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Learning to Accept Circumstances Beyond Your Control

In life, we often don't have control of many of the things that are happening around us. We can't control other people's choices, or the way they react to things or how they treat us. Since so much of our lives is lived in community with others, learning to accept differences is a crucial way to become more peaceful and centered within our selves.

The Serenity Prayer tells us,

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

When we face circumstances beyond our control, often, we mentally spend time trying to fight against the way things are. We allow circumstances to dictate our feelings and our mindset. We try to fight an uphill battle that is getting us nowhere in the end. In life, some things are simply beyond our control to change.

Being able to recognize that not everything is in our power to change puts us in a place where we need to learn to have acceptance. To simply allow things to be as they are, and to separate our thoughts and feelings from the outcome of these situations. We have to learn how to make the best of bad situations. Otherwise, we are going to find ourselves constantly upset.

This is something I have been going through in my own life lately, with my two children living in two different countries, separated by a vast ocean. It hurts to have them apart, to feel like I have failed our family, and to know that I can never put things back together the way they used to be. But I need to stop living in the past and allowing myself to be swallowed by regret. Otherwise, I am never going to be able to really live.

I can't control other people's choices. I can't make someone move to a different country to appease me. The sooner I accept their choices, the sooner I will be able to move forward in life.

Making the best of a bad situation

When we release our need to control everything, and realize that there are many things happening every day that we can't influence in a meaningful way, it can allow us to have mental freedom to focus on the things we do have control over. No matter your situation, you have control over how you choose to react to things. You can accept things with grace instead of fighting against them.

Worldpackers offers five ways to make the best of a bad situation:

1. Put it in perspective

2. Reflect on past crises

3. Accept the situation

4. Focus on what you have

5. Embrace change

Finding perspective can be difficult when we are caught up in the stories that we tell ourselves. We can resort to blaming ourselves or others for what has happened. This makes us stay stuck, instead of moving forward. Looking at things from different angles, and looking for the good in your situation can help to find acceptance.

If you look at other bad situations you have been through, how you handled them and moved forward, it can help you to find strength. Remember, you have lived through 100% of the bad days you have been through before. No matter how bad things seem right now, you will live to see good days again in the future, too.

Remember that accepting a situation does not mean you have to like it, or that you have “lost” and the situation has “won.” This point is essential. Acceptance does not mean you are weak, have given in, and are succumbing to the burden of the situation in front of you. In fact, acceptance is quite the opposite. It is acknowledging a difficult situation, and then choosing to utilize your energy and resources in a manner that is most effective, productive, and beneficial for you. We often believe that in order to accept a situation, we have to agree with it, be supportive of it, and like it. This is far from true. Accepting the difficult nature of your boss is not the same as agreeing with his/her behavior, and accepting that you will experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts, is not the same as saying I am choosing to forever be burdened by them. Acceptance is acknowledging that an unwanted situation exists, and then choosing the most productive step to take based on the reality of the situation.

Acceptance is acknowledging the reality of the situation as it is, and allowing it to simply be. It is removing judgment of others or yourself. When you allow things to be as they are, you stop trying to change something that can't be changed, and focus on what is in your control instead.

If you focus on the good things that you do have through gratitude, you will find that your life is far from ruined. Just because one thing has gone wrong, it doesn't mean everything is wrong. There is still goodness in your life. By focusing on that good, you allow it's effects to amplify.

Instead of focusing on all that has gone wrong, we can look at starting over as an opportunity for positive change. In my situation, I am reevaluating what I want out of life, and trying to focus on doing things that make me happy. You can do this too, and focus on what you want to do in the future, instead of what has gone wrong in the past.

Nothing lasts forever

Good or bad, nothing in our lives lasts forever. Time keeps marching on, whether we are moving forward or not. The world keeps going. Technology advances, people keep going to work and school, stores are still open. No matter what we are dealing with personally, the world itself doesn't come to a screeching halt.

Remembering that every situation is temporary can help us to find perspective, and to be reassured by knowing that even our pain will fade with time, if we are willing to let go of it. We can release the past, stop blaming, and move forward into new situations with new people.

According to Daily Mass,

Are things going so smoothly for you right now? Think of the sad times when you wished you were dead and learn to be grateful for this moment. Are you going through difficulties at this moment, is there something seriously eating you up deep within? Then just remember the good times and say to yourself: “This too shall pass.” If you haven’t seen the end of something, then it is just because the end is yet to come.

Just like our good times didn't last forever, our bad times won't last forever either. You can see these patterns reflected in nature. In the winter, everything dies, and the world grows cold. Yet even on the coldest winter days, we know that spring will come again. New plants will grow, and the world will be green with life.

Our own lives are the same. In some seasons, we will lose everything. But, even in these dark times, we can be reassured that the light will come again. If we built a life once, we have the ability to do it again. Starting over with nothing allows you to build something completely different.

When you find yourself feeling hopeless, you can take heart that there is always hope. There is always a way to pick yourself back up and keep going. As long as you are still alive, there is still hope. There is still something you can do to make your life better. Though you can't bring back what you lost, you can make something else that is equally beautiful.

Focus on what you can do

Instead of focusing on loss, or on things outside your control, find something positive that you can do today. There are always steps that you can take to better your life and your situation. If you have lost a job or a relationship, you can look at what went wrong, and learn skills to help you do something differently next time around.

No matter what has gone wrong, there is always something you can do to make a change within yourself. You can work with a therapist or life coach if you are feeling down, so that you learn new skills and new ways of looking at the world around you.

You can listen to positive music, podcasts or videos that can help you develop a better mindset. There is a lot of good advice out there to help you, no matter what your situation. Finding resources to move forward and start again can help you feel more in control of things.

Making a to-do list can also help you feel like things are more under control. Identify three things you can do today that will help you in the future. It can be looking for a new house, car, job or community. No matter what your goals are, there are steps you can take today to move closer to making them into a reality.

If you don't know what you want to accomplish or what direction to take, you can meditate or journal to look for answers inside yourself. You can read books or blogs by other people who have been in your situation and see what they did. This can give you an idea about what direction to take when you are unclear.

Even if all you do today is decide to let go of the past, that is still a huge step forward in the right direction!

Read more about learning acceptance:

If there are other questions you have after reading this, let me know in the comments, and I will be happy to address them in a future blog post!

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