If you want to achieve happiness and live your life to the fullest, the first step is to accept where you are and who you are, right now. This is where change begins.
All too often we look at a situation, decide how we think it should be, and then act on our perception of it. The problem with this approach is that it is based on pure fantasy. If all we do is wish things were different, we will wind up being constantly frustrated. How many people are in relationships that are not working, telling themselves everything is fine when, clearly, it is not? Instead of living in denial, face the reality of what is happening, accept it, and decide do something about it. Perhaps your relationship would benefit from seeking a marriage therapist or maybe something as simple as scheduling special time together.
We must learn to accept circumstances as they are, not as we would like them to be. How many times have you said, “If only it wasn’t raining, then I would be happy”? A happy person will accept the rain and go on with her life.
You cannot change the fact that it is raining, but you can change how you react to it. It is important to know the difference between these two viewpoints.
We must also learn to accept ourselves as we are in the moment. We sabotage ourselves by saying things like, “If only I had more money” or “If I were ten pounds lighter, then….” We cannot change what is. We can, however, accept everything about ourselves, warts and all, right here and right now. Only then can we begin to make the changes we desire and become the person we are capable of becoming. By accepting ourselves right here and right now, we will be less likely to allow occasional setbacks to divert us from our goals.
Once we have learned to accept ourselves, we can then identify those areas we want to change. For example, if I am fifty pounds overweight and telling myself it’s because I have “big bones,” I am living in denial. If I am overweight, it’s because I probably eat too much and don’t exercise. Once I accept the fact that I have a weight challenge, I am empowered to begin taking action to change it. Until I get out of denial, I am stuck. Acceptance is the first step in making any change.
A good exercise to assist you in developing acceptance is to take a personal inventory. This is similar to a grocer who, when she wants to know the state of her business, will take an inventory of the store’s contents. She will count and itemize the good, sellable merchandise, then separate out the unsellable merchandise and get rid of it.
We can do the same, metaphorically, to determine our personal state of affairs. Here is an exercise to help you do just that.