What is the difference between ‘Letting go’ and ‘giving up’?


So here you are, at a crossroads in your life…again!

Disillusioned and confused, struggling with an inner battle between your head and heart. Asking the question, “am I letting go of something that is finished or am I giving up and not completing a task that I set for myself?”

Whether in business, in relationships, health, and wellbeing, or the never-ending hunt for meaning and passion, we can find ourselves in a very different place to where we started. Inspiration can wither; ambition and vision can blur and dissolve. We are left wondering what the hell were we thinking!

Some of us may dive into the role of the victim; desperate to find all the reasons why this business, or that relationship or that health goal didn’t work out for us even though we tried so very, very hard.

Others choose to take it all on board and wallow in the shame, guilt, remorse and regret of a bad decision; of poor judgment and hard lessons learned. “I didn’t try hard enough, it was all my fault, I have let myself down, I’m a failure”.

We may, at various times and often in our lives, experience both of these realms of retrospective self-study and introspection. Sometimes it is so hard to know which one we are in. Are we running away, or actually stopping and turning to face our demons?

Perhaps we never know at the time. Perhaps it is what comes next that informs and educates us to be better attuned to our own intuition and instincts.

How often have we looked back, and realized that if certain events that at the time seemed utterly awful and confronting had not occurred, then the next set of events could simply not have happened? They didn’t exist or were not available to us at the time. That book had not gone on sale, that offer or opportunity had not arrived in front of us or that person was not in our lives, that door wasn’t there to be opened. We were not yet ready for that experience.

The extent to which we try to engineer and control our lives is also the extent to which we have to deal with disappointment and frustrations. We create our own expectations of ourselves or worse, we allow others to impose theirs on us.

So is there a difference between letting go and giving up? Between surrender and defeat, between allowing and absolving?

The key must be in our responsibility. We can feel all the pangs and cringes of failure and self-judgment and just let that be there in all its gory glory. It is a lesson and like learning to ride a bike, it often hurts like hell. But something is learned, something develops, consciously or not, we grow and change, ready to handle the next challenge with just a hint more strength, a bit more determination and a relaxation into our imperfection. In that, is the liberation of letting go. Therein lies the surrender and humility in the face of our vulnerability and exposure. It is a time of accelerated growth and development if we can stay with the pain, forgive ourselves and stay trusting. Then we can say we are letting go, letting the river take us downstream to an unknown ocean.

‘Giving up’ is just a position, a reaction or a refusal to relinquish an illusion of control. We can have aspirations, ambitions, goals, and desires, but in the end, life is chaotic. It is stormy and unpredictable. Sometimes, when the clouds part we find ourselves in uncharted territory. We must learn to IMG_6197let go and trust in our ship to ride the waves of the next tempest as we strengthen the hull and learn to better navigate with our own inner compass and our true North Star.

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