When you try to control too much, you enjoy too little.  Sometimes you just need to let go, relax, take a deep breath and love what is.

This morning I met up with an old friend, someone whom I care about deeply but have internally struggled with for years because I’ve always been worried about her health. I want to help her heal, because I feel I’m losing her. I want to teach her the time-tested tools for living a happier, simpler, healthier life that I’ve helped so many other people with — so she can give up her addictions, take up exercise and mindfulness, nurture her needs, and suddenly be transformed into a healthy person again.

But that’s not reality. I want to control something that frightens me, but I can’t do anything about it. Because I’m not in control of anyone but myself. I want to help my friend, but she’s not interested in being helped. She’s actually told me so a dozen times in the past.

So today, I let go.

Not “let go” as in “let her go.”  I “let go” as in I stopped trying to control, stopped trying to change her, and instead took a deep breath and accepted her for exactly who she is.

And guess what?  Who she is a blessing.  Who she is something so ridiculously special and unique I have a hard time expressing it.  She’s hilarious and passionate and compassionate and wise and wild and thoughtful and loyal and did I mention wild?

I let go, and accepted her whole truth, and only then could I actually enjoy all of HER, instead of worrying about losing her or changing her ways.

And this, I’ve learned, is the best way to be in all walks of life…

You can stop trying to change people, and just let go and dissolve into their presence, just notice who they really are, just appreciate every idiosyncratic quirk.  You can stop complaining about your life circumstances, about your losses, about how the world is, and just let go and love what is.

Just be.  Just accept.  Just appreciate.

Here’s what you gain when you do…

1.  You fall in love with people for who they really are.

It’s OK to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by those you love.  But that doesn’t give you the right to deny any sense they might make.  Nor does it give you a right to accuse them of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t like what they’re saying.  Learn to recognize interesting perspectives, lifestyles, and opinions, even if it means overcoming your pride and opening your mind beyond what’s comfortable.

Truth be told, we don’t know most people half as well as we believe we do; and truly knowing someone is a big part of what makes them amazing.

Love is about letting those we care about be unapologetically themselves, and not distorting them to fit our own egotistical ideas of who we think they should be.

2.  You grow beyond everyone’s perpetual misunderstandings.

How often have you been misunderstood?  How often has the direction of your life been shaped by such misunderstandings?

Think about it.  How many opportunities have you been denied or, for that matter, been granted because someone failed to understand you completely?  How many friends have you lost, and how many have you gained, because they saw a glimpse of some part of your personality that shone through for only a short time, and under circumstances that could never be reproduced on a regular basis?

How often has your life been driven by misunderstandings and illusions like someone seeing mirages of water shimmering at the far bend of a highway, and then vanishing moments later?  And how often have these misunderstandings and illusions disappointed you or stressed you out because you thought you could control the way everyone sees you?

3.  You get to enjoy the peace that’s already within you.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus said it perfectly more than 2,000 years ago: “People are disturbed, not by things (that happen to them), but by the principles and opinions which they form concerning (those) things.  When we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles and opinions.”

Modern behavioral science agrees too.  American psychologist Albert Ellis has proven that how people react to events is determined predominantly by their view of the events, not the events themselves.

Realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.  Because inner peace does not depend on external conditions it’s what remains when you’ve surrendered your ego and worries.  The need for something to be different in this moment is nothing more than an egotistic worry, and worries like this simply lead you in circles.

4.  You learn more about how life really works.

When you attempt to control the uncontrollable you automatically block yourself from the truth.  You resist how everything works rather than learning about it.  So here’s a simple challenge for you:  Instead of trying to make things work exactly the way you want them to work, just watch them work today.

I bet you’ll learn much more about human nature and the inner workings of the world.  As you see things working without you controlling them, the way you see what you see will gradually change.  Because YOU will gradually change.  You will begin to understand that things are a little different than you wanted them to be.  And that’s perfectly OK.

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