I have scribbled ‘you’re only as strong as your willingness to surrender’ on a post-it note above my desk.
I like to keep my desk uncluttered, but beside the monitor, in a pint glass, is a drink of screwed up pink paper Hello Kitty heads, each with three tasks on. Their only purpose is to remind me of progress. I like how the glass fills slowly, day by day as I tackle more and more minor challenges which otherwise would just feel like an ache behind the eyes.
Pink paper Hello Kitty heads with three items on. If I’ve more than three actions listed at a time I become overwhelmed. Three tasks at a time is a good limit. It gives me focus.
Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, describes a paradox thus, “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Discipline is the how. My discipline is under scrutiny; the Hello Kitty pint glass, the ticking timer, the check lists and plans all conspire to get me my dreams.
Surrendering – stopping resisting authority – is not a natural strength of mine. I am a fighter, perhaps not always for the right things at the right time, perhaps sometimes somewhat blindly, but you can be assured that I’m going to sit up and act.
This whole idea of surrendering or accepting, comes up again and again, especially in mindfulness. Wise man John Kabat-Zinn tells me very kindly in his book Meditation for Beginners, “No one is saying, ‘Just accept it.” As we have seen, especially with horrific occurrences and circumstances, coming to acceptance is one of the hardest things in the world. Ultimately, it means realizing how things are and finding ways to be in a wise relationship with them. And then to act, as appropriate, out of that clarity of vision.” Stoic philosophers, such as Seneca, remind me that there are things I can control and things I can’t and trying to sway those I can’t is a waste of my limited resources.
“I can be resourceful,” I say. “Let’s double check.”
The ‘most brutal fact of your current reality’ is often this need for acceptance. And the discipline required to accept isn’t something that can be tossed into a pint glass, or confirmed with a tick. It’s never-ending. You’re always accepting, always forgiving, always surrendering.
And yet, you can’t give up. There’s still that need for unwavering faith. Hope.