“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” ~Steve Maraboli
I’ve encountered many people who live by the belief that in order to be successful, one must “go out and make things happen.” I used to feel the same until I realized that we don’t actually have control over most aspects of our lives.
We can attempt to make things happen, but doing so doesn’t guarantee anything—it only develops yearning, which leads to suffering.
Take my recent job search, for example. I spent nine months looking for a job. I applied to over 200 open positions and took part in more than thirty interviews. After several months I became desperate and out of this desperation, began to become depressed.
It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, my job search wasn’t going anywhere. I needed a different approach.
As I usually do during trying times, I turned to my beliefs for insights. I read Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, Thich Nhat Hanh’s You Are Here and Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao.
Dyer interprets the Tao Te Ching to state that our desires can create stress and anxiety, and that happiness comes not from pursuing goals, but by finding joy in everything we encounter.
“Stop pushing yourself,” Dyer writes. “And feel gratitude and awe for what is.”
Once I read this line, I realized that I had much to be thankful for, even during a time of unemployment.
This understanding allowed me to change how I perceived my life. As a result, I began to experience happiness from small experiences, such as walking around the neighborhood or making a cup of coffee.
This shifted my attitude and allowed me to become more receptive to life’s greatness. No longer did I feel depressed because I believed that by letting go of my desire to find a job, I was opening myself up to the plans that would manifest organically.
One may say that I put faith in finding work and believed that the right position would come along at the right time. My new philosophy: let go and let the universe do it.
I continued to apply for jobs and interview, but I knew that I couldn’t force myself into a job offer. I had to go with the flow—to learn to ride the waves instead of trying to change the tide.
This new perspective allowed me to release the stress relating to my job search and to accept that great things would happen at the right time.
During interviews, I no longer felt desperate and nervous. I knew that if it were meant to be, I would receive an offer. This created a more positive environment and one that increased the likelihood of finding work.
Just weeks after I changed my views and let go of negative emotions, I received a job offer.
Looking back, I realize that my desire to find work was not only stressing me out, it was creating a wall that prevented me from achieving my goal of securing a job.
When we’re working toward a goal, we often push ourselves to the point of desperation. We know what we want, and while that’s a good thing, stressing ourselves out to achieve that desire only develops resistance toward that aspiration.
We might feel that if we don’t stress and push ourselves, we’ll be opening ourselves up to bad things that could happen.
For me, this belief led to a feeling that if I didn’t find a job, I was going to be evicted from my apartment and forced to live on the street. I’ve since learned that stressing out doesn’t necessarily prevent negative consequences.
In order to truly experience what the universe has in store for us, we need to let go of the need to control every aspect of our lives and focus instead on showing up and putting our best foot forward. Here are three tips to help put us on the path to achieving our innermost desires.
Set your intention.
Setting your intention is the first step in reaching your goals. When I was job searching, my intention was to find a position that was the next step in my career. No matter your intention, place it in your mind, see it in your mind’s eye, or meditate on it.
Let go of your attachment to the outcome.
Once we set our intention, we have little control over the outcome. Often others are involved, and we can’t force them into helping us achieve our goals. Realize that no matter what happens, you will be okay. And know that adopting this mindset will free you up mentally so you’re able to focus on controlling what you can control—your own choices and actions.
Trust that your efforts will pay off.
Trust is essential in manifesting our goals and desires. Once we realize this, our faith strengthens and we open ourselves up to many new opportunities in the process.
As simple as these steps seem, actually following them is more challenging. It takes practice to learn to let go and trust that great things will happen.
But as Lama Surya Das writes in Make Me One with Everything, “Buddha said that transcendent peace exists in things left just as they are.” Das adds that “I have found that all things are already at rest and at peace, inasmuch as one’s own inner life remains fit, flexible, and attuned.”
We must remain flexible and attuned with life’s changes, as Das states. As soon as I realized this with my job search, beneficial things began to manifest.
We can all benefit by learning that life’s greatness doesn’t require that we “get out and do,” but that we simply accept the wonderful things we already have and then adjust our expectations, while trusting that everything we need either is already within us, available to us, or in our future.
Skipping man image via Shutterstock
About Ash Blankenship
Ash Blankenship is a freelance website designer and writer based in Los Angeles. He is the author of Believe: Harnessing the Power of Your Inner Artist. He also shares stories in 140 characters or less on Twitter at @ashblankenship.