Do you spend a lot of time thinking about what’s wrong or what needs to be different in your life?
Many of us do. It seems logical that only by identifying and focusing on what needs to change can we ever hope to get meaningful results. But is that really true?
This is a subject I have been pondering lately. One lockdown and a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears later, I have recently managed to complete my second book (out in November – watch this space!). One of the central themes of the book is acceptance. For me, it is acceptance – and not resistance – that is key to facilitating change. I know – it sounds a little counter-intuitive! But let me explain where I’m coming from.
The problem with always focusing on what needs to change in the future is that it skews you towards a negative mindset and prevents you from living in the present moment. Perhaps you think all would be well at work, if only your boss was different? Or maybe you feel your career could progress faster, if only the management culture in your firm was more diverse? Would life be a whole lot better, if only you were in a relationship? Do such thoughts consume you and occupy your mind? Do they prevent you from taking action?
These facts may indeed be true – but spending all your time and energy focusing on the negative aspects of them, or their perceived unfairness, is neither constructive nor helpful. Of course, you should try and affect the things that you CAN change – but by focusing on problems that you have no control over, you are squandering your personal resources and blocking yourself from finding solutions.
But isn’t this a sign of weakness, of giving up the fight?
No – acceptance is not acquiescence. It’s not conformity and it’s not reticence. It’s a choice. It’s a choice of calm over turbulence, of peace over resistance, of hope over struggle. Acceptance is strength – once you have put a stop to the continuous battle against circumstances beyond your control you will then be in a position to take ownership of the things you CAN change. When you accept something, you gain authority over it. And when you have authority over something, you suddenly have the power to move or change it. Acceptance isn’t a dead end. It’s your departure point for taking action and stepping into your power. It’s saying “this is the way things are, so now what?”
So – what if your boss’s management style leaves a lot to be desired? The fact is that you can’t control your boss – so don’t waste your time and energy railing against them him or her and wishing they were different. Focus on the reality. This is who they are. So now what? What can YOU do to improve your situation? You can’t change your boss, but you can change the way you experience your boss’s actions.
The key to acceptance, then, is removing judgment from your experience. Practise seeing things from a neutral perspective. See events and experiences for what they are in a factual and objective way – don’t ascribe values, qualities or emotions to them. Once you have neutralised a problem, you are in a far better position to evaluate it and solve it. You gain control of the experience because it becomes about how YOU choose to see it, and what action YOU choose to take. As the spiritual author Eckhart Tolle put it:
“Accept, then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it… This will miraculously transform your whole life”
I can’t promise any miracles, but I can promise you that acceptance will give you ownership, power and greater access to the resources that will get you the results you want. For more of my thoughts on the subject, tune into this week’s podcast. And contact me firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about my Having it all coaching programme.