noun. the act of giving in or conceding.
Suppose you are driving to work one day and as you enter the freeway, you see the fresh smoke of a car accident up ahead. You can’t go back down the onramp. There is no exit between you and the accident. The road ahead is blocked by a police barricade. Physically, you are stuck.
Emotionally, you have a choice. You can grow angry that this event occurred. You can become frustrated, stressed, or any other related emotion that this might elicit. Perhaps you might want to change what has happened.
I wish I could have left sooner!
I wish I could just drive over these people!
I wish the police could just let me by!
You cannot make any of these things happen. They are out of your control. Becoming angry or trying to honk your horn or take radical driving action is all futile. It will not change the reality that you must wait for the accident to clear.
Being upset about this is like being upset you have parents. Or live on earth. Or don’t have superpowers.
When you start fighting battles you cannot win, you are devoting all of your energy to a lost cause; you are wasting your personal resources on trying to change something you can’t change instead of finding ways to be the happiest you can be. By accepting it, you can start to focus on ways to make other areas better. You can start to focus on what you have. You can let yourself be happy.
Accept what you can’t control
Trying to change something that you cannot control will lead to a lot of frustration and unhappiness. And you will never stop fighting those battles unless you can first accept the way things are. Namely, accept other people for who they are. Trying to change them will lead to a lot of wasted time and unhappiness. This is easier said than done, and that’s why it’s one of the final elements of the Taylored Life Fundamentals.
The dictionary.com definition of acceptance is “the act of assenting or believing.” And what does “assenting” mean? It means to give in, yield or concede. So the definition of acceptance could also be written as: the act of giving in or conceding.
To accept something is to give in to it. To accept something is to stop fighting it. You might have an instinct to fight because you want control or think you can change the world, but you can’t. Acceptance is the opposite of fighting, and only when you accept the way things are can you stop fighting the way things are.
When am I fighting a losing battle?
This obviously begs the question: how do I know if I’m fighting a battle I can’t win? At first, this might not be an easy question to answer. (The more you practice acceptance, the easier this becomes.) After all, what if you just needed to work a little harder, or be a little smarter, and suddenly you could accomplish what you want.
You can’t prevent other people from driving into each other on the freeway. (Hopefully that’s clear!) You can prevent leaving for work late. You can’t prevent other people from being angry or unhappy. You can avoid fighting with them.
Let’s be clear though — accepting what you can’t change now is not failing to act for the future.
Say that with me again: Accepting what you can’t change now is NOT failing to act for the future.
When you were sitting in that traffic jam on the way to work, and anxiety about being late started to creep into your thoughts, the answer was not to try and change the situation and make the accident go away. You can’t do that. Stuff happens in the world that is out of your control. (Can you accept that?)
What is in your control is to evaluate this situation and decide if you want to be more prepared in the future. In this case, you could check all traffic before leaving your house, or leave your house 30 minutes early as a fail-safe.
In other words, accept what you can’t control (the current situation with the car accident) so you can focus on what you can control (your future preparations for such a situation).
This is certainly a common source of frustration in interpersonal relationships, because most people fail to realize that
- You cannot make someone love you.
- You cannot “fix” someone.
- You cannot make someone care.
- You can focus on yourself and what’s within your control.
But you will never maximize that last step until you start accepting the world around you. Stop fighting battles you can’t win — that’s Einstein’s definition of insanity. Accept what you can’t control so you can focus on what you can. Accept what you can’t control so you can focus on what you can…