Last week the focus was on resolutions and the role that change plays in our lives. This week I am going to focus on another aspect of working with change; the concept of acceptance. The reason I think it is necessary to bring acceptance into the conversation is because it is a highly resourceful place from which to begin a process of change.
It is easy to look for things that aren’t right or need changing. While this in itself is not wrong; stepping towards change from a position of acceptance is a far stronger basis from which to begin a journey of change.
The research is very clear, we are wired to notice fault and negativity. If someone praises you for what you did well five times and tells you what you did badly once, you will hear it in a ratio of 1:1. If we are not aware of this, we can fall into the habit of criticism towards others and ourselves. Criticism seems to be under pinned by the idea that there is some perfect ideal that we are striving towards, and to get there, it is necessary to have the imperfections pointed out to us. Criticism is very different from feedback. Feedback is a perspective that is requested or offered from the outside world that broadens our view of how things are. It can be extremely helpful if requested and received from an appropriate source. The way to tell the difference is that, unlike criticism, feedback does not leave you feeling diminished or bad about yourself. Feedback can help us build our ability to practice acceptance.
It is not impossible to implement change from a place of discontent and criticism. The main issue is that discontent and criticism come with strong emotional content that can be distracting and detrimental to our efforts for true change. If we start by feeling bad about ourselves it can make us defensive which closes us down and isolates us from others when we most need their support in our quest for change.
Acceptance is entirely different. It is the ability to identify and be with what is actually happening without assessing it as right or wrong. It does not insist that we like what we see or feel. It simply asks us to see it as it is. There is something grace–filled about achieving this state. It is not judgmental. It requires observation and awareness. This creates curiosity and when we are curious it is much easier to see what else is possible. Criticism holds judgment as the antidote to change; acceptance holds awareness as this driver.
So as you move into the second week of implementing your resolutions spend a few minutes assessing where your desire for change is coming from. Are you standing in criticism of yourself, which holds that where you are is bad and you need to be somewhere else to be a better person. Or are you coming from the position of acceptance? Are you able to observe what your current reality is and be curious about how it could be different? If the basis of your resolutions were negative, I would encourage you to give the practice of acceptance a go and see what happens in your quest for change.