If you can’t walk away from a situation and you can’t change it, acceptance becomes the only viable option if you want to find any peace. There are things in life that we can’t change and we can’t walk away from. Acceptance gives us the clarity to understand the situation for what it is. Own your outcomes and choose acceptance over struggle.
He Didn’t Make The Team
When Michael Jordan was a 15-year-old kid in Wilmington, NC, he tried out for the varsity basketball team. But the skinny, 5-foot 10-inch sophomore had neither the build nor the skills to make the team. Instead, he was demoted to the junior varsity.
Now, many people in this situation would give up or at a minimum scale back their aspirations. Not Michael Jordan. He accepted his situation and made up his mind to get better. As Jordan told ESPN, “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it.”
That summer, Michael Jordan grew four inches. He worked out consistently and bulked up. He became a star on the varsity team, averaging over 20 points per game. [Rao]
Jordan overcame a major obstacle standing in the way of his desire to be a basketball player by doing what few of us do. Instead of struggling against reality, cursing his fate, Micheal Jordan accepted the situation, then got to work changing what he could change. And he went on to become, well, Michael Jordan.
The Choice: Acceptance or Struggling
“There are few better things you can do for yourself than giving up the fictional version of your life and learning to accept yourself, your life, and your reality. Even if your situation is terrible, the first step in improving it is acknowledging it for what it is.” [Daskal]
According to Wikipedia, acceptance in psychology, “is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it.” [“Acceptance”-Wikipedia]
When we come face-to-face with a barrier, with grief, with hardship, with disappointment, with a pandemic, with a loss of a job, or a friendship, or a loved one, we have a choice, although it can be difficult to see at the time. Wanting the situation to be different, something other than it is, which is basically out of our control, causes more pain.
To borrow from the Buddha, these are the darts that life throws at us and they cause pain. But when we struggle against them, it is the struggle that causes suffering. These are the second darts that we throw at ourselves. Besides, as Byron Katie says, “When I argue with reality, I lose – but only 100% of the time.”
Assuredly, life brings us many challenges and it’s normal to wish those things had never happened. But struggling, arguing with reality, only makes us feel worse, makes us feel helpless. We are not helpless. Accepting the situation is the first step in overcoming whatever it is we are struggling with.
When You Struggle With Reality
To struggle is “to experience difficulty and make a very great effort in order to do something.”  When you struggle you expend a lot of energy for little return. You’re looking at the problem or issue with blinders on such that you’re only able to see the problem. You’re unable to see any possible solutions or alternatives.
And as we noted earlier, by failing to accept what is, you are turning pain into suffering, throwing the second dart at yourself. But you can choose acceptance over struggling.
When You Accept
Let’s be clear. Acceptance does not mean you agree with or like or approve or choose the thing you must accept. And it doesn’t mean you accept that it’s going to be like this forever. By choosing acceptance, you give yourself permission to feel what you feel without judgment.
Resisting or denying the situation can throw you off balance, creating even more stress. [Reuben-Theodore] Choosing acceptance frees you from “trying to avoid, deny, or push away our feelings.” [Reuben-Theodore] When you accept, you step off the treadmill of whys, what ifs, and if onlys. When you accept, you can begin to deal with the situation.
Understand that none of this involves “getting over it”, surrendering, or minimizing the significance of the situation. [Marlin] Acceptance doesn’t mean what is isn’t hurtful or wrong. But failing to accept leaves you stuck, arguing with reality. Only after you accept what is can you begin to see a path forward.
Accepting is an active undertaking, not something you do passively. And, like any skill, acceptance must be practiced. We have ample opportunities to practice accepting as we strive to be accepting in all areas of life: our current experience, other peoples’ beliefs and ideas, our own emotions, our health, our thoughts, anything we are struggling against.
Psychologist Marsha Linehan, working in the field of mental health, realized two important concepts. “One of these was that to achieve meaningful and happy lives, people must learn to accept things as they are. The other was that change is necessary for growth and happiness.” These two concepts are the foundation of her Dialectical Behavioral Therapy [DBT]. [“Marsha M. Linehan”-Wikipedia]
Per Dr. Linehan, we have four options when we face a challenging situation:
- We can leave the situation, walk away from it.
- We can change the situation.
- We can accept it.
- Or, we can stay miserable.
If we can’t walk away from the situation and we can’t change it, acceptance becomes the only viable option if we want to find any peace. Plus, once we accept it, we may discover that there are some things about the situation that we can change.
Sometimes, we have to practice accepting the struggle again and again and again. There are things in life that we can’t change and we can’t walk away from. Acceptance gives us the clarity to understand the situation for what it is.
Again, this doesn’t mean you endorse or approve the thing you must accept, but that “you recognize that you can’t change the current nature of this exact moment, and accepting manages anxiety and helps calm.” [Bruneau]
Of course, acceptance doesn’t mean that you can’t work on changing things. Once you accept the situation for what it is, then you can more clearly see what might be changed. But remember, there are some things you can change and some you can’t. So accept this too.
However, one thing you have complete control of is yourself, your thoughts and your beliefs. One way to start the change process is to reframe your perspective of struggle to one of acceptance.
Consider the thing you are struggling with. Sit with it for a few minutes. Then consider these reframing statements. [Reuben-Theodore]
- What can I do to stop struggling?
- Acceptance is the beginning of something new.
- Acceptance brings clarity and the ability to see other solutions or actions.
- Acceptance allows me to get unstuck and to move forward.
- What can I do to begin to accept the situation as it is now?
How Do I Start?
(Please NOTE: I am neither a medical professional nor a licensed counselor. If you are struggling and simply cannot accept or move past a situation you are dealing with, I urge you to seek the assistance of a qualified professional.)
The place to start is where you are. Accept that struggle will always be part of your reality; you are never finished and so you are going to face hardships.
“I love a challenge because obstacles make me stronger! So bring it on!! Bring it on!!!” Try shouting that when you are struggling with an issue – even if it’s under your breath, or simply in your head. Embrace the challenge. Get comfortable with operating and living there. Sometimes the most challenging things can hold the greatest opportunity for success.
Next, admit your mistakes. Don’t focus on what another person did. Repeat to yourself: “I am responsible.” You can’t fix anything until you admit there’s a problem. View your mistakes not as failures but as learning opportunities. Remember, it isn’t “win or lose”. It’s “win or learn”.
Finally, realize that you control your reality. Consider what Dr. Shad Helmstetter says in his book What To Say When You Talk To Yourself:
“After examining the philosophies, the theories, and the practiced methods of influencing human behavior, I was shocked to learn the simplicity of that one small fact: You will become what you think about most: your success or failure in anything, large or small, will depend on your programming—what you accept from others, and what you say when you talk to yourself.
“It is no longer a success theory; it is a simple, but powerful, fact. Neither luck nor desire has the slightest thing to do with it. It makes no difference whether we believe it or not. The brain simply believes what you tell it most. And what you tell it about you, it will create. It has no choice.” [Helmstetter]
Own your outcomes, good and bad, and choose acceptance over struggle.
To practice choosing acceptance over struggle, realize that you can be in control of how you react, think, and feel. When you are faced with a hardship, a person, an event, an issue, anything you are struggling with, ask yourself these two questions. [Marlin]
- Can I change this?
- If it can be changed, do I have the ability, the time, and the strength to change it successfully?
If the answer to #1 is “no”, you really have little choice but to accept it. So, if you are beating yourself up because of things you should have done but didn’t, ought to do but haven’t, must do but don’t wanna – there is another way. It is acceptance.
The Acceptance Excelerator JumpStart provides quick actions you can take right now to JumpStart your Excelerated Life™ and to begin accepting the things you are struggling with. Acceptance is the first step for change. And 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.
 Struggle definition from the Cambridge Dictionary.
“Acceptance.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., March 8, 2022. Web. March 11, 2022.
Bruneau, M.A., Megan. “5 Things Everyone Should Know About Acceptance” mbgmindfulness. mindbodygreen, February 15, 2020. Web. February 12, 2022.
Daskal, Lolly. “How to Accept Yourself, Your Life, and Your Reality.” Inc. Mansueto Ventures, February 15, 2018. Web. February 12, 2022.
Helmstetter, PhD, Shad. What To Say When You Talk To Yourself. New York: Gallery Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, 1986, 2017.
Marlin, James. “Acceptance Vs. Struggle: What You Need to Know.” Awareness And Acceptance. James Marlin, September 3, 2019. Web. February 12, 2022.
“Marsha M. Linehan.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., February 7. 2022. Web. March 4, 2022.
Rao, Carol. “Was Michael Jordan Really Cut From His High School Basketball Team?” Sportscasting. Endgame360 Inc., March 14, 2020. Web. March 4, 2022.
Reuben-Theodore, Isha. “Power Tool: Acceptance vs. Struggle, A Coaching Power Tool.” International Coach Academy. International Coach Academy, December 20, 2019. Web. February 12, 2022.