- the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.
- the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.
- agreement with or belief in an idea, opinion, or explanation.
- willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.
When things happen that we do not understand, we have a hard time accepting them. The same holds true for beliefs that are so opposite to our own, or for people that we do not like. An automatic reaction is to push them aside, criticize them, or fight with them. All of these responses take a toll on energy and enjoyment of life.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but when we offer acceptance to these situations, we take some of the struggle away. By acknowledging that some things are outside of our control, we can then shift our focus, energy, and action onto the things that we can control. One approach to change, as proposed by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), helps this to be understood. Some examples include:
- You fail a test: Option 1: Call yourself a failure, fret about the test, and fight with the teacher that it was unfair and you deserve a better grade. Option 2: Acknowledge that you are upset and disappointed, and change your study habits for the upcoming test.
- You have to transfer schools: Option 1: Fight whoever is making you transfer schools and refuse to like anyone or anything at your new location. Option 2: Ask questions to learn why you have to switch schools, then engage in your new lifestyle, all while keeping in touch with your previous friends.
- Someone is assigned to your group project who you dislike: Option 1: Ignore this person, treat them poorly, and complain to everyone else in the group about having to work with them. Option 2: Talk to your teacher about your concerns and come up with a plan on how to have the best result for yourself, and your group.
As you can see in the second options, acceptance does not have to mean approving or liking what is going on. It does mean that you refuse to add struggle to an already difficult situation. Accepting what is provides clarity to help free up direction for what steps need to be taken. It also helps you build character and act based on values rather than on drama or emotion.
How can you practice acceptance (and commitment!) today?