The subtle art of allowing instead of controlling: 3 steps

allow things to unfold

Have you ever found yourself working so hard for an outcome you felt you were banging your head against the proverbial wall?  You felt incredibly frustrated that things weren’t moving ahead and wondered why your efforts weren’t paying off.  But then something happened where things got resolved in the end.  The outcome you hoped for happened but in a way you couldn’t have first imagined.

I have learned through plenty of trial and error that when I want to achieve something, I don’t always have to bang my head against a wall.  In fact, there are times when stepping back and releasing control of a situation was better.  These are times when allowing things to unfold becomes the better course of action.

The frustration of not knowing the outcome

This was the topic of conversation between myself and some new business owners recently.  They had, as I did, fears in starting their business. The conversation turned to anxiety around not knowing how or whether the actions they were taking to build their business would actually result in a successful business. It’s true. They had no idea what was going to happen with their burgeoning businesses.

Not knowing how or whether something will be fixed, or solved, or achieved is part of everyday life.  We are busy taking action to fix, solve, or achieve. But more often than not, we don’t know the result.  Often, the outcome of a problem or the objective eventually reached was not the one you expected. But not knowing the outcome is the part that is most maddening.

The art of allowing

That is where practicing the art of allowing comes in.  Instead of fixating on an outcome, the art of allowing means moving ahead to take action but worrying less about the precise result.

The art of allowing, or releasing control, is not about giving up.  It is about allowing things to unfold as they need to.

Allowing means not fighting with reality.

Allowing means not getting attached to a specific outcome.

Allowing means trusting that things will work out in the best way it can.

Allowing means interacting with what is really going on in your life rather than trying to control it.

So how does one practice the art of allowing?  It begins with making a deliberate decision, taking action, but then allowing the best path to unfold toward the best possible outcome.  Here are some of the key tools:

Step 1: Make a deliberate decision but without identifying the specific outcome.  Identify something you want to happen and then make a decision to address it.  For example, you can decide to start a new habit, grow your business, spend more time with family, or address a problem at home or work.  Whatever that decision is, be clear about that decision in your mind and then make it to create energy and momentum.

BUT, when making your deliberate decision, focus on the substance of what you want – not the exact form. For example, instead of saying I will “I will find a job at XYZ Organization doing Senior Accounting” choose “I will use my accounting skills at an organization I believe and trust in.”   Worry less about how and in what form the outcome will present itself and focus more on what you want to generally achieve.

Step 2: Take action to move ahead but without fearful thinking.  Identify and take actions that will move yourself forward.  Be focused and clear in what actions you feel will guide you to your result.

But as you take action, watch for fearful thoughts that box you in.  This is key.   When we focus on a goal, we often adopt thoughts that connect our action with outcomes. For example, we think, “Unless I take this action, I will never be free from this job.”  Or “The only way I can make money is if I take a certain action.”

We also adopt thoughts that box us in on how we accomplish our goals.  For example, “I will only be happy if my business is fully booked up” or “The way I will achieve my goal is by ramping up my business in six months.”

These thoughts may not help you at all.  In fact, they may prevent you from moving forward.  Why?  Because these thoughts commit you to certain path about how or when to achieve your goals.  Remember, in the end, you may only really need to worry about the care about whether to reach the general outcome.

Step 3:  Let go and let things unfold.   Once you have made a deliberate decision, and then taken action, you can let go and see how things unfold.  This is a time to worry less about the specific outcome.  This is a time to see what works and doesn’t work.  This is a time to be curious and wonder where things will go.

You may notice that factors beyond your control intercede and change the circumstances.  You may notice that some of your assumptions weren’t correct.  You may notice that other opportunities present themselves.

“When you argue with reality you lose, but only 100 percent of the time.” Byron Katie.

Whatever the situation, you can watch it more closely to see what is unfolding so you can encourage and support the best path forward-even if it is not the one you thought would happen.  That is this little thing we like to call life.