Sur·ren·der /səˈrendər/: abandon oneself entirely to (a powerful emotion or influence); give in to.

W hat comes to your mind when you hear the word surrender? A white flag? An army laying down their arms? A criminal coming out with his hands up as the police close-in? Giving up? The word evokes many negative images. We associate surrender with an end: the end of a chase, a battle, an argument, an illness.  The word itself is a combination fo two Old French words, sur (over or beyond) and rendre (to give back) and was originally used to describe the act of giving up an interest in land or an estate. If it means that we give up something over which we have control, surrendering must be a bad thing, right?

Over the years, I’ve watched many people (including myself) exert much energy toward controlling outcomes. This can be particularly evident in careers. We expend tremendous energy working to achieve a certain position, place, or worth in our jobs and more broadly in our lives. Rarely do things play out as expected. Why? Because of the dizzying array of variables: the interests of others, timing, perception, lunar alignment etc. Curiously enough, though things don’t usually work out in the way we wanted or expected, they always work out.

Consider a manager working to build a new line of business and grow into higher level leadership. He has done all of the right things: hired staff, managed his budget, solved operational difficulties, given input to executive leadership on broader decisions related to his department, and worked hard as his department has grown rapidly. He shows up one day to discover that a new position has been created and he now has a new leader to whom he reports. Fear grips him as she begins to ask questions, make suggestions, and push him for results. His instinct is to push back, block, grimace, and groan as she interferes in his world.

In these situations, we feel that we’re losing something. We feel that someone else is taking our power because they are “micro managing” us, disrupting our plans, questioning our decisions, or interacting directly with our staff. We feel resentful because we’ve got it under control and someone else is now “in our business.” Let’s face it, almost all of us would react negatively to this situation. We want to maintain control. We want to be independent. We want to be left alone. Me, me, me. Pride can be such a dangerous thing.

What might happen if the manager above took a different approach? What if he viewed his new leader as someone to help him get to the next level? What if he trusted that her, and the company’s, intentions were to help him and his team be successful? What if he surrendered himself and his need for control to a bigger plan that he might not completely understand? What if he needed to let go of some things to win everything else?

Our trouble is that we frequently view life’s disruptions as, disruptions. These breaks in our carefully laid plans and assaults on our controlled, orderly, and peaceful worlds annoy and anger us. The more they happen, the angrier we get as we seek to control the unpredictability. Not surprisingly, the tighter our grip, the more our control slips elusively through our fingers. Paradoxically, the harder we try to manage the outcome, the poorer our result.

Control is an imposter. A mirage we chase with carefully crafted narratives and protective enchantments conjured from our efforts in education, planning, and preparation. Our illusion suits us well, helping us manage our anxiety until the day the curtain is pulled and we are reminded again of our smallness in this world. That day when surrender is no longer an option as security and calm are ripped from our hands forcefully.

There is hope, and ironically, it lies in surrender. Not in a pessimistic, Murphy’s law kind of surrender. The power of surrender rests in faith. Faith in something more. Faith in purpose. Faith in those around you. Faith that things are going to work out. We have to surrender our need for control and find the patience to let things happen before we can rise to our greater self. We have to surrender to a bigger plan for our life than what we can possibly see or we’ll never be able to grow into it. Surrendering to vague, unseen movements cannot happen without faith.

Does surrender mean sit back and wait for things to happen? Absolutely not! Surrender takes a lot of work. In our efforts, we reinforce our faith because we know we’ve done all we can. Surrender must happen at the edge between all you’ve given and all that you want to pass. We walk into that future assured that we’ve left no stone unturned, no question unasked, and no effort unspent. Surrender is an investment in faith and faith is the foundation of surrender. Patience carries us between the two.

Your best self is out there, waiting to be realized. However, you can’t get there directly. The path is winding, uneven, and difficult. To get there, you must work hard every day and surrender to the outcome of your efforts knowing that there are simply some things beyond your control. Then, you get up and do it again. Rising to your best self is an act of faith and demands that you surrender. There you will find something more than self and a faith that will calm the fears in a way that the mirage of control never could.