Today I am going to talk to you about something I’ve personally struggled with for quite some time now.
Sometimes things just don’t go to plan – life has a habit of knocking us down when we least expect it. It can be disappointing or even disheartening to invest time, energy and effort into something and for it to fail in one way or another. It happens to us all, right?
Here’s what I’ve realised is so important for us all to learn and practice – acceptance.
Acceptance is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable” and also as the “willingness to tolerate a difficult situation”.
So what does this actually mean and how can it help you?
Let’s go over three key points:
- Acceptance is a deliberate choice
Acceptance is a verb, an act and therefore it is not a permanent state of being. Intuitively, you’ve got to choose to practice acceptance and in order for you to convert it into an instinctive habit, you’ve got to practice acceptance repeatedly and consistently to get better at it over time.
A common misconception with this approach is disorganised. It’s important to take each thing as it comes a day at a time and to live in the present, but that doesn’t mean you can’t organise a plan or think ahead of time. Acceptance isn’t just about choosing to live presently; it’s about living adaptively and being responsive to life’s inevitable fluidity and volatility. Acceptance is about going with the flow.
Look, I get it. It can be difficult to just accept what’s happened or is happening to you – it hurts. It’s less than ideal, but progression can only become attainable once you accept your past and accept your present. Acceptance opens up the opportunity for you to discover purpose and meaning from each of the life-events that impact you.
Choose to accept.
- Acceptance does not equal permanence
Another common misconception with acceptance is that you’re consequently quitting and giving up on the chance for change – this just isn’t true.
For example, you can (and should) accept your body for what it is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work towards achieving your desired body type. You might accept your broken relationship with a friend or relative, but that doesn’t mean that things will always be that way; you have the power to create change over time, all whilst being at peace with the here and now.
Sometimes certain situations seem hopelessly impossible but just remember that even though it might not change today, tomorrow or for a very long time, it can still change one day. And even if things don’t change, you must learn to be okay with that. Dwelling on “what could have been” will only worsen things. You might not actualise an ambition, such as achieving an academic goal or securing a particular job opportunity. Being able to recognise what you’ve gained in spite of the unattained objective is where the growth occurs; you’re still able to learn from the process and benefit from the experience.
This is approach replaces the typically defeatist attitude that is so common. By this, I’m talking about replacing the “all or nothing” mentality with a flexible, constructive approach; even in the presence of loss, know that better things are still available for you later. You are able to take the positive from most negative situations, even if you don’t realise it immediately. You’re allowed to be flexible with your goals – it’s okay to change your mind. You might be working towards something today that in a year’s time no longer suits the path that you’re on. Acceptance of the natural changes that may or may not come is just part of the never-ending maturity process.
The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. – Nathaniel Branden
- Acceptance influences your attitude and mental wellbeing
Here’s the most significant point associated to the idea of acceptance – I really want you to let this sink in.
As someone who’s dealt with (and to be honest still dealing with) mental illness, incorporating the act of acceptance into my daily approach is something that I believe can be incredibly healthy. If practiced and implemented effectively, it can help you to reduce worry both in terms of timespan and severity. As a result, it can potentially aid you in managing your relationship with anxiety and alleviating your feelings of depression.
Buddhism teachings state that suffering = pain x resistance.
Acceptance also includes the act of giving yourself permission to feel an emotion, even if it’s undesirable. Avoidance and denial of your emotions can cause your feelings of heartbreak, anger or grief to manifest over time and amplify later down the line. Resistance only leads to suffering – don’t skip over the natural grieving process and allow your body to let out what it needs to within a comfortable environment for you. By doing so, you may be able to convert a moment of happiness into a more long-lasting, enduring self-comfort.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before – focus only what you can control. Most of us, myself included, worry over variables outside of our control. It causes additional stress. By narrowing your attention to the things that we can actually influence, it reduces the chances of becoming mentally or emotionally overwhelmed by external factors.
The ability to accept a situation for what it is and go with the natural flow of life can be so powerful. It can alter the way in which you shape your thoughts, dictate your reactions and manage your emotions.
Happiness can exist only in acceptance. – George Orwell