Do you ever feel like you’re standing in your own way when it comes to getting what you say you want? So often when I am coaching clients and ask what they believe is their most significant obstacle to attaining their goals, they respond, "Me! I need to get out of my own way."
I've thought long and hard about what that means. It's a curious statement, but in time I've come to understand that, when this is the case, there is something we are resisting or not accepting that is holding us back from achieving our goals.
If you were to look up the word "accept" in the dictionary, you would see the following definitions:
toreceive willingly togive admittance or approval to toendure without protest or reaction toregard as proper, normal or inevitable torecognize as true
But what does all of this have to do with reaching your goals and dreams? When we set out to accomplish something, we ask ourselves to stretch beyond our typical everyday behaviors. To attain our objectives, we need to do something different. Being creatures of habit, this often makes us uncomfortable. We begin to question ourselves and our ability to change. We also start to question our environment—will our circumstances allow us to improve?
Often it is easier to say the change we are hoping for is
Let's look at Martin. Martin wanted desperately to quit his full-time job and start his own business. Despite having created a well-thought-out business plan, figuring out the budgeting and how he would manage his finances, and having received validation from others in the industry that his ideas were viable, Martin could not get himself to take the steps.
Why? What Martin wanted desperately was his wife's approval. He could not accept that she wasn't on board with his decision. Although she always said, "Do what you need to do", Martin sensed her disapproval and lack of support.
Acceptance Begins With You
A large part of acceptance involves letting go of the desire that things will change—detaching from the hope that, in some cases, is creating suffering. Accepting does not mean you are endorsing the behaviors of others or saying a situation is okay. Rather, you are coming to the place that this is the reality.
Acceptance occurs when you can embrace the reality of what is and
We also need to increase our acceptance of ourselves—that is, to bolster our self-acceptance. It goes hand in hand with self-compassion; we need to accept that we are all human and will sometimes mess up and need to pick ourselves up and start again.
Stop blaming yourself for being where you are. "How did I let it get this bad? Why didn't I change this situation years ago? What's wrong with me that I can't stick to my plan?" Beating yourself up with questions such as these is unproductive. You did not err because there is something inherently wrong with you. We all make mistakes. It is part of being human! Be compassionate and self-loving. View them as lessons to be learned and focus your energy on understanding what you know now that can help you change the present.
Acceptance is the ability to unconditionally value all parts of who you are—both the good and the parts that need improvement. By focusing on your strengths first, you can gain the confidence to work toward self-improvement on the parts of you that cause you distress.
Jan was a self-proclaimed introvert. As long as she could remember, her family described her as painfully shy. She desperately wanted to increase her social circle, and maybe one day find a life partner. However, no matter how many goals she set around
It was so hard for her to accept this part of her personality, in fact, that Jan couldn't see through to some of her incredible strengths. Jan was a fantastic listener. She had compassion and empathy for everyone except herself. She was a brilliant photographer, and her portraits delighted her customers.
Once Jan accepted that many, many introverts lead active social lives, she realized how long she had used this as an excuse not to take the scary steps that would get her what she wanted. Jan began practicing using her strengths. When meeting new people, she listened attentively rather than focusing on what she thought she should be saying. She offered to take portraits of dogs in the park and found talking with their owners came easier as they sang her praises for the beautiful pictures she presented.
You can strive to be your best self, while still being uniquely you. When you stop trying to be someone you are not, and accept yourself, as Jan did, going after the things you desire becomes so much easier!
The Future Looks Bright
As we work toward achieving our goals, we will experience the full range of emotions. One moment we will be thrilled with our progress, and the next, devastated by the setbacks. Accept that both positive and negative emotions are part of life. Accept this is what you are feeling now, but remind yourself it will pass.
We need to accept that change is difficult and scary. Sometimes it will make you uncomfortable. You will have doubts along the way. If you accept that beforehand, you'll be better prepared to coast through those feelings when they arise.
However, you must go through the emotions and experience them before you can move on. Trying to deny or squash negative emotions will lead to more unhappiness down the road. When you are ready to move forward and get back into action, utilize your strengths to make the journey easier.
Working toward and reaching goals is great. Research shows that those who have goals tend to be happier than those who do not. The key is to continually reflect on where you are at the present moment, accept that reality and decide if you are happy coasting there for a while or if you are ready to set sail again for distant shores. Accepting your current situation can make you more content in the present and lead to a better future.
Acceptance does not mean that we like, want, choose or support the reality we are currently experiencing. It doesn't mean what you are accepting is going to be that way forever. Acceptance doesn't prohibit you from working to change things. It is an active process that you must practice. We can practice acceptance toward our past, our life experiences, our relationships, people, our appearance, our emotions and more.
What do you need to accept in your current reality? What do you need to accept within yourself? Is it possible that the things you are having a difficult time accepting are precisely what is holding you back from where you want to go? Are you standing in your own way?
I am sure you've heard of the "Serenity Prayer"— God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Embrace that philosophy, and you will not only be more content, but you will increase your ability to reach your goals, dreams and aspirations.