Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tip #25: Learn to accept what you cannot change

This tip can go into the category of "Take my advice, because I'm sure not using it." But that's why I included the word "learn" in the title. There's always hope.

I've always loved the Serenity Prayer, (on the left). But, how difficult it is to put it in practice. When you are confronted  with things that you cannot change, the last thing you have, usually, is serenity. Normally, at that point, we have anger or fear most likely and I guess it is those feelings that actually prevent us from accepting anything, and instead we resist, creating what I see in my mind as a wall, where my emotions end up landing, breaking in little pieces, achieving nothing. And, of course, courage to change things is also extremely difficult. Do we speak up when we need to? Do we fight for justice? In theory, yes. In practice?

But, most important, how do we know the difference? How do I know if reading one more article about a health issue is going to help me when I'm frantically looking for answers or if it would just be better to accept what's in front me without understanding it because that knowledge will not help me in any way?How do I know if I need to have a particular fight, because I think the result may be an improvement, when all I really need to do is relax and accept that things are the way they are and I may just as well enjoy the moment?

Well, I just don't know, but I do think that acceptance of our present situation is always a good start, even if in the end we also need to change it. Simon Sinek, an author I discovered through this TED talk, How Great Leaders inspire Action, writes in this article that we of should "proact" instead of react to situations:

When we react, we look to point fingers and assign blame (to others or ourselves) for the existence of the situation. We work to compensate or prevent bad things from happening.
When we proact, we accept the situation as fact and start looking for solutions or alternatives.  We work to make good things happen.
In his article, he just tells us one example of this: when confronted with the possibility of missing a train because of traffic, instead of panicking and getting upset at himself because he left his house late, he starts "proacting," that is, thinking of what he needs to do if he does miss the train (call clients, find out when the next train is, etc.). He then feels more relaxed and feels he has changed the situation "from a race to a game." For him, "proacting" is accepting and I like his idea because, in my mind, just accepting something is too hard. We do want to "do" something.

I don't know. Like I said, I'm learning. This blog is my scrapbook of ideas and I know that I will have to come back to read this one often.


  1. We all need to learn to accept things the way they are, but easier said than done, of course. Another good read, Pilar!

  2. Aceptar las cosas tal como son es estar en el buen camino para poder poner soluciones que sin duda vendrán solo que hay que tener mucha paciencia y muchos animo y tu los tienes.Enri

  3. El tip de hoy también sirve para el trabajo diario. Son muchas horas las que se pasan en la oficina y en las que se comparten muchas situaciones en las que lo mejor es "proact" en lugar de "react" (sobre todo si eres el jefe). Lo voy a poner en práctica con una sonrisa. Gracias. Kika

  4. Maybe we could form a support group! Like Pilar's Fitness Challenge which is ending this week. The PROACT Challenge - we'll put an X each day that we catch ourselves and Proact instead of React. Anybody?! This would be more intimidating for me than physical exercise ;)

    Gracias Pilar. To summarize, instead of pondering how we can be wise enough to "know the difference" between what we must Accept and what we can Change, maybe the bywords can be, instead, Proact instead of React. For example, Sally has been told there's no way she's going to get a raise. She could ponder whether this is to be Accepted or to be Changed, she could get angry (React), or she could PROACT (which includes some acceptance, but instead of getting angry, she will strategize about how to live on the current salary and how to work toward changing jobs/careers).

    I'm going to try another example. Joe lost his arm. Clearly he can't change this. So there's going to need to be some acceptance. But more importantly, maybe, is the Proact vs React opportunity. He could get depressed, or he could proactively start figuring out how to live with one arm. Again, maybe some acceptance is required in order to Proact instead of React. Mm hmmm.

    Your cancer has been way tougher and more complex than these examples, but the interesting thing I think you've brought up is that maybe instead of, or in addition to the Accept vs Change duality, there is (also) the React vs Proact duality.

    YOU have been the queen of proactivity, Pilar. I just reread your comments again before I will ship this response. Yes! Like Sinek says, maybe proactivity brings some relaxation. So maybe we need to (1) find a little acceptance, and then (2) be proactive, which will lead to (3) some relaxation...

    To be continued. (I'm going to do "arms" now!) xox

    1. Thanks Jean for your super kind words. Yes, maybe we need to have that challenge!