Have you ever gotten caught up in believing that you just need to accept something about yourself or your experience that doesn't feel right? Probably. Doesn't everyone in the world of wellness and spirituality teach us to practice acceptance?
Well, if you've struggled with practicing the art of acceptance, then this article is for you. If you've found yourself frustrated or sad or angry time after time when trying to arrive at a place of acceptance, you aren't flawed. Sometimes the advice to "just accept the way things are" doesn't cut it.
Let me tell you a story:
Lacey was overwhelmed. A visionary entrepreneur with a business intended to transform the environment around her, she noticed she was falling into a tailspin when her four kids were all home together in the same room. She'd be helping one with her homework and the others would either be asking for attention and/or then fighting with each other. It was just too much for her.
My first response was to tell Lacey, "Well, that's just the way it is." I'm not unkind or callous. Accepting what is allows us to find flexibility and space in hard situations. It helps us not feel stuck.
That said, there was a "loud" silence as Lacey processed my response. We then talked some more about what was so bad about her experience. During the conversation, she discovered a connection to some old patterns and negative ways of thinking. Identifying this allowed Lacey to feel more empowered, and feel less bound up in the intensity of her current situation.
The next time we spoke about her home-life stress, Lacey admitted, "Now that I've found a way to be less reactive, my kids are less reactive." This statement reflects what I see as a universal truth. Lacey had recognized her power, and by doing so, had transformed her reality.
Acceptance of "what is" just the first step. The next one is actively realizing our power to transform. To align with our power, we must stop identifying ourselves as victims. Then and only then can we make external changes that reflect what we deserve.
Here are five steps to go beyond acceptance when you're in a difficult situation. You may just transform your reality ...
1. Accept what is.
OK. I know I said that we'd go beyond acceptance, but this is just the first, preliminary step. Knowing that you are cultivating the practice of acceptance is not just a means to an end. You are making a choice to realize that something isn't right for you. That is a truth, and one that you can accept. In doing so, you are making a choice to arrive at a place of greater empowerment, no longer waiting for something outside you to change.
2. Invite yourself to ask tough questions.
Specifically, ask yourself questions that have transformative potential. Specifically, ask yourself this: If I am the only person who can transform this situation, what does that change for me? If nobody besides you can bring you the outcome you desire, what does that mean? It means that you need to own your difficulty, and ask questions that you may not want to ask.
3. Align with your power.
What does this mean? Visualize yourself physically stepping into a place of strength. Know that your situation is happening for a reason. This is a little different from "just accepting." It is realizing that difficulty is always an opportunity. You are facing challenges to help yourself realize your innate capacity to create new situations, and to strengthen your knowledge that this is always available to you.
4. Shift your internal story.
Specifically, move from saying things like, "I wish this would change" to "This is what's happening" and then into "Well, good thing I can shift this."
5. Act with softness.
You are inviting — rather than forcing — yourself to act. In each action or change in the way you react, let there be a softness, a trust, a self-awareness that the act of inviting yourself to do something will create a more magical outcome.
The danger of seeing acceptance as the be-all end-all solution is that it can mean we stay stuck in something far less than we deserve. Lacey could have continued to try to just be OK with what was going on around her, without looking deeply at the internal changes available to her in order to shift her attitude. She would have missed out on seeing her external situation transform, simply as a result of her powerful thoughts.
At its worst, acceptance causes us to stay stuck in something that truly doesn't serve us, and is far less than we deserve. At its best, acceptance is about empowerment.
I learn this over and over again when something I don't want to happen comes up in my life. My first step is to recognize when I'm in a state of resistance. I ask, "Why is this happening to me?" or say, "This is not what I wanted to happen." I cultivate radical honesty, even though it often takes me a while to catch myself. But once I do, I consciously move from resistance to acceptance of what is. I do this not because I believe that what's happening is the way things are "destined to be." I do this because acceptance lands me in a position of actually being able to transform what's happening.
How does this show up in your life? Are you ready to go from resisting what is to experiencing the transformative power of accepting it and then creating something better?
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