“Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.”

– Miyamoto Musashi

Acceptance is one of those things that’s easy to understand, easy to say, but hard to do.

The quote above is from a man named Miyamoto Musashi. He makes one of the most important observations a person can make when we’re trying to live a more calm and resilient life: Life is not what we want it to be, it just is what it is and we need to accept that.

Stoicism & Acceptance:

Lets sit down and draw some more wisdom from the Stoics:

In order to achieve a level of happiness and well-being that is unaffected by our circumstances, the Stoics employ an extreme practice of acceptance.

If you ever find yourself struggling with accepting something in your life, imagine being stood in front of one of the great ancient Stoics, sandals and all. They would quickly point out that you only have two options when something happens to us.

  1. You can either accept what’s happened as reality and move forward. Or…

  2. We can resist it.

Most people resist most of the time. It holds us back. It wastes our time.

Because the event has already happened, resistance will only give you some unnecessary suffering, and prevent you from effectively moving forward with your life. Resistance is like an emotional anchor, it hooks us to things that have already happened.

Acceptance starts with two very simple facts:

  1. The world, its events, and all of its people will behave as they do, not as we want them to (See Expectation).

  2. In the face of an event, we can either accept it as reality and move forward, or we can resist it.

Page Break Image of a Greek Temple

The Source of Resistance:

I think it’s important to point out that our resistance only comes after we experience something undesirable. When something desirable occurs we have no problem accept it readily.

Therefore, the only difference between acceptance and resistance is how you perceive an event (primarily our level of desire). Luckily, we know from Foundation 1 that our desire and perception are part of our thoughts, and are therefore fully within your power to change.

Let’s look at an extreme example; if you desire above all else for everything to behave as it naturally would, then you would be accept anything and everything as and when it happens. You would experience very little resistance.

However, our problem comes when we desire some things more than others; and we will always desire some things more than others, we’re human, not robots.

For example; I will desire sun more than rain on my wedding day. If it rains, I am met with a certain level of resistance. However, if I desire the weather to act as it naturally would, then when it rains, I can accept it as easily as I would if it was sunny.

The same is true for our relationships with people. Let’s say I want everyone to treat me politely and with respect. If I get cut up in traffic, if someone doesn’t hold the door open for me, or if someone cuts in line in front of me etc, I will be met with resistance and suffering. However, if we accept that people will act in their nature, we more easily accept the situation for what it is and act accordingly (calmly asking the person to join the back of the line etc).

Today we can see a significant amount of suffering caused by people’s inability to accept the world for what it is. They want the world to be what they think it should be.

When we can’t accept, we resist, and when we resist we are met with a level of suffering.

In 58CE the Stoic philosopher and statesman, Seneca wrote to his brother:

“the happy man is content with his present lot, no matter what it is”

Don’t Lie Down:

Acceptance is not the same as submission.

If something undesirable happens in our life, acceptance is required to see it clearly for what it is and accept it as a reality. After we accept we can then move forward and act.

If something happens in our life and we are unable to accept it, we become emotionally bound to it. As a result we can struggle to move forward and act effectively to improve the situation.

For example, let’s say you go for a job interview in your company. You don’t get the job, but someone you work with does. You’re given your feedback and the next day continue in your current role.

Option 1: You resist the situation. After all, you are better at your job than your colleague who was promoted. You should have been given the position. The feedback was nonsense, they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s not fair.

Option 2: You accept the reality of the situation. The job has been filled by someone else. You didn’t get it. Perhaps there are gaps in your ability that you’re not yet able to see. You accept the feedback and begin to work on the areas that were highlighted as weaknesses. You grow. You move forward. You go after the next promotion.

Which situation is more constructive long term?

Acceptance does not mean submission. It simply means detaching our desire from reality to limit resistance, limit suffering, and preventing us from moving forward effectively.

“Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.”

Miyamoto Musashi

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