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Let Go but Don’t Give Up

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Let Go but Don’t Give Up

Scott Miker

For some reason our society views letting go the same as giving up.  If we let go of some control people mistakenly believe that we gave up.  But I have found that there is a great need in all of our lives to let go but not to give up.

Dr. Wayne Dyer used to talk about letting go by describing water.  He said that we aren’t able to grab water and use force to hold it in our hands.  We have to gently form space for the water to stay.  This simulates the letting go process.  Letting go means that we don’t force things to go our way, instead we create the right situation where things can flourish. 

For me I notice that I am not letting go enough when I start to get stressed about something that I have little control over.  There are tons of things every day that we can’t control; other people’s driving ability, a customer service line putting us on hold, a pushy salesperson that just won’t take no, our boss not wanting to follow our strategic plan etc. 

Many times the response to these situations is to get assertive or angry until you are heard.  We take on a perspective that “the loudest mouth gets fed.”  So we honk our horns at other drivers who cut us off, we ask to speak to the manager, or we raise our voice until the issue is resolved.  This has conditioned us to rely on this type of response.

But the reality is that we have to learn to let things go.  We can’t fight over everything.  If we have a poor experience at a restaurant we don’t have to complain.  If we get cut off in traffic or someone doesn’t use their blinker it isn’t on us to “teach them a lesson.”

Instead we have to realize that these are outside circumstances and let them go.  If it storms on a day you planned to be outside we don’t scream at the rain.  We know it won’t do anything except make us even more irritated.  Yet we are conditioned early in life that we can’t let others take advantage of us and we have fight for what we feel is wrong. 

But a better approach, I have found, is to respond by trying to learn what you can do differently next time so this doesn’t happen and then move on.  Maybe its to leave a little more or little less space in between your car and the next person so someone doesn’t cut you off.  Or maybe it’s to avoid that restaurant that never gets your order right.

Yes there are times when we need to be assertive and take a stand.  But we tend to gravitate to this mindset immediately without realizing that it won’t make a difference in many situations.  For many of us this is a habitual response to a situation not a rational evaluation.    

The other day I was in line at a store and there was a short line.  In line were several ladies buying lottery tickets.  They could see that the owner of the store was trying to fix the machine so he could take care of their purchase.  Instead of letting it go they proceeded to make inappropriate comments about how rude this was that they had to wait an extra 30 seconds or so.  By the end of the ordeal both customers in line and the owner were arguing back and forth.  All because the equipment needed to be fixed and it caused a 30 second delay in purchasing lottery tickets. 

This example wasn’t an example of a time when these customers should have taken a stand and fought for what is right.  Yet, by their comments you would have felt that someone had just done something awful to them. 

Learning when to take a stand is something that is an ongoing lesson.  Many times there exists a better response than aggression yet we all want to feel as though we are not being taken advantage of.  Instead, simply relax and find ways to learn from the situation.  Take a “letting go” mindset.  Don’t quit and give up, just learn and move on.