Acceptance Is The First Step

Acceptance is the first step. True acceptance is hard. Changing and moving forward is harder. But the hardest thing of all is staying stuck where you are. You can pay the price of doing the hard work of accepting, then moving on. Or you can pay the higher price of doing nothing and stay stuck where you are. Either way, you’re going to pay. Why not choose the cost that leads to peace of mind and growth?
first step

We Never Know

“When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure,” Pema Chödrön writes, “we don’t know what’s really going to happen. When we think that something is going to give us misery, we don’t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.” [Steinberg] And one way I believe that you can open to not knowing is through acceptance, Excelerated Acceptance™ — identifying and accepting the things you are struggling with. Acceptance is the first step.

Why Choose Acceptance?

In order to change and grow, you must learn more than you know right now and be more than you are right now. Your opportunities to learn more and be more may be right in front of you, in the form of an adversity that you are facing.

Not everything we need to learn can be learned (or taught) from so-called positive experiences. Sometimes, we need to struggle with a problem to gain the strength we need to spread our wings and fly. Sometimes, Life has to do something to get our attention. But remember: Anything you struggle against grows stronger. Before you can change any situation, you must accept what is, not fight against it. Instead of fighting with the facts, put that energy into doing what you can do.

Napoleon Hill, author of Think And Grow Rich, said, “Every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” Embrace adversity. It is a teacher, sent to you with an important lesson.

What Acceptance Is Not

One stumbling block to accepting these things is that we confuse acceptance with giving up. We think that accepting something means getting over it. We equate acceptance with resignation. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval, agreement, condoning, consenting, or endorsement. Acceptance is not giving up or giving in. It is not surrendering.

Accepting doesn’t mean you can’t work to change things. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It simply means you understand that things are what they are and that what is, is.

Accepting the current reality is often the first step in making a change and moving ahead. But it is only one step. It is not the final result. Don’t get stuck at this level.

What Acceptance Is

Acceptance is the first step in moving forward. It is the first step to making a change when change is possible. And acceptance is the first step in finding peace of mind when change is not possible.

Acceptance means you acknowledge that this is the current reality; that you accept the struggle. From there, you can take the first baby steps forward, building momentum. Acceptance is acknowledging your feelings, then finding ways to change what you can.

Acceptance means accepting life as it is. Not what you wish it were. Not what you want it to be. Not what you think it should be. Acceptance does not mean passive resignation to life. In fact, it may take a tremendous amount of effort and motivation to “accept the things we cannot change” and to “change the things we can”.

Acceptance is realizing that to do anything other than accept is futile and likely painful. We can’t choose to have events or people be other than they are. But we can choose to accept them as they are and move on from there.

What Acceptance Does

When something does go wrong, as it inevitably will, Excelerated Acceptance™ allows you to identify and accept the things you are struggling with.

Pain does not equal suffering. It is the resistance to pain that causes suffering. Suffering comes when we “want reality to be different than it is”.

Truly accepting brings a new perspective and power. Power to take steps toward making a substantial change. Or the power to begin facing a situation you cannot change.

What Acceptance Doesn’t Do

Acceptance does not let you off the hook. To resolve the issue, you still have to do the work. Don’t use acceptance as a mental label to help yourself feel OK about not moving forward.

Benefits of Acceptance

We learn and grow more through adversity and failure than we do when everything goes completely our way.

You must not hide from your weaknesses, the places where you struggle. Hidden away, our weaknesses become a rotten place at our core, a festering wound closed off with no way to heal. When you embrace your weakness and accept it as part of who you are, you drain the wound and open it to light and air, so it can heal.

Drawbacks of Acceptance

The fact is sometimes you have to accept the struggle again and again and again.

When we encounter a problem, most of us expect to resolve it by making a change. Acceptance is not our goal . . . effecting the change is. And more precisely, successfully making the change. We consider acceptance to be failure to properly deal with the problem.

But acceptance, as we are using it, does not mean failure. Acceptance gives us the clarity to understand the situation for what it is, an important first step for successfully changing — either the situation or ourselves. This is uncomfortable if you want to stay stuck in a victim mentality – to place the problem “out there”. Acceptance requires us to take responsibility.

What To Do

Begin to practice amor fati (literally “loving fate”); not merely accepting but LOVING what is, LOVING fate or destiny.

An important first step is to accept the current situation as it is – “to accept the things I cannot change”. Don’t spend time wishing for a different outcome or engage in “what if’s” and “if only’s”.

Then, once you’ve taken that first step, consider these possibilities.

Embrace failure. It may be counterintuitive, but it is an important part of success – like the 2 sides of a coin. Failure provides vital feedback on what we need to improve. It is a powerful learning tool, if we remove any stigma of failure from our minds.

Learn the lesson. Adversity is a Teacher. Everything that comes to us in life, both positive things and negative things, successes and failures, brings a lesson. If you accept the things that happen — good and bad — you perceive the lessons more quickly. And learning the lesson leads to growth. If you don’t get it this time, you WILL get another lesson.

Act. To keep yourself out of the doldrums of negative thinking, take some action. When you face a setback or failure, get busy. You may not be ready to act on the event or situation that caused the failure or problem. That’s OK. Turn your attention to doing something – anything – else.

Stay positive and look for the “seed of good”. Finding the good in failure and adversity is hard to do. But when you find it, the darkest problems can yield the greatest blessings. The “seed of good” is always there, if you believe it is. And when you believe it is there, you will do the soul-searching that is often required to find it.

Accept that struggle will always be part of your reality. We are never “finished”, never exonerated. We can feel the pain but let go of the suffering. And through hope, we can begin to see the gift, the lesson, in the things we struggle to accept.

How To Do It

Remember the mantra, “No blame, no shame”. Neither feeling shame nor trying to place blame is helpful in any situation. When you look at adverse experiences as chances to learn, the concepts of “shame” and “blame” are no longer relevant. You may even find yourself feeling grateful for the lesson.

Regroup. A major failure is likely going to leave you a little shell-shocked. You feel disappointed. You may find the situation hard to believe or difficult to accept at first. You could be angry or hurt or embarrassed. It’s OK to take a few minutes or a few hours or a few days to regroup, to lick your wounds, and to take care of yourself. No pity parties but a little self-care is called for.

Keep your thoughts positive. We attract into our lives people and things that are in harmony with our dominant thoughts. These can be things you want or things you don’t want. Keep your thoughts in control and keep focused on the things you want to create for your life.

Embrace hope. Here’s what it means to have hope: You believe that the future will be better than the present and that you have the power to make it so. Hope is the idea that we can learn and grow and become better. This helps in our struggle to accept what is as we can see an outcome different from the present situation.

What Not To Do

It does no good to rail against the injustice or ask, “Why did this have to happen to me?” Nor is denial helpful. Denying it, arguing with it, does not help. And being impatient to get back to “normal” prevents you from learning the life lessons embedded in the changed circumstance.

Don’t shy away from challenges. Struggles are a way of life, and we have to learn to confront them. Changes are the result of cause and effect. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the effect. It doesn’t matter if you like the effect. Change is a process. Growth is a process. That is reality. And it does no good to fight against reality.

Some find it difficult to fully accept anything, good or bad. If something fortunate happens, we worry it won’t last. When something unfortunate happens, we worry it won’t end. Some of us fear that acceptance will lead – not to change – but to resignation and giving up. When you face an overwhelming situation, it may seem easier to abandon hope and give in to the misery.

To begin healing and to recover from the hard, the unpleasant, and the painful we encounter as a part of living, we must stop replaying them again and again in our heads, wishing for a different outcome and grumbling about the way things should be.

How To Choose Acceptance

Someone once said it isn’t what happens to us that matters, it’s our reaction to what happens that is important. While I agree that we don’t control everything that happens to us, I do know that we control our thoughts and our reactions to what happens to us. Regardless of the stuff that happens to you (and remember that nugget of wisdom, “Shxx happens”), search for the seed of benefit. It’s there. It’s always there.

  1. If you see an obvious path forward, a solution to your problem, take it. So, if you have a problem that you can solve, then that is the first option. If you can’t resolve the issue, but you can alter your perception of it, then change your perspective. If you can’t solve it or change your perception of an issue, then practice radical acceptance.
    o Get into a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
    o Focus on your breathing.
    o Breathe normally and “watch” your breath go in and out.
    o Then, notice any thoughts that come up: “This isn’t fair!” “This shouldn’t have happened.” “Why me?”
    o Let the thoughts come in and let them go.
    o Repeat an accepting statement, such as “It is what it is.”
  2. If you think you have failed because you weren’t perfect, change your perspective. “It isn’t because you’re you, it’s because you’re human.”
  3. Instead of attaching labels of “good” or “bad” or “should” or “shouldn’t”, see things as “that’s how they are”.

When You Don’t Accept

Before you can change any situation, you must accept what is, not fight against it. Anything you struggle against grows stronger. If you ignore the subtle message, it gets louder and louder until you are forced to deal with a much bigger issue.

As long as you think the problem is “out there”, you have your excuse to stay stuck. “If you immediately respond to things (positive and negative; wanted and unwanted) as they come to you, almost all of them can immediately become opportunities. And if you don’t, they can turn into something really unpleasant.” ~ Thomas Leonard

True acceptance is hard. Changing and moving forward is harder. But you know what the hardest thing of all is? Staying stuck where you are. Failing to accept reality creates suffering where there’s already pain. You can pay the price of doing the hard work of accepting, then move on. Or you can pay the higher price of doing nothing, of using “acceptance” as an excuse to stay stuck where you are.

Either way, you’re going to pay.

When You Accept

Acceptance is the first step for change and growth. Taking the first small step starts to build forward momentum. Until we accept, we are going in circles at best, stuck in rumination and wishful thinking.

We don’t practice acceptance to change what has already occurred or to make ourselves feel OK about it. We accept because it’s the only thing that makes sense. Things are what they are; life is what it is. Resisting won’t change that. Once we accept, then we can rationally decide what we can change and get to work on that.

Accept your reality. Denying it or lashing out against it won’t make anything be different nor will it help you move forward. When you get the subtle message and learn the lesson, you move on to other things and other lessons.

Give thanks for the blessings of adversity — one day, they will enable you to soar.

Take The First Step

There once was an advertisement for car maintenance with the catchphrase: “Pay me now or pay me later.” It meant you can pay a relatively small amount for maintenance now or pay a much greater amount for repairs later.

When will you pay? You can pay the price of doing the hard work of accepting, then moving on. Or you can pay the higher price of doing nothing, of using “acceptance” as an excuse to stay stuck where you are. Either way, you’re going to pay. Why not choose the cost that leads to peace of mind and growth? Why not choose Excelerated Acceptance™? That is embracing your Excelerated Life™!

Excelerated Acceptance™ – identifying and accepting the things you are struggling with — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life™.


Steinberg, Eden (Ed). The Pocket Pema Chödrön. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2008.

Hill, Napoleon. Think and Grow Rich. New York: Fawcett Books, 1987.

Kress, Melissa. “The Riddle of Spinx.” Dec. 12, 2011, Nov. 6, 2012

Leonard, Thomas. The 28 Laws Of Attraction. New York: Scribner, 1998.

McWilliams, Peter. Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School – But Didn’t. Allen Park, MI: Mary Books / Prelude Press, 1994.

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