When I think of the phrase I’ve used a lot recently there’s a piece that I maybe didn’t quite realize was crucial to the success of that specific phrase. Over the past few months I’ve been very much focused on “controlling what I can control.” I’m a long ways from perfect at it, but in spending as much time focusing on it as I have there’s been a significant difference in how I’ve been viewing the world and the corresponding increase in my joy.
Over the past few years there’ve been many lessons, both personal and professional, that have led me down the path of controlling what I can control. I’ve used the term “letting go of the whee” in a very similar fashion. There’ve been several times when I’ve reminded myself that an even itself is neither good nor bad, it just is. It is I who add the context of “good” or “bad” to the situation. The event itself is out of my control, but the decision of how I respond is 100% my choice. When I remember to pause and think about what’s actually under my control and how I should choose to act there’s an underlying foundation that I haven’t really focused on as much as I should have.
What is at the heart of all of these thoughts? Simple… acceptance. In my head and heart I would love to wish away the situation and have a different one. I would love to find a way to negotiate a different challenge than the one I face. I can bury my head in the sand and refuse to see what is truly in front of me. There’s always the option to just disbelieve the reality around me and live in a delusional dream world. In all of those cases I’m still controlling what I can control, but in such an unhealthy way.
In order to find the right path, to choose the right attitude and actions, I must first accept the situation in its entirety. That’s not to say that I will just rollover and be run over by it, but there is a point in which I have to accept that this is, or may be, reality. Once I truly accept it I can then control how I respond. I can only choose the right attitude after I’ve accepted what’s happening.
This is a tough one for me. I’m overly optimistic much of the time which can lead me to think that something isn’t as dire as it may truly be. My ego is strong and I feel confident in my ability to use negotiation to shift a situation in my favor. Accepting something at face value isn’t something that comes naturally to me. In a weird circular logic kind of way I have to remember that I control whether I choose to accept the situation first and then determine my response to the situation.
If I accept the situation I can move forward. I can find a way out. I can find the bright side. I have hope to use it as a point of leverage to become stronger. I can bear the short term suffering as I know I will be better for it in the long run. Once I accept it I know I can find a way to leverage it into becoming more of the person I am called to be.
If I don’t accept the situation I get frustrated. There’s a dissonance in my brain because my reality and the reality don’t line up. If I don’t accept the true challenge I will not be successful, I might miss the gravity of the situation, and I will end up frustrated and depressed. I’ll never get over the hump until I accept that the hump is there.
With all that is going on I’m so thankful for realizing the power and beauty of acceptance. Turning adversity into strength hinges upon acceptance. If I accept the gravity of the current challenge I know I can be successful in finding a way to navigate these stormy seas. If I don’t accept them I’ll disbelieve the tidal wave right up until the point that it crushes me. I can only control what I can control in the right way once I’ve accepted reality.