Are you actively engaged with life? Do you believe if you want good things to happen, you need to go out and take action? Or do you sit back and let life come to you, trusting that life will provide you with all you need?
Last year, I wrote about The Surrender Experiment, Michael Singer’s absorbing story about saying yes to whatever life brings your way. It was Singer’s belief that we’d be better off if we stopped making our own major life decisions and instead accepted what “the flow of life” presented to us. His thinking went like this:
If the natural unfolding of the process of life can create and take care of the entire universe, is it really reasonable for us to assume that nothing good will happen unless we force it to?
For many of us brought up in a Western society, it was a tough idea to wrap our heads around. (In fact, a reader asked how this approach might work for someone struggling to get by and Singer offered a spirited response.) It’s also important to note that Singer was no homebody. While he may have surrendered to life, he was out in the trenches each day as the founder and head of a medical software company.
A different approach to life comes from the novelist J.C. Hutchins. In a short story he wrote several years ago, he decries the fact that we lead lives that are far too laid-back:
Most of us settle in, and settle for what we have. Rather than pursue, we accept. Our lives become unwitting celebrations of passivity…we pine for better lives, but live vicariously through our televisions.
Hutchins believes that what we need is a little gumption, a wonderful word that means a spirited initiative and resourcefulness. In effect, it’s a different approach to life than Singer’s, as it means actively engaging with life to get the things we want. Hutchins calls us to action:
Let’s declare war on passivity. Hush the inner voice that insists you’re over the hill, past your prime, unworthy of achieving those dreams. Get fired up. Find your backbone and your wings.
But how do you get “fired up” when your life has been dotted by failures or disappointments and you believe your best days may be behind you? I came across an easy 8-step guide that for me epitomizes what having gumption is all about. (Its source is unknown.) It means becoming an active participant in your life.
Missing somebody? Call.
Wanna meet up? Invite.
Wanna be understood? Explain.
Have questions? Ask.
Don’t like something? Say it.
Like something? State it.
Want something? Ask for it.
Love someone? Tell them.
My take: There are some big life decisions that we need to surrender to and let life take its course. But we also need to be active participants in our daily lives, and there may be no better way than with a little gumption.