Last Saturday I floated down the Clackamas River. I was well equipped with an inflatable kayak, paddle, life jacket, etc. Other members of my group were floating down the river in beverage-laden inner tubes and were using flip flops—or their hands—as paddles. Clearly, I had the superior watercraft for navigating the mini-rapids.
I am embarrassed to admit that I was a little excited about showing off how easily I could scoot through the water and make my way through the "rapids." As we made our way down the river, every time I saw a little riffle (they were too small to call rapids), I paddled faster and harder and tried to aim for the V in the river that would take me to the deeper water and easier ride.
Somehow I managed to get stuck. Every time. Meanwhile, my floating compatriots in their unwieldy inner tubes allowed the river to guide them through the riffles and they made it through with ease.
Have you already guessed the obvious life lesson here?
The harder I worked, the more stuck I got.
Which made me wonder: Where else in my life do I try too hard? When am I inclined to over-work myself into circles and go nowhere?
How do you know when you need to just let go—and how do you do it?
3 Signs It's Time to Let Go
1. Is there forward momentum?
If you find yourself working like a dog, but going nowhere, it might be time to hit the 'pause' button and take stock of your project. Is the work you're doing right now actually solving a problem or moving the project forward? Or, does it feel more like you’re obsessing out of anxiety or fear? If you are obsessing, there’s a solid chance that the problem you’re working on deserves a break. Don’t worry, you can obsess all you want tomorrow, but for a night or some other specified amount of time, just say, “No,” to the obsessive worry. Your brain will thank you.
2. What’s your typical modus operandi (MO)? If your normal way of approaching a problem is to beat it to a pulp, worry it ‘til you can’t remember what the problem is or where it began, or knot it up so you can't find the end or the beginning, it’s almost certain that taking a bit of a break might actually help find a solution quicker. Give your brain a rest and your subconscious mind just might deliver an answer.
3. Are you serving the project or your ego?
Now, when I was on the river, was I anxiously obsessing? No, not at all. But what I was doing was exerting effort in service of my big fat ego (read: wanting to look like I knew what I was doing.) Guess what? Egos are misleading. My ego kept taking making me paddle harder to the lower part of the river so I kept getting stuck. Trying to look cool is often a way to get stuck.
So, how do you let go and get unstuck?
What almost never steers you wrong is your gut. But many of us have trouble distinguishing between our intuition and our worrisome thoughts. Anxiety is not the same thing as your "gut" or "inner wisdom." Sometimes anxiety can be communicating something very important—but oftentimes it is just a bunch of thoughts cascading through your brain like a river.
On the other hand, your "Inner Whatever You Want to Call It" is neutral. It will come to you as a calm, “Oh, maybe I could try ___.” After hearing this insight, you may feel energized, relieved, hopeful, etc., but that’s the response to the insight. The voice you hear is usually going to be pretty calm and neutral.
If the voice is frantic, it's not trustworthy (unless you are in imminent danger). No doubt it might be VERY LOUD and persistent, perhaps, but not very trustworthy. So here's what you can do.
Try This: Ask the Universe for a Little Help
Before you go bed, ask the Universe for help, “How can I solve ____?” or “I need help with ____.” Note: You are not asking the Universe to fix something for you or to make the world the way that you want it; instead, you are asking the Universe for guidance. Your job is to ask and to allow yourself to be open to the answer provided.
(BTW, it doesn’t matter what you call “it”: God, Your Very Own Creator, Your Inner Sufi, Your Higher self, whatever works for you. What matters is that you’re setting an intention and freeing up the worry center in your brain so some energy can go to the more creative part of your brain, e.g., the problem-solving part rather than the problem-dwelling part.)
To help set your intention, you can write down your request for help before bed. Go to sleep, knowing that things will look and feel differently in the morning. Before you get out of bed the next day, write down your first thoughts or any dream remnants you remember.
What information did your subconscious give you?
If you remember your dream, what was the plot or the action? How does that plot reflect or relate to the plot in your life?
Jung believed that each character in our dream is a different side of our selves. What story are your different selves telling you?
As you go through your day, what signs did you encounter that may help guide you to a decision? Quite possibly, this is why so many people want to “sleep on it” before making a decision. Let the brain rest and it can work for you.
Let me know if you tried this and how it worked! Stay tuned for another tip coming next week. Or feel free to contact me and ask questions.