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Acceptance- blessing or curse?

What are your views on acceptance?  Are you able to roll with the punches?  Or do you wrestle for control?  Do you see acceptance as a weakness?  Or is it a strength?  Is acceptance a blessing or a curse?

Taking Stock

As I explore acceptance, I notice that people seem so focused on the next thing, they do not take stock of where they are.  The question is always, “What next?” rather than “Where am I?” or “What is present now?” or even “What have I achieved?”.  You might benefit from asking, “What is the truth of this situation?” or “What do I need to accept right now?”  Before you launch into the next chapter of your life, or the next part of the project that has your attention right now, why not take some moments to take stock of where you are, what you have achieved, what the learning has been and then……………. what is next?

Acceptance is so fruitful.  It gives so much information if you can accept the reality of where you are on this journey called career, relationship, parenthood, business and life itself.  Acceptance does not mean that you have to like what you see, but it is the reality check you want so that you can see what needs to change and be done differently.  Reality can be challenging to face.  And it is not always easy to accept.

Here are some personal and client-based stories around acceptance:

Accepting Collaboration

For years I have held on to the mind set that I had to work alone and do everything myself.  It was exhausting.  There was simply too much to do and it all took too long.  I was fed up with working so hard for very little movement forward.  The obvious answer to this was to collaborate with others.  I realised that I am better as part of a team, offering my skills for the benefit of the whole, while I benefit from others’ skills.  Once I accepted the reality that I struggled alone, it was easy to recognise that collaboration was the answer.

But what did that look like?  More acceptance work, as I fumbled around looking for my ideal collaborative co-creators.  I made some mistakes that I had to accept and learn from, so that I could find better collaborators.  A few years in now, and I am collaborating with people who are a great fit.  What we co-create is wonderful, and just as importantly, the enjoyment of our co-creation is a delight.  Collaboration has to be joyful.  Things are meant to be joyful.  If you can take a look at reality and accept whether what you are doing is joyful or not, it tells you whether changes need to be made.  Accept the truth of reality and move on.

So, acceptance is essential.  Without it, you walk in cloud-cuckoo land.  But once you accept, action is the next step.  There is no point in taking action without looking at where you really are.  Without that reality check, you do not have your feet on the ground.  You can take all the action you want, but you will get nowhere.  You’ll get very tired, use a lot of energy and waste time, but you won’t move forward.  Accepting your reality allows you to grow forward into who you are going to become.  Acceptance is essential on your journey of becoming.

Acceptance and Self-Limiting Beliefs

But just because you accept, does not mean you will move forward.  You might accept limitations that hold you back and prevent your growth.  Or you might stick your head in the sand and refuse to act on what is before you.  We call these self-limiting beliefs in life coaching.  You might hold the belief that things cannot be different, or ask, “Who am I to change things?”

Employed to Self-employed

Self-limiting beliefs show up all the time in life coaching.  One client example was a young man who believed that he was only employable in the advertising sector.  When he was made redundant, during the recession in the early 2000s, he frantically looked for roles in that industry even though he was not happy in that work.  We discussed this and identified areas that he would like to explore as possible new career pathways.  After a little trial and error, he found a business concept that really made him fly.  And he could use the advertising skills he loved to promote the business venture.

Agency and Self-Authority

A personal example is a long-standing self-limiting belief around agency and self-authority.  A childhood belief I accepted was that I give up what I want for others and not make a stand for what I want.  That belief was so ingrained that I came to adulthood without much sense of what I wanted and certainly not the spine to go out into the world and get what I wanted.  I was too scared to ask myself the question, “What do I want?”  So, I had a lovely life riding on the coat tails of others.  Doing what they wanted for me.

Until I realised what was going on.  Accepting that was like a bomb shell.  It met with a lot of resistance and still does.  The first thing I did when I noticed this pattern was ask myself the question, “What do I want right now?”.  The answer was a beautiful climber to walk past and enjoy the sweet fragrance for myself and others.

So, I bought a Jasmine plant and placed it by our back door.  In four years, it has taken over the wall opposite the entrance to the house.  The smell of the flowers is intoxicating in early summer.  Every day I go out through that door, and enjoy the beautiful smells of Jasmine, which remind me that I have authority over my life and that I can choose what I want.  In fact, I am the only person responsible for my happiness and fulfilment.  It is a good reminder.

Life-Work Balance

One of the jobs of a coach is to stop you from sticking your head in the sand about an area in your life that is important to you.  A client took me on.  She was married to her business.   It took up all her time.  She hired me to get her life-work balance in harmony.

The pattern of working at the expense of her private life was so ingrained, it took some time to expose the reality of her situation.  She kept getting caught up with what she wanted, rather than taking stock and accepting the reality.  We cut back to the harsh reality, took stock of the cost to her emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.  She identified what she truly wanted and the risks she would take to achieve those dreams.  Acceptance was the first step towards breaking those self-limiting beliefs and taking action effectively and in a meaningful way.

Acceptance and Freedom

And then there is accepting circumstances as they are.  As I have explained previously, I have a weak left shoulder.  For many years in martial arts, I struggled to overcome this weakness but to no avail.  Finally, I had to accept that in that regard I was not on a parallel with my peers.  I had many other skills in which I excelled, but not in this area.  So, I accepted the limitation and worked around it, creating forms that worked to my strengths.  It was liberating to work with this new-found freedom that acceptance had given me.

Refusing Acceptance

Alternatively, you might decide not to accept things.  You might be so concerned about what you will find there if you look that you distract yourself with being busy without addressing the issue.  Or, in seeing reality, you might feel so strongly that you are inspired to take action and become a change maker.

Behaviours such as over eating or under eating, excessive alcohol consumption, over exercise, sex, gambling, recreational drugs, over work and gaming can all be strategies to distract you from looking at this issue you do not want to look at.  You may not be ready to look and that is OK.  When the time is right you will take the step.

I have stopped working with clients because they came to coaching for a particular reason.  But when it came to looking honestly at the situation, they could not bring themselves to take honest inventory.  The time wasn’t right.  And that is valuable information as well.  It is a kind of acceptance, which can be the most compassionate step.  I leave it with them that when the time feels right, we can resume.

Or, you might be ready for change.  Accepting the reality comes first and then you can take action because you do not accept that things will stay the same.    Like my example of working alone or my client’s career change, these were conscious decisions made because a more fulfilling life could be glimpsed.  Life is full of these opportunities to make a stand and create something new from this place of acceptance.  It is the road forward to an ever more fulfilling life.  Acceptance is the key.  Change and transformation the result.

Over to You

What role has acceptance played in your life?  Do you accept habitually?  Or is your habit not to accept?  How has acceptance served you?  Would you say that acceptance is a blessing or a curse?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.  Please comment below.  You might prefer to send me an e-mail.  If so, I’d be delighted to receive a message from you in my inbox instead.

Pass it on

Did you find this blog useful?  What are you taking away with you?  Do you know a friend, family member or colleague that would benefit from the same take away?  If so, please forward the link to them.  Let them know you are thinking of them and that you thought this blog might be of interest to them.  Thank you.

Lockdown- Resistance and Acceptance in our Coronavirus World

How are you doing as lockdown progresses?

Are you resisting the slowing down, or the speeding up, of your life?  Do you let the sense of limbo frustrate you or are you letting it go?  Are you being drawn further into your screens and out of your body, or is it the other way around?  Do you enjoy the stillness?  Or is it driving you crazy?

I am noticing a shift in myself, and other people, as this enforced lockdown, globally, is encouraging us to say “no” to the rat race and the relentless pressures of growth, expansion and competition.  It is also giving us the opportunity to say “yes” to being more present and mindful with ourselves, others and the world around us.  It opens us to being content with what we have as well as connecting to and sustaining community.  What gifts these things are.

Resistance

At the beginning, I also noticed an initial resistance.  Maybe you felt it too?  Or perhaps you are still resisting the inevitability and uncertainty of this Coronavirus situation.  It manifests as a “I can’t believe this is happening” or “What will I do?” or “What can I do?” “How will I cope?”  The tension that comes from worrying about money, business, family and friends is another sign of the resistance around having to give up control.  And frustration that so much is on-hold: house moves, career progress, business growth, birthdays, family and business events, weddings, schooling, funerals.  “When will things return to normal?” and “How long will I have to wait?” speak to that anxiety as well.

As a society, we are in pain over the loss of our old lives and the way we used to live.  Our resistance, though understandable, only leads to suffering as we grasp for more of what is not available to us right now.  Some of our old ways may never return and we will have to make our peace with that.  But, in the short-term, resistance prevents our ability to adapt, be flexible and creative.  The tension resistance creates stops our minds from finding solutions to the problems and prevents our bodies from living in peace and harmony with the landscape of ever-changing challenges.

Acceptance

But, if you can let go of the resistance and allow it to give way to acceptance, you can let go of this struggle that is beyond your power to control.  The questions then shift to “How can I make the best of this situation?”  “What are the advantages and possibilities?”  “What can I create from this?” “Where are the opportunities and how can I make them happen?”  People are adapting to a new normal.  They are appreciating that they could use their time differently.  That this way of life might have unforeseen advantages that could be sustainable in a post-Coronavirus world.

The impact of resistance on the mind and body is one of stress, anxiety, tension and dis-ease.  In contrast, acceptance leaves the body and mind at peace, ease and tranquil.  It’s just more pleasant to live through the Coronavirus experience this way, if you can.  Let go of what you cannot control, accept the reality of your situation, pay attention to your breath and notice your body.  Then, from this grounded place, take action.  Here is a video on these four points:

Here are 4 things I have noticed in myself and my community (both on- and off-line) that have come about as people have let go of their resistance and opened to acceptance.

  1. Opportunity

Your life was going in a particular direction and focused in a specific way before Coronavirus appeared.  And now, much of that is on-hold.  Others are completely blown out of the water.  Some things are accelerating.  This is an opportunity to pivot or change direction completely:

  • Working from home, shifting face-to-face meetings and training to online platforms.
  • Now you have time and space to create new projects and complete them, perhaps start new types of work or revenue-generating opportunities.
  • Many of us are travelling less and enjoying the extra time that gives to sleep longer, exercise and move more, connect with your loved ones more frequently and deeply and enjoy your local environment.
  • Old hobbies can be done in a different way now and with the additional time you have, why not take on a new hobby? Learn a language, develop a skill, try something you’ve always wanted to do or something completely new.  The opportunities are endless.
  • We are collectively taking a breath- humanity and the planet. As we pause, new insights come to us and we can embrace the potential opening.  This is a valuable opportunity to make slight and gentle adjustments that could have profound positive impact ten years from now and beyond.  Already the air is clearing, the oceans and rivers are cleaner and wildlife is safer to roam.
  1. Community

People are being so kind.  Reaching out to acquaintances and strangers to help and support.  We are reaching out to friends we barely speak with normally and building new relationships as people come together for a common cause.

We are, for the first time in human history, united under a common threat.  Imagine that?  Many of the differences that usually divide us are being put to one side so that we may come together and collaborate and help each other. Giving us the opportunity to come together and connect regardless of faith, gender, colour, nationality, sexual orientation or political persuasion.  Humanity is coming together as one and that is priceless.   What if we could keep that going once this threat is over?

This is also an ideal time to connect to people in your personal and professional networks and cement those relationships.  And, by opening new ventures, create new relationships that might breathe new life into your business or life in general.

  1. Simple Pleasures

Hasn’t life become much simpler suddenly?

We are being given the chance to enjoy the simple pleasures of life: walking, cycling, running, the natural world, cooking, gardening and conversation to name a few.  Life was so complex before Coronavirus that many people didn’t pay attention to these things.  You may have done them.  But you may not have been as attentive as you might have been while doing them.  Rushing to move on to the next thing?  Or thinking about the future or the past rather than paying attention to the present?  These are common ways of doing things in our modern world.

Coronavirus has slowed things down.  There is less of a rush.  Less of a drive to push that extra mile or two all the time.  Without that pressure, we are better able to enjoy each task as we are doing it.  Now, in the simplicity of life, there is a mindfulness that perhaps was not there before.

Taking time to notice the simple pleasures makes tasks that feel mundane when we are rushing, more pleasurable, purposeful and powerful when life is slower and simplified.

  1. Being Present

The opportunities, the connection to community and the simple pleasures allow us to be more present.  The slowing down allows us to take notice.  There is so much you could worry about for tomorrow, but you cannot answer or control those things.  So, let them go.  The slowing down means there is less to preoccupy your mind.  If you let it.  You could always let yourself worry more and more about the unknowns and the things out of your control.  But, when you let go and only focus on what is in your sphere of influence, you realise that, for now, there are only certain things you can do.

I have heard many people say that they are on their hamster wheel of worry and concern.  When I probe deeper, they say that they are thinking about things over which they have no control.  Nor can they answer the questions they are posing.  Lockdown is imposing a long horizon.  Much of our worlds are on-hold, an enforced stillness that we can either fight and know turmoil and distress.  Or let go into so that we might know greater tranquillity and peace.

So, allow yourself to be present in all that you are doing during the Coronavirus lockdown.  Allow these special moments to keep you present with what is in front of you.  Bask in the immediacy of what you are doing.  Know that there is no rat-race today.  There is nothing to chase.  Enjoy the reprieve that Coronavirus has given you, if you can.

An Invitation

Will you accept or resist?

This enforced lockdown has encouraged these behaviours.  Whether you are doing these things or not is a choice.  Perhaps the events are making that choice easier?  But never forget that it is a choice.

My invitation is to ask you to decide which of these choices will you chose to keep after Coronavirus.  When lockdown is done and the threat to our health is significantly reduced, what of this will you decide to maintain?  Here’s an earlier blog on what you might want to be thinking about when you are making choices.

When the world changes back, if it changes back, what will you commit to keeping the same?  The community?  The presence?  Your simple pleasures?  The opportunities?  Something else entirely?  If enough of us commit to keeping some of these things, perhaps the world will not go back to how it was.  Perhaps our working lives will change so that we commute less or connect more online at work.  Maybe we’ll socialise with our friends, family and communities more?  Perhaps we’ll travel less and care for the environment more?  Maybe we’ll reassess what productivity means and what a healthy economy and financial system looks like.

I don’t know.  But something is changing for the better in amongst all the pain, fear and anxiety.  What will you change and take into your new future?