Updated February 11, 2019
Having a house full of 3 kiddos and 3 dogs is always busy and often times very LOUD! What always stops me in my tracks is my little one singing her heart out to her favorite song of the week. Usually I am able to identify the tune, but she manages to insert her own words and combined with her theatric flair, her brief presentation always make me laugh. We all have magical, heart-warming moments like this; however, there are many times when our well-being is determined by the way we manage challenges in our lives.
I will always recall the day when my daughter was born 14 weeks premature. It was a situation that no one prepares for, and it was very much a life changing moment. The key to finding personal growth from it was having mindful acceptance of the situation. Acceptance is about making the best of each moment, just as it is. I will be honest, the first few weeks of my daughter’s life was painful to witness as she endured so many medical interventions; however, we didn’t resist the moment—we never said” “Why us?” “It’s not fair!” We accepted it as it was. Through acceptance, we didn’t amplify our own pain and suffering. We endured and moved forward from it.
So, you’re probably wondering how my family and I were able to find personal growth through mindful acceptance of a challenging situation like ours. Well, the kind of acceptance I’m referring to has nothing to do with giving up, or defeat. Nor is it agreeing or liking of a disappointing situation. Let’s take a look at what acceptance is and is not.
Acceptance is an Action
In my situation, I actively practiced acceptance by bringing my awareness to the present and acknowledged the truth of the moment—that my daughter was born at 26 weeks. The present was my anchor that helped me to let go of the ideas about how things “should” have been and steered me away from worrying about her future. Acceptance as an action made the ordinary world become more interesting and wonderful. Things that most often seem common, routine and boring became fascinating and something to appreciate.
Acceptance is not Acquiescence
Acceptance does not suggest you are in agreement of a situation. To illustrate this point, I’ll use the example of the daughter who brings home a mate who does not embody the characteristics that her father wished for her. Despite efforts to convince him otherwise, the daughter is unsuccessful. Rather than resist the situation, the daughter accepts she can’t change her father’s mind and she realizes that she may always have to face his disapproval. Acceptance allows the daughter to disagree with her father while simultaneously being accepting of him for who he is, and it assists her in managing her reactions to his disapproval.
Acceptance is not Approval
Acceptance of a situation does not reflect that you like it. For example, you are due to be at meeting in 10 minutes, but you find yourself stuck in bumper to bumper traffic that will delay you by at least 20 minutes. A usual reaction for many people in this situation is to be frustrated, anxious, and upset. You don’t have to like your predicament in order to accept it. Accepting that you are stuck in traffic means recognizing the reality of it. Once you are fully aware of this, you can be thoughtful about how you want to respond to it. Acceptance helps you to understand that your frustration and anxiety will not get you to your meeting any sooner, so a more positive way to cope is by initiating some deep breathing, scanning your body for awareness, and loosening up any tense muscles to allow you to wait patiently.
Acceptance is Your Path to Happiness
Google executive, Mo Gawdat says he formulated an algorithm for happiness which was tested after his son unexpectedly died. We’ve all heard the analogy of whether your glass is half full or half empty. According to Gawdat, we must learn to recognize the fullness (or emptiness) of the glass, and then assess what brought us there. He explores the concept of happiness as simply recognizing the truth of the glass. Gawdat admits that the pain he feels for his lost son will always last, but he doesn’t live with thoughts that circle and deepen that anguish.
He regards the reduction of suffering, as a choice. “I can either chose to suffer, or I can choose to sort of accept life as harsh as it has become and reset, make that the zero-point and try to make that slightly better than it is today, and slightly better tomorrow.” Happiness, then, is that peaceful feeling of gratitude and life events meeting our expectations. Gawdat’s mission is to make 10 million people happier and he understands it won’t bring his son back, but it will be slightly better than the day he left.
In summary, mindful acceptance is seeing the present moment just as it is, and making the best of it. It does not remove the painful sting from a difficult situation, but it has the potential to help you avoid increasing your suffering. Acceptance is an active practice that empowers you to get yourself “unstuck” so that you may continue to move forward in life to find your happiness.
Call to Action: What are your thoughts about mindful acceptance? Is there a place for it in your life?