When you have to hit the breaks in snowy conditions, slamming on the breaks almost ensures you swerve out of control. Instead, if you lightly hit the break and slightly turn the wheel, you’ll often gradually drift into safe territory.
Another morbid driving fact — drunk drivers tend to survive collisions more often than the people they hit. Why? Because their bodies are relaxed during impact. The sober driver tenses upon impact, which makes the brunt of the impact worse.
Football players often learn ballet so their bodies become more pliable and bendy. They learn to relax their bodies when being tackled. Then learn to use momentum and will often figure out how to bounce, slip by, and stay upright by relaxing their bodies while they run.
Trapeze artists learn how to fall. Again, instead of tensing up, they learn to relax and fold their legs a certain way when hitting the ground to lessen the impact.
Why all these random examples? They illustrate the art of surrender.
Sometimes, trying to take control of a situation can be counterproductive. Tensing up about something mentally leads to bad decisions when a calm and relaxed mind would work far better.
Often you spend your entire life trying to tighten your grip on the steering wheel. The more you try to take control of your life, the more you fret about it, the more anxiety you develop over it, the worse your results become.
Aren’t you tired of always feeling like you’re spinning your wheels? Do you feel like your life is this constant race on a hamster wheel that’s going nowhere?
Are you constantly and frantically searching for self-improvement answers yet getting nothing done?
Here’s a revolutionary idea… Chill out.
The Power of Acceptance
If your life isn’t going the way you want it to right now, just accept that Surrender to the moment of your life. I know you want to improve faster, but fretting over your situation will slow the process down.
I still remember what it felt like five years ago. I’d entirely screwed up my life. Of course, I went back and forth mentally about what I could’ve done and what I was going to do to change things. But for the time being, I was going to be broke without a ton of prospects.
I was still pretty young at 25 and I didn’t have a ton of responsibilities. So I just accepted the situation and started working to improve it. In my $350/month apartment, I started watching the videos, taking the courses, started writing, started tinkering.
And I never got too ahead of myself.
You can’t get too ahead of yourself. When you write your first blog post, few people will read it. You won’t have a six-pack after your first gym session. If you move to a new city to start over, you’ll start out alone. It’s ok. Accept it.
When you don’t accept where you’re at and really surrender it, you’re fighting a war on two fronts. To the east, you have the work you actually need to do to change your life. To the west, your amplified inner critic is coming at you blitzkrieg, not only telling you to doubt yourself but also beating you up for having got into the mess in the first place.
It took time to get your life to this crossroads you’re at. It’ll take the same amount of time to change your situation.
Acceptance is everything.
Accept the System
The idea of acceptance extends beyond trying to change your life. It’s an all-encompassing trait you can use to better your life in almost every area.
How much energy do you spend on your past? It’s done.
How much energy do you spend thinking about the people who wronged you, hurt you, betrayed you? It’s done.
How much time do you spend shouting at the sky about the state of society? It is what it is.
Just because you accept the way things are, that doesn’t mean you agree with them. Politicians are corrupt, the government is full of bad actors, and there are nefarious rich people who game the system. Ok, so what? What am I going to do to change that? Nothing. Oligarchy is the feature, not the bug. I just focus on fixing my life and helping other individuals do the same. I’m doing just fine in the system. You can do just fine in the system, too.
Tons of people disagree with my beliefs. Some people don’t like my writing. There are many minds I can never change. But if I can’t change them, I don’t care. People who can’t accept that other people disagree with them feel powerless over their own situations. That’s the problem.
If you were on your mission, you wouldn’t get in debates on Facebook posts. Zero per cent chance. You wouldn’t be preoccupied with what other people are doing period.
Why do you care what other people think? What does it have to do with you? Why can’t you just accept there are ideas, people, and parts of society you don’t like?
Because the alternative is working on yourself. And it’s hard. It’s the true meaning of acceptance.
When you focus on yourself, you have to accept that you have very little control over anything outside of your actions. Even then, your actions don’t guarantee the outcomes you want either.
The illusion of control is a coping mechanism. The understanding that you have little to no control is a harsh yet liberating change in perspective.
It’s Not Meant to be Relaxing
Yoga is not relaxing at all. Not if you’re doing it right. The point of Yoga isn’t to relax. The point of Yoga isn’t to master difficult postures. What is the point, then?
The point of yoga is to remain calm, even, and regulated during difficulty. It’s not about the poses, it’s about maintaining your breathing while you’re doing these crazy bends. You’re not supposed to be proud of the difficulty of your poses, but of your composure during difficulty.
I’ve been thinking about how this metaphor applies to life. Should you be proud of your accomplishments? Of course.
But maybe you should be prouder of your ability to weather the storm of life. It’s hard to constantly “roll with the punches.” It’s hard to move through life patiently, relaxed, without overthinking all the time.
Think about how many times per day you tense up. Is your jaw clenched right now? Are your shoulders tight? Are you focused or distracted? Are you breathing out wide from your belly or sucking in your stomach?
Are you always preoccupied with the future and worrying about the past? Or are you focused on the present, taking life as it comes, working hard but working presently and relaxed at the same time?
This is no easy feat. You’ll never master it. Even as I write this, I’ve thought about future projects, little worries, little errands. But then every once in a while I catch myself and realize that mental chatter isn’t going to do anything for me right now.
The more present energy I put forth, the more I accept that what I’m doing right now is talking to you and nothing else, the better the writing comes across.
You have a lot on your plate, right? You can’t fix it all at once. But you can accept that you don’t have to fix it all.
Try focusing on finishing today. Think about the things you can do right now to change your situation. You could start by closing your laptop or phone and sitting still for a little bit.
And realize that the more you accumulate moments of presence like this, the faster all the results will come.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.