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Several years ago a higher ed colleague, whose position was grant-funded, lost her job when the grant cycle ended. She’d just completed her doctorate degree and thought for sure she’d have a new position in no time. So did I. She was well-liked, hard-working, creative, and delivered results. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone like that?
For over a year she pounded the pavement, sent out dozens of resumes, had numerous interviews, and tapped into her network. The result of her effort was no job offer. One day on Facebook, clearly frustrated, she posted, “I give up. It’s the only thing I haven’t tried.” She spent the next few months spending quality time with her kids and rejuvenating her tired body and spirit. Come fall, she had a well-paying position in higher education. Two years later, through new networks she’d forged, she landed her dream job.
Her post and story have always left me wondering: When is it time to stop fighting and surrender? Is there a difference between surrendering and giving up?
I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer to either question, but I do believe that for each of us, there comes a time in our life when we need to stop the struggle and turn the fight over to a higher power. Whether you believe that power is God, a universal intelligence, fate or something else doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the act of letting go, of surrendering, is sometimes the bravest action we can take. It takes courage, faith, trust, and self-awareness to say, “You know what, I can’t do this anymore. I don’t know how to solve this problem. I need help.”
This is not a process for the faint of heart. Once we surrender, then we must wait. Waiting requires patience, something I personally don’t have much of, which is probably why too often I feel like I’m struggling. It also requires stillness, because only through stillness can solutions to our greatest struggles arise, sometimes like magic, into our awareness. I know this, because I’ve had such moments. Maybe you have, too.
So if what you’ve been doing isn’t working, go ahead and give up, consciously surrender. You might be surprised where it takes you. Maybe to places you never would have arrived at on your own.