​When You’ve Done All That You Can Do

It had been a long day.  Fatigue was wearing on all of us as we stumbled through the marathon of the typical suburban Saturday. Lessons, baseball, play practices, hair appointments, gym appointments, laundry and shopping – the list seemed endless. There was an issue with my son – in that he simply could not ‘remember’ to put his laundry away in spite of my incessant pleading.

There was a request to go to a friend’s house and so I asked the logical parental question, ‘have you done everything I’ve asked you to do today?’ He replied, ‘I’m not sure, what is it you wanted me to do again?’ I wanted to say, ‘put your f*cking laundry away, that’s what.’ But I didn’t of course, instead I brought out my award winning sarcastic tone and said, ‘weeellll, I believe I’ve asked you 6 times today to do one thing. Why don’t you think really hard about what that might be?’

Now, my son is a great kid. He’s one of those kids teachers send notes home about saying, ‘I wish I had 100 of him in my class.’  Literally, his school called me one day to tell me kids like my son were why they were so committed to do what they do everyday. There’s not a rude or disrespectful bone in that boy’s body. He deserves my best – sometimes he doesn’t get it.

I looked in the mirror and realized I’d done everything I could think of to do. I could not do any more – I could not physically make my son care about his laundry or put it away. As a parent I could incent, yes I could also punish or give a consequence. But it was beyond my ability to actually make him care. That level of engagement would have to come directly from him.

Trying to control his attitude about the laundry was making me a crazy person. I had to let it go. 

So many times in life we just stand there beating our head against the wall hoping for something to change – in a circumstance, in a relationship, whatever. But I'll let you in on a little secret. There is really very little you can ever control in this world. The only thing you have any real control over is you.

I’ve learned a very important discipline in my life – to take stock of a situation and ask, ‘ok, here are your circumstances – here is what’s happened – now, what are you going to do?’

Sometimes you can’t do it quicker, faster, better, cheaper, whatever – in other words, you’ve done all that you can do. It is in that moment you need to let go.

And that is when the magic happens. Releasing the expectation of a certain outcome is very powerful.  It shifts the focus off of the situation and/or person so you can begin to focus on you. Letting go is not abandoning but it might mean walking away. Letting go does not give you some sort of ‘get out of your problem free’ card either – you still have to work on the issue, but as it pertains to you and not the other person.

Who do I want to be in this situation?  How can I honor myself and others with what I’m facing right now?  Honoring someone else does not equal enabling and it is not synonymous with helping them avoid pain either.

Is there a situation in your life where you need to let go? I encourage you to give it a try.

Here’s to making it great.