Just Give Up: On Surrender, Acceptance, and Being Driven

Photo by Janice E Lodato“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

True confession: I’m a very driven person. When I set my mind to something I will find a way to get it done. Honestly, this has not always been the greatest trait for building interpersonal relationships. I truly believe, “When there is a will there is a way.” Sometimes that has meant a greater focus on achieving a goal than it has on supporting a relationship. Even with this driven nature, I’m not naive. I know even when we push, even when we plan perfectly, even when the stars align and everyone is on our side, sometimes things just don’t work out the way we want them to.

Which brings me to the topic of surrender — to maybe just giving up. What if we just stop trying so hard. What if we surrender to God, spirit, universe — whatever you call the higher power in your life — and let it go.  Let go, let God. Can we do this? What level of acceptance does this involve? And, what level of personal responsibility remains?

For me, this always leads to me still doing the work. Still making the plans. Still trying as hard as I can because fate rewards the doer — at least in my book. While I’m busy doing, can I surrender regarding the outcome of my actions? Can I accept that though I’ve planned, acted, and did my best, that the result might not be as I want? Does that make the doing any less important? What if I just gave up? What if I focused more on being and less on doing?  What’s the saying? “You’re a human being, not a human doing.” This always strikes me as an incredibly clever saying but it leaves me empty existentially. What does it mean to “just be”? Can someone please show me someone who is being and not doing? If we’re honest, I think they are inextricably connected. I would be delighted to hear contrary evidence, and please fill up the comments with your stories, because I’m really puzzling over this distinction.

Ironically, however, I do have evidence in my life of times, especially in work settings, when I stopped trying so hard — felt like I had given up and wasn’t an A+ worker — and yet suddenly the rewards for that workplace setting started coming to me. One time after an extended vacation and months of “just doing enough” I received a lavish raise and a significant promotion.  Really?!  Okay, higher power, explain that one to me.

This isn’t a post with answers.  This is something I’m exploring and probably a dance I’ll partake in until I can see things differently.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.  How do you balance acceptance and being driven in your life?