The Power of Acceptance

On our journey to living fulfilling lives, we will hit roadblocks or moments of discontent and frustration. I can think of many of these moments I have experienced since leaving my job and starting down an entrepreneurial path two years ago. The first roadblock that comes to mind occurred while I prepared for my move from Arkansas to the San Francisco Bay Area to start my journey.

As I browsed the internet for available housing in the area, it became clear that the cost of living was drastically higher than where I currently lived, and I definitely had a momentary freak out. (Who wouldn’t when a 1,100 sq ft apartment in Fayetteville costs $650 a month, but one in Berkeley is closer to $3,500?!)

I’ll tell you what saved me from debilitating doubts: Acceptance. In that moment, I didn’t waste any energy fighting the reality that rent is high in the Bay. I didn’t get angry or contrary. I didn’t sit around wishing that it wasn’t the case. I accepted it, and it allowed me to move forward.  Ultimately, I found a great room in a shared house in the East Bay that gave me a launchpad for my dream.

“Acceptance.” What does this word mean exactly? At the basic level it means “the act of assenting or believing,” according to Dictionary.com. But how can this be applied to our daily lives, especially during times of stress or unpleasantness?

Upon first glance, we can take it to mean that we agree with what has happened or is happening, or that we are okay with it and have no desire to see it change. From this point of view acceptance feels like a burden. This is “resigned acceptance,” right? It’s the moment when we realize we are powerless to change what is happening so we just give in and relinquish all our power and hope.

However, acceptance is not really about being okay with WHAT is happening, but being okay with the fact that IT IS happening. If I had looked at the housing situation and said, “Yes! I accept this! I love that it’s more than twice as expensive to live there than where I am now!” that would make no sense. On the flip side, if I had come from a place of “resigned acceptance” and said, “Wow… It is way too expensive out there. There is nothing I can do about it and no way I can make that work,” then I would have given up all my power and may never have made the move at all.

What I actually mean by “acceptance” is that I accepted reality as it is, not wanting or needing it to be any different than it is in this present moment, and started making a plan from there. By practicing acceptance in this way, we can find peace and be empowered to handle the situation and find clarity in our decision making.

I’ll give you a hypothetical example. Say you have a book manuscript you gave months of time, effort and passion to create, and now it’s time to find a publisher. You send off the manuscript dozens of times and no one bites. Upon receipt of the 30th rejection letter it feels like the last straw, and frustration and doubt begin to set in.

Usually in these moments we get lost in the wish that reality was different, and our mind takes us on a magical mystery tour of doom where stories arise such as, “Why is this happening? No one likes my book. No one likes me,” or “I wish this wasn’t happening. Maybe if I had done something differently this wouldn’t be happening.” When we are lost in these stories, they prevent us from seeing what is truly happening and moving forward with a sense of clarity and confidence.

Back to the example. If you practice acceptance, as defined here, you might take a deep breath and affirm, “Ok, I have gotten 30 rejections. This doesn’t mean I am bad, or have failed, or anything else. It only means I have 30 rejections. It is okay. Now, what will I do next?”

Do you see the difference here? One scenario is filled with negative self-talk, panic, and anxiety, which can leave us feeling defeated, overwhelmed or powerless. The other option, the path of acceptance, fills us with nonjudgmental understanding and peace, and from that place we can look at the reality of the situation and make a decision on what to do from there.

From this place of calm, you may decide to keep reaching out to publishers. You may decide to revisit the manuscript. You may decide to publish it yourself. In any case, since you are coming from a place of strength rather than fear, you are much less likely to make a drastic decision like just giving up and perpetuating the false story that you are a failure.

Acceptance is not about agreeing with your current circumstances such that you do nothing to initiate change. It is about approaching your circumstances with nonjudgment and peace so you release reactionary responses and take intentional action through the power that comes from clarity and confidence.  These deliberate choices are much more likely to result in the best effort for our businesses, our work, and our lives.