Growing up in Panama, many of the beaches that we frequented had rip currents. From very early on, as soon as I learnt to swim, I remember being taught:
- how to identify where a rip current was;
- where it was safe to swim and play;
- and what to do if I got pulled into a rip current and dragged out into the ocean.
One of the very first lessons was floating, surrender, and conserving strength. If the riptide pulled you under, because it was dragging you down, we were taught to allow it to take us down and to grab a breath at any opportunity that we came up. Conserve your energy and strength. Take a breath any time you are able. But don’t fight it – because you simply are not strong enough to fight that current.
Just keep calm.
Use your head.
And use the strength of nature and its flow to your advantage.
While I heard many stories growing up of strangers getting caught in the rip and their bodies being found later, none of my friends or family ever had a tragedy caused by the rip. I have great memories of many days at the beach – in spite of the rip!
Resistance is futile against the tide of change
In life, change is constant. The economy is changing, our families and communities are changing. What isn’t growing is dying. But nothing is staying the same.
And yet, we hold onto life “as it was”, trying to avoid changing with it. Grasping to how things are or how things were.
I know, in my life, I’ve made growth and change more painful than necessary, resisting and trying to hold on to how things were! I’ve ignored that change happens, whether I like it or not, and that my resistance to change and growth is not about a personal lack of motivation, but issues of safety and security.
Can you see where you have spent or wasted your time, wishing things were different – pushing back – or shouting at life:
No! I want it how things used to be!
How did that turn out for you?
I imagine, that just like me, you got dragged even further from where you wanted to be! I’ve struggled against reality, thinking that somehow it will destroy me, rather than recognising the opportunities I have for growth.
I can see, in hindsight, how I have tied my identity to a certain way of being, repeating bad habits and self-sabotaging, rather than accepting that change is inevitable.
I wonder how many times I’ve thrown myself mercilessly against the wall of obstacles, rather than accept that the door might be in a different place?
The exhaustion of resistance
Resistance, like resisting the rip current, will exhaust you.
For me, it feels like too much to do and too little time to get it all done – probably because I am spending all of my time worrying about the things I can’t control!
If only I would try harder. Swim faster.
And like swimming again a rip, you are just going backwards. Pushing yourself to exhaustion, but getting nowhere. Possibly even to burn out. Failing to adapt and grow affects your ability to live.
Long term, resistance can even lead to depression or anxiety – resisting what was, what is or what will be.
Beating yourself up about it won’t change the situation.
Accepting that change is inevitable
While I might believe, mistakenly, that I am resisting change, the unfortunate truth is that I am resisting reality.
Unless I am willing to learn to navigate the seas of uncertainty, I will never get past being simply a creature of habit. I get so uncomfortable seeing my own role in the problem or situation, especially when it is a negative reflection about the past. I dislike asking myself “how have I been behaving and acting in regards to this new challenge?” I don’t always like seeing the truth of myself!
Change will happen – with or without my participation and acquiescence.
If I am willing, for a moment, to give up control over the situation and change, I will regain control of my life and personal growth.
As a creature of habit, with every change, I have the opportunity to build new neural pathways. What new behaviour and habits would I like to ingrain in myself?
What an oxymoron: let go, in order to get your life back under control.
Surrender is simply accepting the present as it is – no longer wishing it were different. My only choice is how I accept the present moment and the change that is happening around me.
Learning to Surrender
Learning to surrender to the tides of change is much like learning to surrender to the rip current – it is not weakness, inactivity or giving up. Surrender is learning to accept what I cannot change, stop trying to control what is not within my control – focus on what I can do.
When you are in a rip current, you allow the rip to carry you until it reaches that place where it loses its powerful hold, where you are now simply floating in the ocean. Then, and only then, do you start swimming.
More importantly, you choose carefully your direction of swimming – initially swimming parallel to the shore, before swimming back to shore. If you were to swim back, right there, you would probably swim right back into the rip current, which would be a futile exercise. Instead, you swim away from the rip, and then use the waves and the current to bring you back to dry land.
When you learn to surrender to life, change and growth – it is a similar process. You don’t fight what you cannot control. Instead, you choose your actions, contemplating what the right step forward is.
Consider, for a moment, what am I resisting? Where is my lack of control?
More importantly, perhaps, what are you afraid of losing? Resistance usually stems from fear – perhaps of the unknown. At other times, fear of repeating a painful experience. How much did change hurt the last time you resisted? What really happened last time there was a change?
What are you truly avoiding? Perhaps you are worried “how much will this change cost me?” or “how will others respond when they see that I have changed?”.
Be willing to step back and observe yourself. What truth emerges as you surrender? What do you being to see and learn about yourself or others? Or simply about life in general?
After observing, then choose your action – with intention.
With a clarity of vision.
When you are able to adopt a learning mindset, one that befriends the inevitable nature of change, you open doors that were closed!
Going graciously with the flow: rather than kicking and screaming
Let’s be honest – pushing, kicking, screaming and resisting – only makes it harder, whether it’s resisting change or resisting a rip current!
If you know that you can only control how you respond, rather than the situation – focus on where your power lies.
I can’t stop or control this situation – but I can control my attitude, my words, my thoughts and my decisions.
How are you choosing to face change? What lessons are you choosing to learn at this moment? And how are you choosing to love yourself through this process? Recognise that you have the power and talent to handle whatever life is throwing your way!
You can focus on everything that’s going wrong – or you can turn your attention to everything that is working in your favour.
Practice gratitude daily through the process and see where your power and strength appear. Notice where you can anchor into your power and purpose, as well as the opportunities that you have for innovation.
If you stay engaged and proactive – what difference does it make in the learning and growth?
Lessons in growth when you surrender to change
In every situation of change, there are opportunities if you are willing to look for them.
Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.Winston Churchill
If you were to surrender to the present moment – to things as they are – and take power from swimming with the flow for a moment, what momentum could you gather?
When you trust that everything is happening for a reason, what is the lesson that you were brought here to learn that you have been resisting?
You have three choices – when you dive deep into your inner knowing:
- I can give up on this choice. Does this choice truly align with my dreams and values?
- I can go a different way. What might be a better path if this door is closed?
- I can recognise that it is “this or better” and that perhaps this was a strengthening process. What better option am I being pushed towards?
When you get clear on your values and the benefits of this change for you: how do you choose to grow? One journal prompt that I think is very helpful in this situation is:
If I wanted change to work for me, I would want to grow in the following areas …
Of course, I have the benefit of coaching and accountability buddies to question my assumptions, prejudices and foregone conclusions.
What support and like-minded people do you have in your life to support you through change?
Oooh this is a great post! I love how you started it with the example of the rip current – that’s a very powerful metaphor for life! x
Change is hard, especially the older I get! Sometimes its hard to figure out when to let go and when to keep fighting for something. Great post!
Thanks so much!