Do I have the self acceptance and serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference?
Accepting it like it is (Audio)
How accepting are you of “it is like it is”? How well can you differentiate between what you can control and what you can’t? Are you more a “worrier” or more an “acceptor”? Are you always “in control”? Do you need to be? Does it “always have to be right”? Do you ever feel overwhelmed?
Accepting things the way they are is a topic I have found many people sometimes to be wrestling with, hence this is the area I’d like to cover this week.
There are many dictionary definitions and meanings for the word acceptance, and I just want to use a few:
- Self acceptance is loving and being happy with who you are NOW. Some call it self-esteem, others self-love.
- Acceptance can mean that you perceive reality accurately and consciously acknowledge what you perceive.
- It can be a person’s agreement to experience a situation, to follow a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it, protest, or exit.
- I like Eckhart Tolle’s (Power of Now) defining acceptance as a “this is it” response to anything occurring in any moment of life. There, strength, peace and serenity are available when one stops struggling to resist, or hang on tightly to what is so in any given moment.
As they say in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today… I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment”.
You are probably also familiar with the famous “serenity prayer”:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
I learned from a mentor to understand and expect that if I am doing something meaningful, it may run contrary to “the herd” and that consequently my resolve will be tested; that I need to “get good at my dislikes” and enjoy the learnings that come from it. (If it’s paining, I must be gaining).
He emphasized practicing humility; letting go of my ego driven view of who I am being dependent on what I do or have; humbly knowing that I can make a difference by developing things I don’t (yet) know how to do, by building on those that I already do know. That it all starts with allowing ourselves to try to see and accept things as they are, whether perceived or real. That this will always take us further than trying to worry about getting everything right.
He further suggested we develop an attitude of accepting everything that has already occurred and still due to happen in my life along the lines of: “it is like it is”. That requires patience. It requires Beliefs. In my blog Trusting oneself I spoke about embracing uncertainty and unfamiliarity and trusting in yourself that what you need will materialize as and when you need it. That is enhanced when we accept things they way they are or the way we see them to start with.
Sage advice. I’m still working on those, I can tell you. They are all linked, aren’t they?
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by events or situations? Of course we all do from time to time, some more and some less than others, right?
I have learned that overwhelm is the perception of a lack of choices. I have also learned that it is usually “made in the mind”, as I have outlined in my blogs Dealing with Fear and Self Talk, that these situations are more often than not simply an accumulation of worry creating a perception that is in most cases not reality nor is it likely to actually manifest, right? (Remember how we defined worry as: “our minds imagining something that we do not want”?
Just this week I was working with a very capable client who finds herself in a situation of much corporate volatility amidst weeks of massive restructuring upheaval, resulting in an almost complete vacuum of any decisions being made. In our conversation she realized how she had allowed herself to be “sucked into” that situation. When we asked how we could reframe that (as in Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself) we ended up agreeing that if she could “just accept the situation as it is” she could use that time of “things drifting around her” to focus her attention on what “mattered to her” and so we developed an agenda we called her “MBA” (working on developing My Business Acumen) instead. Remember the “serenity prayer”?
It is what it is
Yep, if we are able to step back (remember that when your palm is touching your nose, you can’t see your fingers, but if you stretch your arm away from your face – there they are, and you can suddenly see the wood for the trees again) and just put some distance between the situation we are currently wrestling with (as I described in my blog Attached and Detached) then we can better see it for what it really is.
We can differentiate what is reality and what may be perception. What you focus on is what you get. It is a choice we can make in such situations, isn’t it?
Remember Dr. John DeMartini ‘s quote: “what you think about and thank about, you bring about”? We can choose to focus on what we don’t want or to focus on what we do want. In my blog Moving Away versus Moving Towards I spoke about differentiating “I don’t want to be ill” from “I want to be healthy”, that the unconscious mind catches the operative words ill or healthy, promoting the saying: “what you focus on is what you get”.
I have been working with a magnificent client in Singapore, who has just successfully completed a system implementation on a scale and a timeframe ambition that has never been attempted, let alone achieved anywhere in the world. I have been in absolute awe of the extent of the investment in professional resources and processes that took, obviously driven by a very lucrative set of business outcomes.
When so much is at stake, it is very easy to experience the risk of overwhelm when the inevitable things that can go wrong, do go wrong. It can be quite easy to see and worry about worst case scenarios, to get all worked up, make oneself (and those around us) feel really bad, thereby often paralyzing oneself from taking the right actions.
One factor that inspired this blog was the presence and amazing ability of my friend, client and business partner Mark Cooper to simply accept situations as they materialized, and without concerning himself with blame, steadfastly sticking to his plan, exercising patience in the moment, trusting and believing in the experience of the professional resources and the agreed processes around him and his team and calmly working through the options they collectively saw to remedy that situation so as to keep going until it was successfully done.
The media was (justifiably) full of praise and reflection following the sad passing of Steve Jobs last week. I re-read his now famous speech to Harvard university students way back when and reflecting in the context of this blog how (obviously influenced by the terminality of his illness diagnosis) he would look at himself in the mirror each day and check in with himself whether he was doing on that day that which would be befitting of his last day alive. Remember that 7 years passed between his diagnosis and his eventual passing and look at what he still achieved in that timeframe. Just accepting things with him as they were and moving on. Sticking with What is your purpose? and always making a difference; every day.
To me all of the above boils down to a few simple truths.
Whilst we like to think that we are in control, the reality is that we can never control everything, can we?
Learning the difference between what is real and what is perceived is a skill.
Knowing what we can’t and accepting that, so as to focus our energy on that which we can control is a skill.
Both can be learned. They are “made in the head” and they are a choice.
If you were to check in with your situation of where you think you are positioned in your “life’s work” right now, how might accepting that just the way it is right now help you to detach yourself from any worry or struggle or constraint thinking? What if that were to enable you to reconnect with what really matters to you, rather than worrying about some of the details?
And if you were to engage a coach to help you sounding board that, what (made in your mind) obstacles might you further overcome?
What if you could?
Nice work Heiner.
This is something I have personally been working on (and getting better at) for the last few years. I’ve found that the more I accept things (myself, others, situations), the more I am at peace with the world. And I think it leads naturally to more patience.
As a project manager I found it crucial to maintaining my sanity. It was common for things beyond my control to happen, and by accepting them (and accepting that they will always happen), I was able to adopt an attitude of dealing with things as needed, rather than worrying or feeling overwhelmed.
One word of warning for others though, don’t take acceptance to the point where you use it as an excuse, or to justify giving up (ie. I can’t do anything about x anyway, so I won’t even try).
You make really good points Dino, thanx.