Life can be a giant shitstorm of chaos sometimes.
When it is, our tendency is to grit our teeth and push back.
The problem is that failure to accept things out of your control will sink you into victimhood and powerlessness.
Here’s what to do instead.
1) Be radically honest
Imagine you’re playing a game of Aussie rules footy and you get frustrated and throw down the ball and quit.
Then you start having a few beers, and a few more.
You do the rounds at the pubs and rant about how the match was rigged with bad referees and you got unfairly tackled and singled out.
You didn’t lose! The game was just unfair! You’re the real winner! In a better universe you would be recognized for who you really are!
That’s how it works with denial and lying to yourself.
If you’re not radically honest you will only skate through life on illusions and false victories.
As my military friends say: play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
No matter how unfair or horrible your life is, refusing to accept that it is what it is at this present moment is disempowering and illusory.
You won’t have a satisfying life by smoking from the pipe of make-believe.
Practice radical honesty and admit how things currently stand. The more you lie to yourself or focus on your victimhood the worse things are going to get.
2) There are no ‘bad’ feelings
Another one of the biggest roadblocks to acceptance of what is, is the belief that certain difficult emotions are “bad” and must be pushed down.
Sadly, a lot of the modern self-help industry and even psychological field keeps feeding into this harmful myth.
Supposedly we must strive for some future state of bliss where we never feel anger, sadness, jealousy or loneliness.
This is absurd.
And when you start thinking that your painful emotions are “bad” and do anything to run away from them, you go in the opposite direction of acceptance.
One of the best ways to fully accept what’s happening is to fully accept how you feel in this present moment.
As Reach Out Australia puts it:
“Things can happen that are totally out of your control – whether it’s a relationship break-up, the drought or the death of someone you’re close to.
“It’s normal to feel sad, angry and srsly pissed off. The thing is, if you refuse to accept these things and stay angry, it can just lead to more hurt and upset.”
3) What’s really in your control?
If you think about it, so many crucial things in life are outside of your control.
You can’t control the future, if your family member gets sick or if a tornado hits your town tomorrow and rips your life apart.
You can’t control the price of gas or the ravages of war that affect the vulnerable around the world.
So what can you do to accept the limits of your control and stop feeling so powerless?
Begin with yourself. Stop searching for external fixes to sort out your life, deep down, you know this isn’t working.
And that’s because until you look within and unleash your personal power, you’ll never find the satisfaction and fulfillment you’re searching for.
I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. His life mission is to help people restore balance to their lives and unlock their creativity and potential. He has an incredible approach that combines ancient shamanic techniques with a modern-day twist.
In his excellent free video, Rudá explains effective methods to achieve what you want in life and stop being a victim of outer circumstances.
So if you want to build a better relationship with yourself, unlock your endless potential, and put passion at the heart of everything you do, start now by checking out his genuine advice.
Here’s a link to the free video again.
4) Think ahead
Many of us go through life too spontaneously.
We don’t go with the flow in an empowering way, we go with the flow in a passive way.
We build up expectations and ideas of how things should be and then get enraged and depressed when they fall far short of this.
Again and again.
It’s been said that having low expectations avoids disappointment, but that’s not the key.
Instead, the key is to have strong goals but also fully think out about what happens if and when various plans fail.
If things out of your control happen, what will you do?
Don’t obsess, but do be realistic!
Stop living in a world in which life is just what you want it to be. Doing this will lead to a life of being dependent on others and the validation and reassurance of other people.
Plus, sooner or later the truth about all the things out of your control is going to come back around and hurt you twice as badly if you haven’t accepted the reality of life’s ups and downs.
“By living in denial you can pretend that everything is ok, which will take you into dream world where you have to come back from anyway soon or later.
“So you avoid negative emotions by not facing your reality. It’s easier to look away and pretend everything is fine… for awhile.,” advises Myrko Thum.
5) You are not your situation
Whatever situation you’re in, you are not your situation.
Your situation may be pushing you back against the wall, robbing you of your freedom and options or beating you down.
But you are not it. You are you.
This sounds so basic, but it’s crucial to emphasize, because so many times overwhelming situations can drown us in their stress.
We begin to feel that we are our situation and have no power or agency outside of the drama of what’s going on.
This robs us of all potential and feeds into a cycle of denial and victimhood.
We focus on what’s wrong and how upset we are about it, instead of focusing on the only thing that’s in our control anymore:
Our possible actions in responding to the situation and our own honesty about how we’re feeling and what is happening.
Acceptance doesn’t mean saying that what’s happening is fine: it just means admitting that it’s happening, that some parts of it may be out of your control and that you are not defined by it.
6) Life can (and does) change
Another one of the most important ways to fully accept what’s happening is to reflect on a past challenge you’ve been through.
Remember when you thought it would never end?
And yet here you are, perhaps scarred badly, but still alive…
Life can (and does) change.
Even the worst times will one day fade into the background, and even the times which reduce you to a sobbing heap can’t last forever.
Acceptance of what is has a lot to do with recognizing the temporary nature of time.
Even our strongest experiences will one day be a memory.
This can make you sad, but it can also be cause for hope when you’re going through a very hard time.
7) Acceptance is not indifference
One of the biggest roadblocks to acceptance for me has been my past idea that acceptance was indifference.
Acceptance is honesty.
It’s acknowledging that something is what it is without hiding in denial or performative reactions that don’t change the situation.
It’s expressing your genuine emotions without trying to prove anything.
It’s accepting what’s happening even if it’s the last thing that you wanted to happen and you hate it with your whole being.
You can still acknowledge and find a way to slow your breathing as you exist side by side with this painful, upsetting or surprising thing that has rocked your life.
You don’t have to be OK with it, you just have to be with it and acknowledge that this is your life at this moment.
“It’s not lazy to accept what is. It takes courage, focus, and honesty.
“And again, it’s not about accepting what is so that you can do nothing, but so that you know what your options really are.”
8) The Sisyphus snare
Another important one of the ways to fully accept what’s happening is to avoid what I call the Sisyphus snare.
Sisyphus is the ancient Greek myth of a king who “cheated” death twice and was punished by Zeus as a result. His punishment was to roll a boulder uphill and then down again over and over again for eternity.
Quite the nightmare.
The Sisyphus snare is when refusing to accept something leads to it repeating over and over.
One of the best ways to achieve acceptance of what is, is to consider the enormous suffering you’ll go through by refusing to accept something.
To take a bland, everyday example: if you refuse to accept that you have a leg injury and force yourself to run a marathon you had planned, you will aggravate the injury immensely.
Then, when you refuse to accept the extent of this injury and continue pushing you will harm yourself further.
When you reach the brink and are forced to rest up, if you still cut this recovery period short you will hurt yourself even more.
Acceptance of your current limits and situation is necessary so that you don’t waste your whole life rolling the same boulder uphill.
9) You can’t really change things until you accept them
On a related note, you’re never going to change what you won’t accept.
If you won’t accept that you have dyslexia, you can’t start taking steps to improve and treat your dyslexia.
If you won’t accept that you were abused as a child, you can’t begin to process the trauma and pain of that and move forward.
If you won’t accept that you’re currently out of work and desperate, you won’t be able to lower your pride enough to start facing the reality of your job search and parameters.
You can’t really change things until you accept what they are and what they have been.
“It is by accepting our present life situation just as it is, that we are able to be at peace.
“Acceptance paves the way, leading us towards to happiness and contentment and sometimes our discontentment even encourages us to create change in our lives.
“Acceptance gifts us with freedom, and when we are freer, we can experience happiness even when the world around us is not was we believe it should be.”
10) Practice empathy for yourself
One of the saddest things I’ve noticed about many intelligent and creative people is that they turn on themselves.
When life is becoming very overwhelming, they start to pick on themselves and blame themselves for everything that’s going wrong.
In the same way that you’ll get nowhere by only focusing on the injustices of the things out of your control, you’ll get (worse than) nowhere by blaming yourself for all the things which are not your fault.
If you’re lonely and not meeting someone you feel attracted to for a deeply connected relationship, it could be that you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time: be confident of your value and love yourself.
If you’re feeling frustrated by your job because you feel like a number, stop telling yourself that you’re just ungrateful or lazy. Maybe your job really is soul-crushing. Be honest.
Accepting this doesn’t mean you’re fine with it, it just means you acknowledge that you have a right to your emotions and dealing with them.
Have empathy for yourself and what you’re going through.
It’s the opposite of being a victim:
Victimhood expresses pain and says this means that the current reality must change because it’s only fair.
Empathy is just acknowledging that your experiences are valid, even though they don’t “entitle” you to anything.
11) Be prepared for failure
If you’re not prepared for failure, you won’t ever achieve success.
So much of New Age and Law of Attraction content tells people to only focus on the positive.
It’s terrible, terrible advice.
If you don’t acknowledge potential problems and face them, you’re going to get repeatedly blindsided in life with a Mike Tyson-like punch to the face.
That’s because failure of some kind happens to all of us at some points, most often through no fault of our own.
Acknowledging this reality puts you in a position of realism and power. Denying it makes you an unrealistic and naive individual who’s going to get decked by life.
As one of my favorite authors Tobias Wolff puts it:
“When we are green, still half-created, we believe that our dreams are rights, that the world is disposed to act in our best interests, and that falling and dying are for quitters.
“We live on the innocent and monstrous assurance that we alone, of all the people ever born, have a special arrangement whereby we will be allowed to stay green forever.”
Start by accepting that one day every single one of us is going to die.
If and when you can face the intense mystery of mortality and what it may or may not be, everything else is going to start falling into place.
I’m still working on it.
12) Stop living in dreams
Having goals and dreams is essential.
But using them to block out reality is a fool’s game.
When we tell ourselves that we “deserve” certain outcomes or are entitled to having good fortune, we set ourselves up for a sucker’s bet.
It’s great to direct your energy to positive things and be full of enthusiasm.
But never make the mistake of thinking you have holy oil protecting you or an untouchable aura that shields you from all harm.
When a situation, person or crisis presents itself – which it most certainly will – you will be caught completely flat-footed.
“When an unfortunate situation presents itself, we are caught by surprise, gasping in disbelief instead of being prepared for different possible outcomes.
“People have a tendency to create a bubble of self-delusion and distance themselves from reality by believing that something “simply needs to work out,” notes Christine Keller.
13) Don’t curse the valleys
Another one of the most important things about acceptance of what is, is acceptance of the hard times.
A late friend of mine once said something that stuck with me.
I was complaining about how unsatisfying and stupid life was and he commented that life is “peaks and valleys, man.”
That friend later got very ill and passed away from cancer in his 20s, facing his diagnosis with incredible bravery, but I still think of him sometimes.
For one thing: what are my valleys compared to what his were?
For another: the bad times I have been through and you have been through don’t have to be our enemy.
They can be our personal trainer, testing the mettle of our soul and raising us up to a stronger, purer future of self-certainty and maturity.
Don’t curse the pain, use it.
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
14) Is it OK to accept unacceptable things?
There is no duty or obligation to accept or give a “pass” to unacceptable things.
Acceptance doesn’t mean you failed or that something is “fine.”
It means letting things be what they are and acknowledging the limits of your control.
We do not have to say that injustice is fine or that the world is just going to die and our lives are going to be horrible.
But if that’s how things are right now then we need to admit the reality of the situation and live with it – at least for now until we can change it.
Acceptance means patience.
Acceptance means learning from pain.
Acceptance means looking life squarely in the face instead of putting on rose-colored glasses.
15) How far can acceptance go?
How far can acceptance go?
It’s really up to you.
You should never tolerate any abuse or injustice that you can change.
But if you don’t have the power to change something, you must learn to acknowledge that it’s happening.
Therapist Megan Bruneau hits the nail on the head on this one:
“Acceptance can be practiced in all areas of your life:
“You can exercise it toward your current experience or reality, others’ beliefs or ideas, your appearance, your emotions, your health, your past, your thoughts, or other individuals.”
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has a remarkable hadith about acceptance and dealing with injustice and suffering.
He says that you must try to actively stand up to injustice, but also acknowledge the cases when you cannot change it.
“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.”
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life
The past matters. I’m not going to say it doesn’t.
But the most you can do is learn from it and get ready for tomorrow with a clean slate.
By accepting what is, starting with mortality and the injustice of this world, you can begin to truly find your personal power and begin to help yourself and others.
When that inner victim begins to throw their hands up and demand that reality change and that luck improve, think of yourself as a drill sergeant:
Tell that voice to sit down and shut up.
Acknowledge your feelings of sadness and frustration, look at the tasks ahead and be honest about your feelings of insecurity and doubt.
Then get up and do it anyway.
Remember that most of what we take very personally is actually nothing against us at all!
Yes, events in our lives impact us personally and hurt us deeply. But remember that the vast majority – even conflicts, breakups and disappointments – were never specifically targeted at us and were more a result of a situation than a particularly cursed destiny.
As Alishsa says at the Really Interesting Club:
“There’s often a temptation to react as if we are a victim of circumstances that could never happen to anyone else but nothing is as personal as it seems.
“What happens has little to do with us or how we feel about it and the way people behave has more to do with what’s going on inside them.”