you may not know what career you want but you do know the type of things you’d like to be experiencing in your job. So if creativity and collaborating with others are part of the essence, take an aligned action step today that puts you in the energetic experience of being creative and collaborative. It’s important to take time to meditate or journal in order to access your own Inner Counselor who will help you determine what aligned action step is in your Highest Good to take.
As you begin to take more aligned action steps, practice observant surrender. This is a process of letting things happen organically while being attuned to the feedback you are getting from the Universe. For example, if you keep taking aligned action steps toward getting a job in entertainment, however absolutely nothing is happening, simply observe that the form you are taking steps toward may not be the best container for the essence you are seeking to express. That is okay; it just means it’s time for another session with your Inner Counselor to reroute you a little bit. One of my most favorite prayers is, “God please support me in knowing what my next step is and/or recognizing it when you put it in front of me. And bless me with remembering that everything is happening in perfect Divine Timing.”
Practicing the middle way of taking aligned action with observant surrender will be even easier if you move through your life with high intentions and low attachments. This means that you have a strong intention toward co-creating things in your life that are in alignment with your values and goals, but you are not attached to them. Non-attachment involves two very key principles: your sense of worth, success or happiness is not tied to whether or not those things happen AND you remain open to things manifesting in different forms than you may have expected.
You don’t have to have it all figured out right now. Not everything is supposed to manifest all at once. Trust your process and Universal timing. Continue to take aligned action (one small step at a time!!!) and then practice observant surrender. Focus on the essence of whatever it is that you know you do have to offer, find ways to express it, and leave the manifesting to the Universe.
“Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace.” – Bhagavad Gita
About the Author:
Christine Hassler left her successful job as a Hollywood agent at 25 to pursue a life she could be passionate about…but it did not come easily. After being inspired by her own unexpected challenges and experiences, she realized her journey was indeed her destination. In 2005, she wrote the first guide book written exclusively for young women, entitled 20 Something 20 Everything. Christine’s second book, The 20 Something Manifesto written for men and women stems from her experience coaching twenty-something’s.
Today, she supports individuals as a Life Coach helping clients discover the answers to the questions: “Who Am I, What do I want, and How do I get it?” As a professional speaker, Christine leads seminars and workshops to audiences around the country. She has spoken to over 10,000 college students as well as to conferences and corporations about generational diversity. Christine has appeared as an expert on The Today Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, E!, Style and PBS, as well as various local television and radio shows, speaking about life issues and “Expectation Hangovers®” – a phenomenon she identified and trademarked.
Christine is the spokesperson for Zync from American Express and the key resource for their Quarterlife Program which empowers young people to take control of their finances. She also created a life balance curriculum for the Leadership Institute and is a member of Northwestern University’s Council of 100. www.christinehassler.com