Psychologist Nathaniel Branden said, “The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” I think about this simple line often, in my personal life as well as my professional life. I verily believe that our happiness grows in direct proportion to our ability to accept a situation for what it is, and our understanding that there is a way through any situation.

That way comes down to a very basic decision: Accept your situation for what it is and choose to STAY the course, or decide there are greener pastures and…GO!

Acceptance looks like a passive state—a giving up of sorts. But, I actually see acceptance as the most powerful stance in the world. Acceptance says, “I recognize that this is my reality and I am in charge of how I want to live my life. It is within my power and purview to impact my life and if I accept my circumstances as they are, I am actively choosing to do so.” It is the difference between active participation in life and being a doormat that brings us peace of mind and gratitude for even the most imperfect situation.

I’ve written in the past about my decision to leave a career in accounting to pursue my passion. Unsure what it was – but certain I wanted to put my strong communication and relationship skills to work – I made a conscious decision to change direction, open my own firm, and counsel financial advisors on finding the best path for their own careers. Make no mistake, taking this leap was huge and took enormous courage, but well worth it in the end.

What I have found, though, is that change isn’t always the answer for everyone. Take my friend, Janine. She is very well-respected in her field, yet a few years ago was feeling less-than-satisfied at her job. Curious about what other opportunities might be available to her, she began to wonder if, perhaps, the grass could be greener elsewhere.

So Janine began exploring her options. She dusted off her resume and dug into her network pool to see what she might be missing. She went on several interviews and even received an offer of more money from another firm.

Should she stay or should she go?

The new job, with its attractive salary, was definitely enticing. But, as she began to envision what her life could be like at this new firm, she realized that this exercise actually reignited her passion for her current company. The great benefits, the terrific team she had built from the ground up, and an understanding supervisor all had been part of her life for many years, and she had been very happy there. In weighing the possibilities opened up by the new opportunity against the realities of her current position, she began to feel that maybe her current firm was “good enough”. And having done her due diligence and explored what options existed, she felt a renewed sense that she was – already – in the best place for her.

After much exploration and soul searching, Janine and I came to very different conclusions, but in the end, we share common ground: The awareness and acknowledgment of imperfection, the strength and willingness to do something about it, and the wisdom to actively choose the path that best fit.

Going through your day with blinders on – which may seem like acceptance – is simply a choice to ignore what’s going on around you. Becoming aware of what’s working for you and what’s not, will allow you to either accept your current situation with greater empowerment, or propel you to seek another path. Either way, the choice is yours.