You can’t control the things most worth having.


There are things you can control: what you put in your mouth, which radio station you listen to, and what you say, to name a few.

If you’d asked me if we could control our lives a few years ago I would have said an unequivocal yes. And I would have thought you were wrong if you’d said no.

Then I had a baby.

I no longer control when I wake up, how long I sleep, if I shower, how tidy my home is, when I leave the house, or what I do during the day.

Going through labor and birth gave me the first clue (or the first smack upside the head with an anvil) that I was no longer in control.

As the weeks with a newborn turned into months with an infant, and the sleepless nights and days marked by lack of personal hygiene got strung together, I realized it’s not just giving birth and parenting that you can’t control.

As it turns out, none of us have control over the things that matter most.

Try dictating when you’re going to fall in love, get the idea for your next brilliant piece of work, meet your soul sister, or need to drop everything to stand by the bedside of someone you love.

We don’t get to choose when, how, or where the most meaningful things in our lives happen.

But they do happen. To everyone.

Yes, we can make them more welcome through manifesting, meditation, visioning, and other kinds of keeping our vibes high.

But we can’t call up and say, “One handsome husband, please!” like we can call up and order a double cheese pizza. (Vegan and dairy-free, of course.)

The things that matter most are simply bigger than that. They’re bigger than us.

We can’t control when or how the things worth having most will show up, but sitting around waiting for things to happen to us isn’t an awesome use of our time. So what are we to do?

We surrender.
We say the serenity prayer as many times a day as it takes:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

We go ahead and courageously wield control over the things we can control.

And we courageously let go of the things we can’t – every single moment of every single day.

We choose our perspective. We choose to breathe.

And we bask in awe of the fact that this magnificent, wild thing called life is happening, and while we’re part of it we’re not controlling it, at least not the parts that matter most.

And that’s the most wondrous part.

Because how much fun would it be if we were running the whole show and always knew what was going to happen, when, and how?

It would take the miracle right out of it, I think.

May we all keep doing the things we can to steer our ships while surrendering to the fact that the wind and the weather really aren’t up to us. {Tweet It!}


May we revel in the miracle that the things that matter most are bigger than any of us. 

And may this truth bring serenity because being in control of everything sounds pretty exhausting anyway.



How do you surrender to the things you can’t control in life? I’d love to hear your wisdom in the comments!


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  • Penny

    Widowed a few weeks after my 50th birthday…I surrender with Grace… my only option. From start to finish (which was 6 months) diagnosis to death my husband lived without one complaint and showed more determination and Grace than anyone I’ve ever known. One day on top of the world… the next without a stomach. Grace….It’s the only way I can honor him… And myself.

    What I’ve learned since my loss…

    Nothing… And I mean no-thing is more important than one’s health and the health of our loved ones. Try for one moment to imagine a cherished, loved and adored person in your life not being there when you get home tonight. Our health: Cherish it… nurture it… body… mind… and soul.

    Do whatever it takes to forgive so we can surrender to the miracles and beauty of life. Yes there are miracles even after massive paralyzing loss.

    There isn’t a material possession that can take the place of the people in our lives. Let go of what doesn’t serve you anymore.

    Be very selective to what you give your energy to… Make sure it nurtures your soul…

    Life is precious and short… Live it being grateful, thankful with abundant Grace.

  • M

    Well, Every thing is in some way a good thing, so, gratitude for all is called for, yet, as the Human, I am thankful for the “good” stuff, I say THANK YOU!, and when it’s “not so good”, This too shall Pass. Really, the millisecond we give our attention to something, the next millisecond has already occurred,that Universal Expansion, we entitled”time”, that is totally out of our control… and on and on we all go.

  • Hannah

    I always enjoy your newletters.

  • Kate,
    Your post REALLY spoke to me today. I’m fighting a bit of a demon within that tells me I’m not in control and then I read this. And I relax. OK. I’m NOT in control of what happens. But I have faith that things will happen. I will get clients. I trust in the process. “It’s not happening fast enough” my fear screams! It’s a push, pull, relax and let go cycle, over and over. It’s posts like this that remind me to relax and let go sooner. The “struggle” is not going to get me anywhere but deeper in the quicksand. I’m going into the let go cycle today. And maybe cry a little too – just to release the saddness. And tomorrow I’ll be stronger. Sorry for the vent. But thanks for the inspiration.
    ~ Maureen

  • Ginger

    Thank you for a message I needed to hear. How do I surrender? Honestly, it is a daily struggle. The serenity prayer helps, and I fight to keep myself from sliding into the rabbit hole when my efforts do not bring about desired results. When I surrender, I question if I am not trying hard enough. I like where this article states “it is bigger than you” and “you can’t control the things most worth having”. I think this is true. Perhaps surrender it, believe it is in good hands, take care of myself in in the meantime, and believe that when the time comes for me to act I will know it and will be ready.

  • This was beautifly said: “As the weeks with a newborn turned into months with an infant, and the sleepless nights and days marked by lack of personal hygiene got strung together, I realized it’s not just giving birth and parenting that you can’t control”
    I have an 8 months old baby boy……I wait for this moment for more than 10 years (fertility issues…and divorce), and I can say today (40 years old and remarried) that for ensuring that you are ready to be a parent, you may need like 3 life together :)
    I read a recent post you wrote about being clear when you ask for things…and I loved it (only a mom who is breasfeeding know the value of every drop).
    The same as you, if somebody asked me if I have the control of my life, I would say YES, before my baby….But now I´m not only greatful to have a baby…I think this is the only way I could get so much wisdom about being humble, open, fluid, flexible, wholehearted…..and so on. Thanks for sharing so great and deep reflexions…I feel identify with must of your sharings.

    • Kate Northrup

      Congratulations on your babe Maru! It sounds like you have a beautiful perspective on the wild ride of motherhood!

  • mary bingham

    How do I surrender to what appears out of my control ?
    kicking and screaming
    sputtering and muttering
    fussing and curseing
    Finnaly, after the tantrum has run it’s course, with a sigh of relief, I surrender.
    Takes about 10 minutes.

  • Thank you Kate! I too am like you, pre-baby. I try to control more than I even realized. Reading your blog today really gave me a new perspective. I actually felt doors, like garage doors, open up in my mind. The image of the ship moving forward fearlessly and persistently in any weather conditions, while keeping sight of the destination, was so helpful. A sailor doesn’t throw their hands up if the seas get rough. They hanker down and keep moving forward, sometimes with a lot of strategy, but always with a lot of trust. It feels so good when seeing the horizon and reaching the destination.

    Thanks for that little grain of an idea that gave me a big reminder that I am on the right path.

  • Mona

    Things that are not in control have a bigger purpose, bigger than what we can sometimes see. Look back at how some of the most amazing things that have developed in your life, are they all a result of your perfect planning? Your children, who you are still getting to know, did you have a control on what personalities they would have? Wanting to be in complete control is a sign of distrust, not essentially in yourself but in universe. You trust the universe and you will realize that it gives you back what you sent out in it. That is when your become fearless and not in need to be in complete control.

  • O. G.

    Oh Kate! I so needed to read this today. I am already well aware of (and have been practicing) the truths you speak of above, for many years. However, I needed your reminder. Recently I have been mired in a love triangle quagmire involving an ex of mine and his best friend, whom I have fallen head over heels for. It is an extremely complex and delicate situation. The reminder from you that I am not in control of who I fall in love with came as such welcome relief from all the guilt and accusations (both internal and external) which have been flying around. I am building up the fearlessness to share my feelings with this person, in the knowledge that the rest of the outcome is not in my control. I give it all up to love! Thanks Kate, for sharing your practical wisdom. Loving your words and you!

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