Reflections on the important role of acceptance in both business and life in general and mindfulness’s role in the process. It includes a simple mindfulness practice that can be used to help be more accepting of situations.
Hello, I’m Maureen O’ Callaghan, founder of Beyond Money, a business that aims to change the way people do business by teaching them the art of doing business beyond money.
In this series of podcasts, I’m going to cover some key themes that will help business owners thrive in work and in life, do some good, and discover that their purpose goes way beyond money.
On today’s episode, I’d like to talk about acceptance.
Let’s start by thinking about what acceptance is.
You probably have your own definition and ideas, but I’d define it as being able to agree with the reality of a situation.
It’s the ability to look at what you are faced with and not feel the need to change it, protest against it, force it, or control it.
I think many of the things we feel angry or frustrated about are things we believe “shouldn’t be this way.”
Acceptance is acknowledging that the situation is what it is, and you don’t need to fix it or make judgements about it.
When I come up against something testing or difficult, I understand that I can either try to fight against it and feel angry, worried, and frustrated, or I can do my best to take people and things as they are, do my best with the situation, and not try to change things or expect that the person or situation will change.
And no, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Some people struggle with acceptance because they feel like accepting a situation is the same thing as being in agreement with what happened or saying that it is OK.
In other cases, people don’t want to acknowledge the pain that would come with acceptance, they want to avoid it.
After all, our instinct is to avoid negative thoughts and feelings.
But do that for long enough and you just end up sad, angry, and stuck.
Acceptance offers a different way, a way that leads to freedom, growth, and change.
Imagine being able to acknowledge the “unvarnished facts” about yourself and your situation – the good and the not-so-good, without judging yourself.
Imagine that rather than being stuck with things as they are, you were able to embrace acceptance, and see it as a journey?
Now acceptance isn’t something that happens immediately; you won’t wake up one day and suddenly feel able to accept every situation that comes up.
Your perspective evolves over time.
From my experience, the journey towards acceptance starts with an initial resistance to the situation. Then I become resigned to the way things are, and eventually, I accept the situation and embrace it. It is an active process, not a passive one.
I think it is important for people to understand that:
Acceptance does not mean liking, wanting, choosing, or supporting something.
Neither does it mean that you throw your hands up in the air and give up. You can still work on changing things.
And finally, it doesn’t mean that you’re accepting that something is going to be the way it is forever.
When I think about things I’ve struggled to accept, something that springs to mind is that in the past, I struggled to accept that networking was an important part of doing business.
Networking events used to fill me with absolute dread.
Every time I went, I would build up a story in my head that I wasn’t as successful as the other people who would be attending, and that they’d judge me or I’d look silly.
Sometimes, I worried that nobody would talk to me at all.
Once I got into this spiral, I’d become anxious and stressed, and my neck and shoulders would tense up.
There were even times when I’d get to the venue and turn around and go home!
Rather than accepting how I felt and facing the situation, I ran away.
So how did I overcome this and accept that networking was something I struggled with?
Well I looked at each of the fears I had about networking and asked myself these questions:
Is it true? Could all of these people attending the networking event really be more successful than me? Would they judge me, think I was silly, or ignore me?
Then I asked myself: Do I have any evidence that this is the case? Could there be other reasons for the anxiety and all of the other uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing?
The answer to these questions was that of course I had no evidence. My anxious feelings were being driven by my thoughts.
And I came to realise that my thoughts aren’t facts.
I recognised that I was experiencing low self-esteem and I got some professional help.
I also developed some strategies to help me in networking situations for example:
- I developed a bank of conversation starters that would help me get over the initial hurdle of knowing how to break the ice and worrying that I’d have nothing to say.
- I put together a simple statement about me and my business that would help to engage people and let them know where I was coming from.
- I asked people to talk about themselves. This is a good strategy for people who feel anxious in these types of situations. People generally like to be asked about themselves and asking about them takes some of the pressure and focus off you.
Something that was really key in overcoming my stress around networking situations was my mindfulness practice. By being able to use mindfulness principles, I was able to feel much more at ease. For example, being able to listen to my body and be present.
In situations we find stressful, it’s so easy to get lost in a train of unhelpful thought. Listening to your body is very grounding and brings you right back into the moment.
Another way that mindfulness helped me is that it reminded me to be kind to myself.
Nobody is confident in every situation and everyone has inherent worth, so it’s unlikely that people would meet me and decide I was boring or stupid.
Mindfulness also helped me to listen mindfully to others. This means not thinking about what I was going to say when they were speaking, but really listening to them to understand where they are coming from.
I think the best thing about mindfulness is that it can be applied to so many different situations.
It’s not about sitting cross-legged and meditating (though it can be).
Mindfulness is a way of life and with a little time, you can become more accepting of situations you find stressful.
The key word here is time.
You don’t do a few mindfulness practices and immediately become more easily accepting of stressful situations.
But from my experience, this is one of the most valuable benefits of mindfulness.
To be able to be mindfully accepting and fully acknowledging the situation in the present moment without linking it to past events or projecting into the future.
To be fully aware of the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions you have at the time so that you can respond appropriately…and not react.
This is freedom.
If you find yourself in a stressful situation, here’s something you can try. It’s called the STOP practice.
Take a breath.
Observe what is happening, both in your body and around you. What can you feel? Are you tensing up? Is your chest tight? What’s really going on? What might be behind what you’re feeling?
Then proceed. Taking a pause can really help you to respond to whatever is happening rather than reacting and causing yourself more suffering.
It can take a little while to get it right, but persevere and see how mindful acceptance can set you and your mind free.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’re inspired to try some mindful acceptance of situations in your work and life that cause you stress.
Tune in for the next episode of the Beyond Money podcast which will be looking at assertiveness; what assertiveness really is, when to use it, and how it can empower you in business and in life.
See you next time!