15 Apr 2020
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Learning to accept is not about giving in

Accept it. Change it. Ditch it.

Those are the three options anyone has in any given situation, no matter what it is you can apply them to it…
The bin is full? Can you accept it (yes it’s full but as long as nothing else goes in it’s okay), do you want to change it (maybe sort out some of it, there could be a bit of misplaced recycling in there) or can you ditch it (physically take it out and get rid of it)?
You’re being bullied at work? Can you accept it (more bullying), is there a way to change it (can you talk to anyone, tell someone in management or HR about it), or do you decide to ditch it (leave your workplace, sickness absenteeism for stress perhaps, or find another job)?
You’re having to work from home, but you hate it? Can you accept it (it’s not ideal but it’s not for ever), can you change it (maybe make the shed into a home office), or can you ditch it (find another job, maybe a bit extreme!)?
Your colleague is paid more than you for the same job? Can you accept the inequality (will you begrudge your colleague and your employers though), can you change it (hopefully increasing your salary not reducing theirs!), or can you ditch it (find a new job that pays more)?
They aren’t mutually exclusive, you might decide to try to change something knowing that you will have to accept it if it doesn’t happen, or ditch it.
Acceptance can seem like the easy option, a caving in, but actually it’s probably the hardest. It’s about letting go of your own immediate wishes or needs and acknowledging that someone else’s may be more important.
On the surface, it seems like the effort required to ditch or change are bigger than the effort to accept. Yes, the other two may require physical effort, but acceptance requires a lot of mental control.
And when we really accept things, we find peace and calm within. It’s that ability to come to terms with things outside your control, and rather than bowing down to them, rise up above them.
Proper acceptance is without resentment or simmering anger, it’s clean and wholehearted, not begrudging, and it’s so much more about your own state of mind than the state of the situation in front of you. At it’s root is the understanding that we can’t control everything around us, but we can control our own thoughts and behaviours and both of those feed into our feelings.
If you think a situation is unfair, that you can’t remain in it, it can be difficult to accept it but balance it up with the effort it may take to change it.
Case study: A few years ago I saw a client who was working for a company that was blatantly sexist. The women generally stayed in the office, the men generally got to travel and meet clients. She worked her way up past that, but her salary did not – as in many companies, it’s not in the ‘system’ to make big jumps, salaries are almost always percentage increases.  So despite doing the same job and with more skills (all those ‘office’ ones of being able to switch a computer on, use a spreadsheet, send emails!), the men still got paid more. Unfair it certainly was.
She went to see an employment solicitor who gave her this advice: murder isn’t legal but it still happens. Basically people do bad things, and that includes the people running companies, they don’t always offer free and fair workplaces but it’s up to us to decide whether we can (you’ve guessed it) accept it, change it or ditch it. The effort involved in taking someone to court for instance, may well far outweigh any benefits of winning an employment tribunal. Acceptance and weighing up the alternatives ruled the day (eventually it did actually work out but it involved a heart attack and a change in management – but that’s another story).
So the next time you’re in a situation and you don’t know what to do, ask yourself those three questions…
Stress plays a huge part in our lives, and periods of change or uncertainty cause a lot of that. Learning how to manage stress, understanding your unique stress footprint will help prevent being overwhelmed and build resilience for those time you need it most.  If you’d like to know more about stress and how it affects you, my book ‘Understanding Your Stress Footprint / a step-by-step plan to build resilience to stress… and thrive in life’ could be of use, available on Amazon or click here

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