'Have you read the Art of War?' someone asked me once. Fighting someone to get your way is definitely a valid strategy. But you don't need me to tell you about that one - we've all been arguing and manipulating to get our own way since we were born! And you may have noticed - often when you push, the other person pushes back! Wars have been fought, relationships lost, and many ulcers create with this kind of energy.
This article is about the opposite approach - the art of fun surrender!
Now many people who know me know I'm not usually the first person to use this approach! In fact I can often be a real control-freak. However, I've been noticing quite often lately how much fun it can be to surrender - and often you don't lose a thing!!! So, call this 'observations from a novice'...
I was getting very frustrated with pedestrians in Byron Bay. They cross the street anywhere they like, often without warning - it's like they think the whole of Byron is a mall! So there's been a power play evolving: they walk across the street in the face of my oncoming car, and sometimes I swear they even ~slow down~ to show me they have the right! So I drive right up to them - to make the point that I've got right of way, and they should at least ~look~ if they are going to stroll across the road.
This week I decided to try something new: I decided that pedestrians have the right of way in Byron. That these are their roads, and they get to do what they want with them. In fact, I decided I'm lucky to be able to drive around Byron at all! So how different do you think my experience was yesterday in the car? I drove much slower, I watched for people everywhere. I even slowed down and waved people across when I could see they were thinking of darting across the road. Much more fun!
My partner Bronwyn cleans the kitty litter. I was ~stunned~ when she looked like she was about to throw the cat poo over the balcony onto our lawn! When I said 'What are you doing!!??', she replied that it smelled, she wanted to get rid of it in a hurry, and since it was raining we'd never notice it there and it would eventually disappear into the soil.
Well - I gotta tell you - the part of me that tries to keep everything together - to keep things ordered and tidy - went nuts! I was furious at the idea of cat poo littered all over our beautiful lawn. Having spent years practicing boundaries in my own life and helping my clients do the same, I started with what I knew - albeit with a little charge attached: 'NO! That doesn't work for me. You can't throw cat poo over the balcony'
Fortunately, within seconds I realised how dominating and controlling this was. I was scared and reacting. And in that moment it came to me:
'You know what? It's perfectly OK if you throw it over the side. But, I want you to know that I would really dislike it, and every morning I would go down and clean it off the lawn - which would make unpleasant work for me. But if you still want to do it, I'm OK with it'. And believe it or not - I meant it! Of course I couldn't imagine why anyone would continue to do it knowing it would create work like that for their partner - but the point was I was willing to handle it if that's what she decided. I ~surrendered~ instead of controlling the situation. And you know what? She hasn't done it since.
This is my favourite - names changed to protect the guilty!One of my good friends - George - was complaining to me about his roommate. 'I've tried everything to get her to clean. I've created lists of jobs, we've created cleaning schedules, and I've tried cleaning more as an example. Nothing is working, and it's driving me nuts!'. Clearly he was trying to control the situation - sound familiar? But the more he tried to get her to clean, the more excuses she came up with - and this guy is a powerful coach!
When I asked him why he didn't just move out, he replied: 'But I love her to death. And other than this, I love living with her'. So together we created a completely ~opposite~ approach. The art of fun surrender. And here's what he went back to his roommate with:
'Jill, I love living with you. And I love you. I've been so hung up on this cleaning issue I've lost sight of that. I want you to know that if you never clean another thing I this house I'll be fine with that - in fact I'll handle it. I'm just glad you're my roommate'.
Again - the key is he meant it. He realised that doing all the cleaning wasn't that big a deal for him, and he'd much rather have her in his life than 'get his way' over the cleaning. All he had to do was give up his position - to give up being 'right' about it. And the result? Hes still got an awesome friend in his life, not to mention peace!
OK - enough examples. Let's take a look at your neck of the woods:
Apply This to YOUR Life' If you would like to completely eliminate a problem from your life - something that's been draining you, then try these three simple steps:
1) Notice where you are 'pushing' Are you arguing your point? Have you tried everything and the person still won't change? Do they not seem to be listening, or just ignore you? Are you desperately trying to get to sleep (fighting yourself)? Have you complained about it more than twice in one week? More than ten times this year?
2) Ask yourself: 'What if they did that forever, and I was OK with it? If I embraced it?'
3) Choose an action ~you~ can do that would handle it, instead of them having to handle it. Before you may have argued, got upset or stressed out. But now - what could you do that would just handle/accept the issue? To take responsibility for it? Not because you have to, but because it's more fun and will create more peace in your life?
This week, make your life and someone else's life easier. Who's the lucky person?
David Wood is a personal and business coach, and an original founder of the International Coach Academy - a global coach training school.
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