Today’s big idea is that something that can make hard times feel harder is when what you’ve always done to get through the tough stuff stops working. And at some point, this happens to everyone—it may be time to surrender.
Typically the thing you’ve always done that stops working falls into one of two camps. Either, you buckle down and try harder. Or you seek to numb out with your vice of choice.
Maybe it’s both. You knock yourself out during the day and then at night you drink a bottle of wine or otherwise medicate yourself with weed, pharmaceuticals or something else. You’ve got a coping mechanism that’s gotten you through before. So you lean on it repeatedly. Until one day it stops helping. In fact, it will only make things feel worse.
When this happens it can be very bewildering. You think you’ve figured some things out that will help you get through, and then the things you’ve put your trust in let you down. What are you supposed to do now?! It may be time to surrender.
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After my son—our second child—was born, I had a career crisis.
It was 2010, and the 2008 recession finally caught up to me. I had been freelancing as a writer for magazines at the time, and one by one, all of my regular magazines closed. To cope, I did what I always did—I tried harder, sending out more and more query letters, and took whatever work I could get, knocking myself out to write awesome blog posts for $50 that each took several hours to complete; not a great hourly wage.
I also turned to comfort foods—pasta, risotto, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—and wine. So much wine. And it was taking a toll on my body. I was 42, but felt 82. And all my pitching wasn’t making a dent. I felt well and truly stuck for over a year. Until one morning I remember feeling so stiff and creaky when I got out of bed that I almost fell down, and then losing my patience with the kids before breakfast. That’s when I knew I had to do something different.
I knew it was time to surrender, so I got help—I went to a naturopathic doctor for my health and hired a coach to help me figure out work stuff. And they both helped me let go of so many things I was doing that weren’t working any more so that I could make room for something way, way better. I gave up gluten. I gave up writing for magazines. It was hard and scary at first, but here’s how I’ve come to see it.
What To Do When What You’ve Always Done Is No Longer Working
What these moments of your thing that always worked not working any more truly are, is an invitation to surrender something of a lower nature so that something of a higher nature can come in. Surrender the wine so that you can get restorative sleep, which then greatly diminishes or even eradicates your need for wine. Surrender driving yourself so hard with work that doesn’t sustain you so that you can focus on getting or creating work that does. And surrender trying to be in control of every possible thing so that a feeling of being supported—by others, by the universe, by life itself—can come into your reality.
It may feel like giving up, or giving in, but it’s not. There’s actually a huge amount of power in surrender. Another word for surrender is acceptance.
Daily Tiny Assignment: Time to Surrender
Your tiny assignment is to write down on a piece of paper “I am ready to surrender” and then write down whatever comes to mind that you’re ready to let go of. Don’t give that voice that says ‘you’ll never go through with this’ any mind. If it takes you going through this same process 5, 10, or 25 times before you surrender it, it doesn’t matter. It’s not as important when something happens so much as that it eventually does.
The way you make the surrender you need to make, is to begin. To try. To start being more conscious of what you always do when things get hard. You didn’t learn to rely on this thing overnight, and it’s highly unlikely that it will go away overnight. But you have to start someplace. Let that place be today right here, today.