We all know at least a few of these people. The ones who are okay with whatever happens to them. The ones who are able to shrug their shoulders and move on when their plans are thwarted. The ones who find something else to look forward to and get excited about when their dreams are dashed.
These people have mastered the attitude of acceptance. In a way, these souls embody a key Stoic maxim for being productive, happy, and content:remember what is in your control and what is not.
Acceptance is being okay with what is not in your control.
But first, a disclaimer. Acceptance does not mean putting up with injustice that is being done to you. Acceptance is not looking the other way when you see injustice being done to others. And acceptance is definitely NOT bowing down to difficulties and surrendering your dreams when hardships strike.
Stoicism is a philosophy that lays down the principles to help us live peacefully, harmoniously, and happily while fulfilling our highest potential. Some of the greatest Roman and Greek statesmen, mathematicians, physicians, and men of letters followed the Stoic philosophy. So, acceptance is not counter-productive.
Acceptance, Through the Eyes of an Archer
Yes, we are all like the pro archer.
Just like an archer who practices endlessly before standing in front of his target, we plan and prepare our moves before we put these into action. We work hard. We burn the midnight oil. We put our nose to the grindstone. We leave no stone unturned to perfect our moves. We make sure we have covered all loopholes before we make the final move.
Then we go for the kill.
It is the moment of action, like when an archer picks up the bow in a competition, takes aim, and shoots. Then he loses all control over the arrow. How the arrow behaves once it leaves the bow depends on a host of factors like the speed and direction of the prevailing wind. Incidentally, the archer has no control over these factors. The wise man who knows this fact does not fret over whether the arrow will hit the target. Neither does he beat himself up if the arrow misses its mark.
This is acceptance.
What happens to you and in your life is no different either. The best and the most detailed of plans do not work when the economy crashes and the job market turns bleak. Your hard work can fail to bring in the desired results if the weather does not permit or if the rules of the game change unannounced. What do you do then?
You have to realize that sometimes events shape up and people behave in ways that are beyond your control. You cannot change what is happening outside of you and without your effort, instruction, or volition. So you accept that things are beyond your control, and move on. This is acceptance.
Why Do You Need to Cultivate an Attitude of Acceptance?
An attitude of acceptance keeps you calm and makes you more productive by:
1. Removing feelings of frustration when things don’t go your way
When things don't go our way, we tend to become frustrated and fret and fume over what went wrong. We focus on the factors and circumstances that we can’t control. This is sheer wastage of mental energy because you cannot change what you don’t have power over. But when you learn acceptance, you can shift your focus to more productive pursuits like concentrating on how you can improve the situation.
2. Making you mentally calmer
Acceptance calms an agitated mind and removes feelings of frustration and low self-esteem. You realize that things didn't turn out the way you had expected because of events beyond your control, NOT because you were inefficient. You realize that you didn't achieve the results you had expected because someone in power put a spanner in the works, NOT because you were lazy. These are profound realizations, and they let you move on, with confidence.
3. Lessening distractions and sharpening your focus
When you are not trying to "fix" things that you can’t control, you can learn valuable lessons from your experience and channel your physical and mental energies to work on things you can control. When you focus, you spot opportunities as soon as they arise. When you are not stretched too thin trying to alter circumstances that you cannot change, you can seize more lucrative opportunities promptly.
4. Teaching you to move with the flow of life
There is a natural order in the way events unfold. If you have sustained an injury, you are supposed to rest to let your body heal. If the economy is in turmoil, you should wait, watch, and gauge the mood in the market before you buy or sell stocks. If you are hiking in the wilderness and the landscape is rocky, you should inch your way forward slowly and cautiously. Life does throw curve balls our way. Circumstances do go out of our control at times. Being able to adapt to sudden changes (moving with the flow of life) reduces stress.
5. Making you more resilient
Facing reality makes you mentally stronger and more resilient. You learn to tide over difficult situations. You learn not to bow down to defeat. Acceptance of the past makes you less fearful of the future. When you are able to move past defeat to succeed, you become more confident of your abilities.
How Can Guided Meditation Help You Cultivate an Attitude of Acceptance?
To cultivate an attitude of acceptance, you should be able to analyze an event non-judgmentally. An unbiased eye and an open mind help you see reality as it is. Being non-judgmental lets you gain clarity and perspective, so you are able to figure out easily the situations are beyond your control and can’t be changed.
Meditation helps you develop this non-judgmental attitude. However, it is not easy for someone who is not into meditation to ease into the practice and start seeing results right away.
In a hyper-connected world, it is difficult for the mind to shut out external distractions. It is also difficult for the stressed-out individual (read: most of us) to drown out negative thoughts—worries and fears—and focus on empowering words and images. Guided meditation lets you channel your thoughts. It is a way in which you can tame your wayward mind and steer it towards stillness.
The Meditable guided meditation app helps you cultivate an attitude of acceptance by:
1. Visualizing yourself not being a control freak in stressful situations
Think of a recurring situation that pushes your buttons. Long hours stuck in the traffic. The over-demanding boss who wouldn't take "No" for an answer. The mortgage payments that eat into your savings. Now visualize yourself being calm and accepting the situation as it is. See yourself doing what is within your control to improve the situation, while accepting the things that are not. Do this exercise often, so the responses become second nature.
2. Repeating self-statements to retrain your mind
Many of us post motivational quotes on our computers and hang inspirational photographs on walls. The intent is to read or view these often for a dose of pep talk. Self-statements serve the same purpose. They remind you what reality is (As Eckhart Tolle said, "You cannot argue with the present.") or what ideal behavior looks like. When you let these messages hit your senses often, they get etched in your mind and become a part of your belief system. So you are guided by these thoughts the next time you encounter a situation that you cannot control.
3. Creating and reflecting on affirming statements that go on to become personal mottos
Meditation creates the quiet mental space you need to reflect on affirming statements. It is the space where you shut out the opinions of other people, the expectations of society from you, and your own negative thoughts, so you can concentrate on positive statements. As you create more time for meditation and repeat these statements, they go on to become personal mottos that drive your responses and behavior.
4. Using reflection to see the humor of being a control freak
There is nothing like humor to bust the apparent seriousness or hopelessness of a situation. Life is unpredictable. Events often unfold in unimaginable ways. At these times, being able to laugh at the futility of being a control freak helps you hang on to your sanity. For instance, you can tell yourself that the past happened exactly as it had even though you willed it to work out differently. Say to yourself the present is exactly as it is even though you are right now wishing it was different. Remind yourself that the future will unfold exactly as it will (notwithstanding that you can do many things to make the desired outcome more probable, but once the arrow is let loose..)
Acceptance is a valuable lesson to learn. Don't wait for inspiration to strike or till the time when you feel you are ready to begin your meditation practice. Start ‘tasting’ the attitude of stoic acceptance whenever a frustration presents itself (you won't have to wait long).
The Meditable guided meditation app can make your practice more focused and effective, letting you meditate with the help of your guide wherever you are.