Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of your own way. I like to think about this as transitioning from making it happen to letting it happen—whatever the proverbial “it” may be.
Making it happen, or pushing on something until it gives, has its place. It’s often very effective. But it seems that regardless of the discipline—be it weightlifting, running, learning, teaching, coaching, romance, parenting, or business—the closer you get to crossing an important threshold the less making it happen works. If anything, in these situations trying to make it happen often backfires. You get injured, you get stuck, you become too pushy. These are the times when it’s best to let things happen instead.
Letting things happen means stepping back a bit. It means having patience. It doesn’t mean you stop working toward whatever it is you’re doing altogether. But it does mean you lighten your touch. As the famous track and field coach Bud Winter once said, sometimes you just need to “relax and win.”
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. A common trap is when you think you’re letting it happen but what you’re actually doing is trying to make letting it happen happen. This defeats the point. You can’t force letting it happen. You’ve got to let it come to you. This isn’t something tangible. It’s a mindset shift. It’s about going from being a doer to being an observer, from striving and excitement to curiosity and ease.
At first, letting it happen can be uncomfortable, especially if you think of yourself as a highly-motivated, driven, Type-A pusher. But once you get over the initial angst of not being in full control, letting it happen is one of the most beautiful and beneficial things there is.
“Stop trying to find her, whatever ‘her’ may be,” writes the psychiatrist and meditation teacher Mark Epstein, in his book Advice Not Given. “Let her come to you.” That, more than anything, is the essence of letting it happen.
Put This Into Practice
1) For various activities in your life, ask yourself if you are trying to make it happen or let it happen.
2) Reflect on if your effort matches the the current stage of the activity. Should you be trying to make it happen? Or should you be trying to let it happen?
3) If the answer is the latter, step back. Expect this to feel uncomfortable at first, because it will.
4) Practice being a curious observer. Let things unfold on their own time and in their own way. When you feel yourself tempted to jump back in the driver’s seat, give it 24-48 hours before you do. See what happens.
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