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Connect & Reflect
Your 3 Choices - Accept it, Change it or Leave it.
12th September 2018

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”. - Joseph Goldstein

Words by Greg Sellar

First comes awareness of your life situation and then choices are to be made. The first choice is to battle your reality, fighting against it in a sea of negativity, self-loathing and criticism. The second is to accept what’s going on and change it, moving forward in the knowledge you have power over your own circumstances. The final choice is to accept that you can’t control very much outside of yourself and your own actions, and leave it.

Life provides little reminders that let us know where we are on our self-prescribed success scale. It’s different for everyone, but you know the type – someone earns more money than you, so you compare (and typically lose out on the comparison). Others seemingly have amazing success and you’re not, so you question why it isn’t you. That milestone birthday comes, prompting reflection on not being ‘there’ yet.

When these potential life blows land, you can either let it consume you, do something about it, or just let it go.


Clearly this is the less desirable option. We’re not talking about fighting things in a positive way to overcome them, but instead, fighting things to place blame, deflect or disassociate. Any time you take an active role in denying your current circumstances, you’re denying yourself the chance for things to improve. It’s like the overweight person saying they’re not big, they have a thyroid problem, are big-boned, or have tried everything to lose weight but nothing works. Their reality is outside of their control, when in fact they need to eat less and move more – something only they control.

Fighting is exhausting - both physically and mentally. It can turn into serious mental health issues, common in Australia with one in five Australians experiencing a mental illness within a 12-month period. Almost half (45%) of Australians aged 16-85 years will experience a mental illness at some stage in their lives, with the primary symptoms being anxiety, stress and in severe cases, depression. To spend our whole life fighting who we are, what we’re doing and how we’ve arrived at this point, is to waste our life hoping for something to change without commitment, commotion and consistency. Nothing happens by magic, so stop fighting it and either do something or move on. Diane von Furstenberg said it best when she said “You’re always living your life, so you might as well enjoy it”.

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Acceptance isn’t about giving in, it’s about letting go of the negative emotions surrounding your circumstances and acting immediately. Acceptance is the first step towards action.

Where we are right now is our responsibility and the direct result of everything we’ve either done in the past, or not done. We need to own the fact that each decision we’ve made has brought us to this point, and if we’re not where we want to be in life, first accept it then change it.

In psychology, there’s a field of study called ACT, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It’s a series of acceptance and mindfulness strategies that promote moving towards valued behaviour as opposed to eliminating difficult feelings. In a 2015 review, ACT performed better with test subjects than a placebo or the typical treatment (the drug CBT) for anxiety, depression and addiction. In ACT Therapy people are encouraged to move from the problems of the acronym FEAR:

Fusion with your thoughtsEvaluation of your experienceAvoidance of your experienceReason-giving for your behavior

Towards the healthier alternative to ACT:

Accept your reactions and be presentChoose a valued directionTake action

(Source: Wikipedia)

We’re never going to be able to wipe the slate clean of negative feelings – critical judgements, negative self-talk, comparison etc. – but we can choose how much power they have over what comes next. For some, reviewing the now state leaves us in total paralysis, whilst for others, acceptance allows movement. The trick is to allow thoughts to come and go without struggling with them.

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Seth Godin in his Circles of Influence highlights how there are circumstances in life we can’t change, so we shouldn’t spend time and energy trying to change them. Whilst you can have influence over certain events and people and others may be of concern to you, the only thing in life you can directly control is you.

I cannot attend another dinner where the discussion turns to religion or politics. It’s the same arguments from two sides of thinking and philosophy that have existed since the dawn of time. I know I’m not going to change the minds of those who share a different view or opinion to me, so I now just except it and move on. The same goes for litterbugs, inconsiderate drivers and split bills in restaurants. They all bug me, but to get into an argument every time I cross something that bothers me, is tedious. I’m not suggesting turning a blind eye to injustices or sitting on your hands where things can be done, but if the thinking time and intensity you dedicate to causes outside of your control is disproportionate to things that affect you on a daily basis, drop it before you send yourself crazy.

In 2013, Deakin University in Australia found when it comes to life satisfaction, the ability to accept what cannot be changed and move on from it is equally important to the feeling of being able to exert control over your life. We don’t have to be in control of everything that affects our life for us to be satisfied. If we can get to the point in life where we can learn to accept things as they are and work with what is directly before us, we will be free to progress in the things we can change.

Three different options with markedly different outcomes - the choice is yours.

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