How do we accept and not just tolerate? What is the difference?
Aaron says he accepts that Terese was promoted to be the team leader over his own bid for that job. He shows up to meetings with a smile on his face and does everything he can to be agreeable and collaborative with her. But underneath he’s seething. He looks for how she is failing and compares her actions to what he could have done. He keeps seeing how he would have been the better choice. His feelings are growing and it’s becoming difficult to keep hiding them.
What Aaron is experiencing is closer to tolerance than acceptance; he is spending a lot of energy trying to put up with the situation, rather than actively working to accept this reality.
Tolerance eats at us. It takes energy, it distracts, disempowers, and demeans others. We can only take so much of it.
While he may put up with a situation, Aaron is building up stress as he constantly compares, and reminds himself that what happened wasn’t right or wasn’t fair.
Many of us do this. But these constant self-generated reminders keep creating stress responses and keep us in a fight or flight mode which is not healthy for us. The energy we expend trying to hide our feelings only creates more stress, all of which reduces our capacity to truly accept the situation.
Why does it matter?
If we cannot accept things we don’t like and that we have no control over, we will always be fighting the world we live in and creating unnecessary stress. Imagine a team of people who will not accept the direction of the organisation: everyone keeps working to their own idea of how it should be, and they refuse to align. This would lead to chaos and even anarchy. If the team could accept the direction and align, they will be a lot more productive – and probably happier in the long run.
This doesn’t mean that we have to accept everything – indeed, we can’t be complacent; there are many things that we should take a stand for in this world. But we need to choose – what is worth fighting for? If something isn’t worth fighting for, perhaps we need to find the pathway to acceptance.
What is acceptance then?
Acceptance isn’t exactly easy. It requires us to first own our feelings about the situation and then actively work to release them. Tolerance may be a first step, but acceptance requires something more.
Acceptance is supported by:
- Recognising the situation as it is and that it’s not going to change
- Recognising what we can or cannot control in this situation
- Embracing humility, generosity and even forgiveness
- Choosing to focus on what is working rather than what isn’t; discipline yourself to stop focusing on disappointment or feelings of betrayal or looking at what’s wrong
- Seeing a bigger picture and noticing that what’s needed overall may not be aligned with what we need as an individual
- Understanding that life is not fair, and we should stop expecting it to be
Acceptance doesn’t require you to like the situation. But it does require you to actively work at seeing that it is what it is. When we can accept, we will be less stressed and more empowered, both of which will help us move on and be more effective with our work and happier in our relationships.Why should I change my mind and how do I do it?What is accountability, really?