Accepting What Is Does Not Mean Giving Up

by Stephen Mills on August 18, 2009

Contentment

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how you can have an attitude of acceptance of your current situation, being thankful for what you have, maintaining perspective, etc. and at the same time continuing to strive for growth and improvement.  I previously wrote about this in an article about contentment.  For whatever reason though some people continue to struggle with it.  I’ll try to clarify my thoughts in this article with some other ideas.

For me personally, this is no longer a problem.  My current situation includes my intentions, ideas, and plans.  They are all part of my now.  They are part of my current situation and so when I accept what is, I am accepting the fact that I intend to or may even be in the process of growing and changing.   If I have a new idea tomorrow then that new idea becomes part of tomorrow’s now.

You can be thankful for the fact that you have a job.  You can be doing an extraordinary job at whatever it is you do.  You can live in the moment while realizing that each moment is a step to the next moment.  You can maintain perspective and even consider yourself lucky that you are better off than most.

You can do all of this while at the same time looking to improve yourself and grow in every way you can.  You can strive to live each day more than you lived the last while being happy and at peace with what is during each of those days.  You can be totally happy now and at the same time strive towards more dreams in your future.

I admit I used to struggle with this.  I was never happy with the present.  I was always looking for something better and of course if there was something better out there, I couldn’t be satisfied with what I already had.  They key is to disconnect the situations you find yourself in each moment from how you feel about your life.  Disconnect results and conditions from how you think about your life.  You can do it and if want to find lasting peace and happiness you have to do it.  No matter what you achieve, it will never be enough.  Your threshold for happiness will just shift.  The target will move as you move.

If you don’t equate a particular result or condition to happiness, you won’t have any problem.  There is no conflict here.  When tomorrow doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to turn out, you don’t have to stress about it, have a breakdown, lose your self-esteem, or anything else.  It’s just another day with another set of circumstances that make up your life in that now.

The other day I published the article Mavis Karn’s Secret.  The whole point of that article is that your thoughts and your thoughts alone determine how you feel.  It’s not external circumstances, it’s your thinking about those circumstances that make you feel stressed, depressed, unhappy, or whatever.  Eckhart Tolle says very well:

“Maybe you are being taken advantage of, maybe the activity you are engaged in is tedious, maybe someone close to you is dishonest, irritating, or unconscious, but all of that is irrelevant.  The fact is that your are resisting what is.  You are making the present moment into an enemy.  You are creating unhappiness, conflict between the inner and outer.”

Richard Carlson says that becoming aware of your thinking is the most powerful and practical mental tool in your toolbox.  I think I have to agree.  You can get there and I know you can because I did it.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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Happiness and linear thinking is a difficult combination « I Think Therefore I Am
August 20, 2009 at 7:23 am
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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Oscar - freestyle mind August 19, 2009 at 12:49 am

I think that if we consider everything we do as a learning experience, rather than a difficult situation, it would be easier to accept every situation. At least if something goes wrong we know it wasn’t the best way to do it.
.-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..The 80/20 Rule Of Effective Learning =-.

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Zeenat{Positive Provocations} August 19, 2009 at 6:49 am

Stephen,
This is a very motivating post indeed.
“You are creating unhappiness, conflict between the inner and outer.”
This line is just so perfect in every way. It says volumes about the state of the human mind. We and we alone are responsible for our own satisfaction or dissatisfaction. No external probe can make us think a certain way unless we let them.
.-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..Letting Go of the Past: The Healing Power of Forgiveness & Release =-.

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Positively Present August 19, 2009 at 8:03 am

Loved this post. The title grabbed my attention right away because that couldn’t be more true. It’s so important to accept what is in life, but that doesn’t mean settling or giving up (or giving in). Acceptance is important, it is necessary, and it is not at all the same thing as settling. I really loved your thoughts on this.
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..lessons learned from a week away =-.

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Valerie M August 19, 2009 at 8:36 am

AMEN, Stephen. Love this post… love it, love it.
I immediately thought of Star Trek, how there are many mentions that time is not linear. I have a lot to say about this, so I’ll mention it in a post instead … I don’t want to clog your comments. :)

I’ll say this though. One thing that frustrates me is linear thinking and black/white thinking. That’s what makes your point so hard for people to accept. Why can’t it be both? I’ve had people, namely my parents, accuse me of being wishy-washy because I can’t seem to stay on one path. What book says I need to think one way or do only one thing? I didn’t buy that book, sorry. If you can’t be happy now, what makes you think you’ll ever be happy?
.-= Valerie M´s last blog ..“Hey girlfriend, you need to get rid of those bags.” =-.

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spygrrl August 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm

great post here…

I have diligently been focusing on staying “present” for months now. It is a constant challenge, but reading and applying tools from Eckhart’s teachings has helped tremendously. Will I ever be spiritually enlightened?… naw… not until i physically die, but thank god I can at least strive to be a better person in this present moment by recognizing my ego, thoughts and body without passing any judgment or labels on them.

When i do mess up, i no longer attach my spiritual self to “messing up” either, rather i “accept” it… and feel so much better and lighter.
This is huge in personal growth for me.

keep up the great work… i for sure will return.

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ZuzannaM August 19, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Hello Stephen

There is always difficult to accept change. Change in lifestyle or loosing a job was always hardest to accept. Took me long time to embrace the fact that this is what is happening and need to embrace and continue living to my best abilities.
Your article is great and reading it makes me think how other people cope with such life events…Your article makes more clear how to adapt to such change in life.

Thank you,
Zuzanna
.-= ZuzannaM´s last blog ..♥♫GIOVANNI MARRADI – Moonlight Sonata♥♫ =-.

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BunnygotBlog August 19, 2009 at 1:45 pm

I feel accepting something does mean I no longer have a problem dealing with what ever it was. This no way means , I have settled or compromised on a certain result but can live with the outcome ~
.-= BunnygotBlog´s last blog ..Working From Home: Coffee – Tea – Or Me =-.

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Juancav August 19, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Sometimes we are our own enemy.

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Vin - NaturalBias August 20, 2009 at 9:23 am

This can definitely be a challenging compromise. However, as you suggest, it’s absolutely possible to be displeased with current circumstances, and at the same time, embrace the positive aspects while doing whatever is possible to improve the situation. Having an unpleasant job is an excellent example. There’s not much point in accepting such a job for eternity, but it’s much more pleasant to be grateful for being employed while striving to improve the situation. Great post!
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..Are You Sacrificing Your Health for Appearance? =-.

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Felicity August 20, 2009 at 11:17 am

The article really has my consonance to the fact that humanly feelings are targeted for people’s genuine reactions to situations. Every moment unease sets in, the correct moral thinking mode is a lovely medium of sparking hope. However, it’s the balancing of emotions devised by positive thinking for appeased results. I’m very content to know that this can be done to save the passing blink of an eye in pleasure.

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Robin Easton August 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Hi dear Stephen, I’ve been running behind due to work. So good to stop in again, and this post is FANTASTIC! This is such an important article because I think people often get ‘facing reality’ and ‘giving up’ mixed up. LOL! Or in our “Let’s all be positive spirituality we tend to think we can’t take a look at reality. I think (at least for me) that taking a good hard look at reality AND ‘not giving up’ go hand in hand. It is in taking a serious look at reality which allows me to make better choices as where to go ‘from here’ — in a way that will ensure I don’t STAY in an unacceptable or unwanted situation.

Years ago someone said to me when I spoke bluntly about a current situation (of mine), “How can you say that. You’re just being negative.” I looked at them and said, “No, negativity has nothing to do with it. I’m just being realistic. So in that way I can lay all my cards on the table and from here I start to make honest, real and appropriate choices, which will enrich my life.” Which I made and did enrich my life.

You seem to have a gift for finding the these seemingly paradoxical issues and shedding light on them. Wonderful!!
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Can You Slow Down? =-.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills August 20, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Stephen, isn’t perspective a wonderful thing? It allows us to create our own reality by assigning any value we want to every event and circumstance. Acceptance is often the path to growth.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..How to Turn Dreams into Reality =-.

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Giovanna Garcia August 20, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Hi Stephen,
Perspective are like magic glasses. If you have the right pair, everything looks and feels better. The good thing is that we can decide to change our perspective whenever we are willing.
Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than NO Action
.-= Giovanna Garcia´s last blog ..Your time is NOW. =-.

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Grampa Ken: 7 decades c/w potholes August 21, 2009 at 9:00 am

Acceptance is an important ingredient in the formula of life. It makes an irritating situation acceptable, a major problem minor. Acceptance should be waiting to take over whenever there is not a clear and simple way out.

Many difficulties in a friendship, including marriage, can be put to the back by simply accepting certain personal conditions or traits as permanent. They will somehow become more acceptable. Eventually the conflicting ideas may not be much of an issue and this leaves room for mutual contentment.

The AA motto is useful: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
.-= Grampa Ken: 7 decades c/w potholes´s last blog ..Be happy while you’re living =-.

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John @ CNA Classes Online January 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Thanks for sharing this excellent post. Yes I guess we are our worst enemies through our thinking that for some reason or another it holds us back.

Keep up the great work :)
John
John @ CNA Classes Online´s last [type] ..Tips on How to Find Free CNA Classes Online

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beth March 26, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Hi,
I find this information interesting. I do have a question for you. HOW do we separate painful things which happen to us externally eg) people’s dishonesty, meanness, others talking behind a person’s back at work etc. from our thoughts since we are wired in such a way that what others do or say does effect us. How do we stop thinking about what is true around us, so that our feelings won’t become negative.

Thanks

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Stephen Mills March 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Hi Beth, it’s not that you can stop it completely or at least very few people can. Things that happen do affect me and do make me think negatively. The thing is that at least most of the time when I am being conscious I can recognize that I’m fighting what is, which doesn’t change what is, but just hurts ME. Then I’m in the mindset of saying, OK this IS the situation, what can I do from here?

So if somebody is dishonest with me I can stew about it, ruminate about it, stay angry about it, and stress about it. Or I can accept the situation without all the fighting represented by those things in the previous sentence, and figure out what I can do to make the best of it.

99% of what causes me negative feelings is simply stewing about what is already the case. How exactly does that help? It doesn’t. I take a deep breath and say this is my life this moment now what do I do now. The absolute KEY is recognizing that you are stressing about what has already happened.

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beth March 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Thank you Stephen, I really appreciate your insight.

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