The S Word That Will Make You Happier

how to surrender

What’s your initial reaction when you hear the word, “surrender?”

Does it make you angry, panicked, annoyed, or scared? Relieved? Excited? Skeptical? There’s no right or wrong way to feel about this word. After all, it’s just a word. But the fact that this word can evoke an emotional response in you on some level is a sign that the concept is striking a chord with you. And when this happens, you should most definitely pay attention.

Surrendering is an act that can shape shift depending on perception. Some people see it as a sign of weakness, of giving up or giving in, not standing your ground, being lazy. Others steer clear of surrender because they like to cling tightly to their idea of being in control and the concept of loosening their grip sends shockwaves of fear from their nose to their toes. One might even say that it’s a little too “woo” to be taken seriously.

But I think it’s the exact opposite. Surrendering gives you more power, freedom, and security when used as the gift that it is: the gift of completely trusting in yourself, no matter what. It allows you to access the part of you that operates from a place of confidence and self-love. When you learn how to surrender, you make assured decisions easily, feel more at ease, worry less, and have more positive experiences.

What Surrender Is Not

Before you start surrendering all over the place, let’s be clear on what surrendering is not.

Surrendering doesn’t mean sitting around and doing nothing, never making choices, or dodging responsibility. It’s not a passive act. Surrender is not an excuse or a scapegoat. Deciding to surrender isn’t a decision to take the back seat in your own life. In fact, it gives you more direction.

What Surrender Is

Surrendering is learning how to give up what you don’t need in order to gain what you desire and require most. On a simplistic level, you may have experienced the super cool phenomenon of surrender in the past without even realizing what you had done. Perhaps there was something you were once stressed about to the point that you just couldn’t stress about it anymore and so you consciously or subconsciously said, “Forget this nonsense! Whatever happens, happens.” And shortly thereafter the result you were hoping for arrived on your doorstep, so to speak. When you open yourself up to allowing things to unfold naturally, you may be presently surprised by the end result.

Here’s an example. There’s a saying I used to hear in high school and college: Only quitters get boyfriends. Which means, the more intensely and desperately you long for a boyfriend the greater your odds increase of remaining a sad potato, party of one. But, if you just quit caring about boys for a hot minute and live your damn life then some hunky man-love will show up effortlessly. Full disclosure: applying the laws of “only quitters get boyfriends” to my love life was the first time I flirted with the concept of surrendering — and it worked! Which is why I started using this same theory in other areas of my life. Selling my house, getting jobs, and taking trips all flowed naturally and worked out better than I expected when I made the intentional effort to surrender.

When I say surrender, what I mean is releasing your fears, doubts, attachments, and expectations around the outcome. Let all that go. These type of emotions keep you spinning in a vortex of negativity, feeling desperate for control, because ultimately these feelings evoke a sense of powerlessness. These are the things you don’t need that you must give up in order to receive what you desire and require most. When you toss these bricks off your path, you create a clear and clean trail that allows you to run with your eyes fixed forward, instead of glancing down to make sure you don’t trip.

When you are able to lay down your version of what you believe should happen and relent from your habit of obsessing and attempting to control results, you make space for magic to happen. My dad folds towels differently than I do, but both stack neatly in our linen closets. An avocado can be turned into chocolate mousse. So what makes you think that the one way you have planned out in your head is the only way a situation can go right? Isn’t it possible that something even better than what you had in mind can come to fruition?

When you surrender, that gesture opens you up to allow inspiration, ideas, solutions, and happy surprises to show up. It’s really hard for all this awesomeness to make its way to you when you build a barrier of fear and control around yourself by trying to force a certain outcome. Surrendering also communicates to your soul that you trust your inner compass to guide you; that you possess the confidence to figure things out as you go instead of trying to plan everything out in advance. (Because as you know, even the best laid plans have a way of being thrown out the window.) Trusting that you can problem solve if and when needed helps worry melt away and frees up your energy to be channeled into more productive thoughts and actions.

When you’re not so staunch about your bottom line, you start to see things with new eyes. You can look at an avocado and say, “This stone fruit is made for more than just delicious guacamole, and I will create a slam dunk dessert of the chocolate persuasion with this glorious food!”

How To Surrender

Truth be told, this act does call for a certain amount of mindfulness. But don’t sweat it, you’ve got this! All mindfulness means is paying attention to what you’re doing and I have total assurance in your ability to rock at surrendering. To get going, use these tips.

1 Start Slow

Maybe don’t swing for the fences until you have a few baby surrenders under your belt. One of the best ways to overcome any lingering fear around surrendering is to ask yourself, What’s the worst that could happen? and list all of the most horrifying outcomes. Then go through each line item on your devastating results list and ask: Can I control if this happens or not? and What would I do if this did happen? This gives you some perspective on what you’re capable of dealing with — which is more than you give yourself credit for!

2 Make It Fun

Surrendering is powerful but it doesn’t have to be so serious, man. You can add some playfulness in to make it like a fun little game. For starters, imagine all the cool, incredible, fantastic things that could be possible if you surrendered. What would it feel like to just go with the flow and allow what shows up to show up? Keep a little notebook of what you’re surrendering and jot down funny, interesting, and surprising results that you notice.

3 Use A Mantra

“I surrender and trust,” is my personal fave. You can even fill in some blanks. I surrender my need to be liked and trust that the right people will be my friend. I surrender my need to micromanage my child and trust that I am teaching him how to be a good person. I surrender my negative thoughts and trust that good things are coming my way. Say these phrases to yourself when the old doubts start creeping in.

4 Make A Symbolic Gesture

If you’re a visual person like me, you’ll love creating a symbolic way to express your surrendering. You can write down what you need to surrender then burn that piece of paper; throw away an item that’s standing in your way of surrendering; draw a picture of what surrender looks and feels like to you; go on a walk and find some leaves or pebbles, find a nice spot to toss them, one by one, while saying, “I surrender.” Be as innovative as you like with your gestures, it makes it fun and meaningful!