And that one thing is acceptance.
Specifically, I’m going to break the concept of acceptance down and apply it to three main areas of my life. The first area is my current circumstances. The second is the past. The final area is myself. But before I delve into these areas, you may be wondering why. Why is acceptance the sole thing I’m choosing to focus on?
I’ve been thinking for a while now about what makes me happy in life. I have to admit, I’ve gone through all the cliches you can think of.
A bigger house? Bought it. And I love my house. It’s beautiful. It feels homely. I feel safe here.
A great job? Got it. I am fortunate that I wake up each day and I genuinely look forward to going to work. When I get there, I work with wonderful people. I’m stimulated, challenged, get to learn, grow, develop – and ultimately, achieve some great results.
People? I’m very fortunate there too. I’ve got a family that I love, a partner who I adore and a small group of truly amazing friends.
So, on the one hand I have all these great “things” in my life – a big house, a job I enjoy and people I love. But these “things” don’t in and of themselves make me happy. In a way, they can’t by the very nature of the fact that they are “things” outside of me.
As I navigate my life between these “things”, I have to deal with something that never leaves me – me! My internal dialogue. My conscience. My thoughts. That voice inside my head that says, ‘Your house is nice but it’s not as nice as that one’, or ‘Shouldn’t you be earning even more money at this age?’
I’ve learnt (and am still learning this I guess) that no matter where you set your success to, and no matter that you achieve what you set out to, after a period of feeling satisfied, I’ll want more. I’ll set the success stakes even higher. It’s as if I’ve become conditioned to needing to have something to strive for, in order to give my life a sense of structure and purpose.
Which is where acceptance comes in. It’s almost as if acceptance is the antidote to the seemingly never ending hamster wheel of cravings and goal setting that modern life has become for a lot of us. So this year, I’m going to set a goal (see, they’re inescapable) and focus on practicing acceptance.
I don’t know what I’ll achieve really. And in some ways, that’s a good thing. Maybe I’ll feel better or happier for it. Maybe I won’t notice any difference at all. In a way, it doesn’t matter. I’m not setting any predetermined expectation to an outcome here. I’m just going to try something and see what, if anything, happens.
Acceptance of my current circumstances
This one I’m thinking will probably be the easiest one for me, because at this point in my life, things are going pretty well. I’m happy, healthy and relatively well sorted.
Within this facet of acceptance, the main challenge will be to accept all the little, day to day things that can really piss you off. The bad drivers, the slow checkout line at the store, the crappy weather. Little things sure, but this is probably the area where I need to practice acceptance the most.
My approach here will be to either change it, or accept it. So, if it’s a slow checkout line at the store, I’ll either try to find a faster moving line, or just stay where I am and accept it.
And acceptance in this sort of a situation means being in the moment, not escaping it. So I’m not going to jump onto Instagram, or check my email, or distract myself in any number of ways. I am going to try and really just BE in the moment, in that store, under that fluorescent lighting with kids running around, and just accept it.
Maybe by starting small and learning to accept the little things, it will equip me with the ability to accept when life throws something bigger my way? I don’t know really…I’ll keep you posted on this one.
Acceptance of the past
This one is a bit trickier. In fact, I think it’s going to be the hardest one for me. On the one hand, I know that the past is the past. It’s done and can’t be changed. Yet in spite of knowing this on an intellectual level, emotionally I do go back in my head quite a lot. I relive things, replaying events in my mind. I honestly don’t know why I do this or what I get out of it.
So, it’s time for a little acceptance here. I think the best way to approach this one is going to try and get the emotional side of me more aligned with the intellectual side. So, when I go into a thought bubble of ‘what ifs’ and ‘coulda/shoulda/woulda beens’, I’ll try and snap myself out of it.
Instead of trying to change the past in my own head, I need to accept it. Accept it and let it go.
To begin with, I am going to try and catch myself going back into the past. If I can bring an awareness to what I’m doing and call it for what it is, it will start to make me realise just how often I’m doing it. At the moment, I wouldn’t say I live in the past that much. But if I actually started to count the number of past-related thoughts I have each day, I have a feeling it would quickly add up.
So, catch myself doing it, try and bring myself into the current moment and then try and let that past conversation/action/whatever go. Keep it where it belongs – behind me. It’s over and done, so I should focus my energy on the here and now. Easier said than done I’m sure. Again, I’ll keep you posted with how I go on this one too.
Acceptance of myself
I think I’ve been making progress with this one over the last few years. Turning 30 has been an amazing experience for me. It’s made me look at my life, and where I am in my life, and assess what’s important – and what’s not.
I’ve focused on my health. On genuine and meaningful ways of finding happiness. And on bringing a deep sense of purpose into my every day life.
But the one area where I think I’ve really done well in, is in letting go of comparing myself to others. For me, it was something I did so strongly and competitively, that it really detrimentally affected the quality of my life. I was so focused on where I was, in relation to others, that I couldn’t just enjoy – and accept – where I was, just on my own.
I really have let go of that. I can see it most clearly in my decision making process. I’ve made, and continue to make, decisions in my life that others might look at and think are a bit weird, but are right for me. While I have people in my life that I talk to about things, and whose opinions I do value, at the end of the day I feel strong enough to listen to my intuition – and follow it.
It’s one of those things that multiplies the more you do it. The more you follow your gut, and the more rewards you get as a result of doing that, the stronger you feel to keep doing it. So, that’s what I am going to focus on with this one. Keep doing what I’m doing. Taking the good, with the bad, and accepting it all.
I’ll do a follow up to this article during the year, to check back in with you, and let you know how I am going with it. In the meantime, feel free to follow the blog on Instagram!