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Acceptance is one of the most difficult things for us to do. Each of us is strongly attached to our past and our expectations of the future and of other people.
This is my favorite definition of acceptance so far (from the Cambridge dictionary): acceptance is a general agreement that something is satisfactory.
Awareness allows to see or realize ‘what is’ or ‘what was’. Acceptance is when we remove the judgment of those situations or people and tell ourselves ‘everything is (or was) perfectly okay’.
Without acceptance we would fight our past, aspects of ourselves that we may not like, or we may try to ‘change’ other people into acting in the way we think is appropriate. So much wasted work and energy!
Internalizing acceptance helps us remove judgment, fear, and attachment to specific results. This allows us to operate at or tap into high anabolic energy more frequently.
Let us not confuse acceptance with acquiescence. In acceptance there is action and control: we decide to remove judgment from a situation or person. Acquiescence is a passive submission to what is.
Also, the fact that we accept what is and what was does not mean that we would not want to continuously improve as we gain experience and feedback.
How can we increase acceptance?
1) Accept the past
This first step is to clearly understand how our prior experiences have shaped our perspective, decision-making process, and even where we currently are. These factors have defined who we are today. And today we have the option to start building our future.
Because of all that I have experienced so far, I could not think, feel, act or be any different… until today. It is natural based on my life experiences that I would react in X manner to an event. In the same way, it is completely normal that you, based on your experiences, upbringing, and so on would react in Y manner to the same event.
Once we create the awareness of our past and accept it as ‘it was’ we can now choose to not let our prior experiences limit us. Some of my clients had traumatic childhoods (abandonment, being raised in several foster homes, physical and emotional abuse, etc.). They have chosen to not let their past limit their present and future. Today, they are the exception: they lead satisfying and challenging careers and seek constant improvement.
“It is us, not history, that creates the future.” iPEC COR.E Foundation Principle
2) We are always doing the best we can
Unless we suffer from a psychological or social disorder, we do not usually wake up every day thinking ‘how am I going to mess up today?’ or ‘how am I going to make my colleagues’ life more difficult this week?’
Ninety nine percent of the time we are doing the best we can. And other people are doing the best they can as well.
I invite my clients to think about practicing a skill as if they were learning a new language. When we first start speaking a foreign language, it feels awkward. We first think in our original language, organize the words in the new one, and then blurt something out, usually with a terrible accent. As we become more proficient, the process starts to feel more natural.
Next time you try something, and the results are not what you initially expected, shift your internal dialogue from ‘I can’t believe I messed up, again!’ to ‘what is the lesson? What will I do differently next time? What worked?’
Similarly, when we feel disappointed or angry with someone else, we want to remove judgment and go into acceptance. Based on this person’s experience, it is perfectly understandable that they made that decision, reacted in a specific manner, etc.
This does not mean we would not discuss our feelings and expectations with the people in question as needed. With acceptance, our conversations are more open, less judgmental, and we can focus on the behavior instead of the person.
“If you want to be happy, put your effort into controlling the sail, not the wind.” – Anonymous
3) Don’t take it personally
This is one of my favorite steps because we all think we are the center of the universe. If the waiter at the restaurant brings us the incorrect order, it is because he has something against us. If the cable company charges us for something we did not order, it is because they are out there to ‘get us’. And nothing is farthest from the truth.
Things happen. Everyone is doing the best they can, and we are fallible, fragile human beings.
We take events and other people’s actions or words personally when we interpret them as going against our values, or when our gremlin or inner critic is activated.
“What people say and do is about them; how we interpret their words and actions is about us.” iPEC COR.E Foundation Principle
4) It is neither good nor bad, it just is
We are judgmental beings. Our survival as a species depended on us judging people and situations around us.
When we stop or significantly decrease judgment, we come closer to accepting what is.
One method to become more aware of our judgment is to have a judgment journal for a while. I did it a couple of years ago. This helped me become aware of each judgment, when I judged more frequently, and what kind of things I judged the most.
“Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” Wayne Dyer
5) Release expectations
Life is full of surprises. Some people welcome those unexpected results and others do not.
I am shifting to the camp of allowing life to startle me. My goal is to fully focus on the process and accept every result as part of the overall feedback that will help me learn, pivot, and continue.
Every event and person we encounter in our lifetime has a specific purpose for each of us. Sometimes we learn the lessons quickly and sometimes it takes a long period for us to realize what we were supposed to take from the experience.
This concept applies to us as well. How much time and energy many of us has wasted in trying to be someone else! Every day I remind myself and accept where I currently am in life and what I can do.
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you gonna get.” Forrest Gump
Anything that decreases capacity diminishes potential performance. Low or lack of acceptance does both.
Our capacity declines because we fight or judge what is. That takes away energy and distracts us from our current or potential performance.
The five steps described here will help us move towards acceptance, which in turn, will allow us to access high anabolic energy levels more often. This results in great performance as leaders across all areas of our life.
How do you go about increasing acceptance? Which of these steps will you try first? Please, let us know in the comments. You can write in English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.
My mission is to help women transition from mid to senior level leadership by creating awareness, increasing emotional intelligence, and unveiling the tools and choices available to them so they can confidently realize and fulfill their potential.
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