Let Go of Control: The Paradox of Surrender

Manage change have acceptance

Ironically, the way to enhance your sense of self-control is to let go of control and surrender. This is known as the Paradox of Surrender. Surrender means we choose to let go of things that you cannot control and focus on the things you can control. Rather than trying to control the uncontrollable, surrender involves noticing that there is nothing one can do to change the situation.

Just hearing that may make you twinge, internally screaming, “Nooooo, I’ll never surrender!”.

The word surrender evokes a horrible feeling, a sense that you have given up and you are helpless. Although this is a typical reaction, that is not what surrender means. Surrender does not mean giving up and waving a white flag. When there is nothing that one can do to change a given situation, this does not mean we can’t deal with the situation in an effective way. We can deal with the emotions that result from the experience, reframe the meaning of the situation, or engage in other activities to cope with the consequences of the situation; all of these are active coping strategies that require our acceptance.

A personal sense of control is achieved by gaining an accurate perception of our possibilities and our limits.

This allows us to invest time and energy in actions that we can influence while understanding there are some things we can’t influence. Knowing this helps us to avoid wasting time on activities that we really can’t change. Typically, we utilize two strategies to deal with those things we don’t have control over. We either attempt to over-control the situation (or person), or we become passive. Over-control means we strive to increase our grip, which is often counter-productive, leading to anxiety and a continuous mental loop of “trying to figure things out.” Passive-coping is not taking any action at all. Denying any responsibility and relinquishing any control. This could mean you are complaining to gain sympathy or help, or you withdraw often leading to a sense of helplessness

Surrender, on the other hand, is an active coping mechanism. Surrender means letting go of unproductive efforts to control the uncontrollable while at the same time dealing with those things that we do have influence over. Active coping strategies focus on either changing the nature of the stressful situation or modifying how one thinks and feels about it. We rely on our resources to deal with it effectively. That is, dealing with our emotions and feelings rather than trying to change aspects of the environment. We choose to let go of things and have acceptance for those elements outside of our influence. You always have control over your thoughts and feelings (even if it doesn’t seem like it!). For a worksheet to guide you in acceptance and surrender click here.  If you want to practice surrendering, try stating the Serenity Prayer, isn’t that really what it means?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

About the author

Robin Lavitch, MA, CPC, is the founder of Surpass Your Goals, a coaching practice for entrepreneurs, executives, tweens, school administrators, and more. Her capacity to connect with audiences, elicit thought-provoking ideas and clarify personal ambitions prepares people to apply that knowledge instantaneously to accelerate their own results in leadership, sales, and time management.

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