A Coaching Power Tool Created by Lea Weyermann Lozar
(Business Coach, SWITZERLAND)
Acceptance of our-self, of the current state or situation we are in can often be challenging to deal with. Depending on a situation, sometimes we just need a bit of time to accept what is happening with us, around us. Particularly accepting negative events or traits can be difficult. Why accept something if it can be resisted or even ignored instead? But the real question here is how can this serve us in the long-term? Being exposed to so many ideals, acceptance of ourselves can almost become a virtue in today’s world. We first need to accept ourselves before we are able to accept others, and once we do, others will accept us as well.
We have all been in situations where some negative events happened and we had to go through a process of “healing”, taking a new direction, change of our own self-being. It is a long and challenging way to go. From personal experience I have found that the faster I can accept a situation, the faster I can make a re-route on my journey. With acceptance I by no means refer to accept the status quo and just settle with the present situation. Of course we are also given an option to accept and live with what ever it is if this is what is serving us. Fighting the winds has never shown to be very productive. What I am referring to is the fact that we accept whatever is happening with us, around us, acknowledge it, and allow ourselves to look at all the different new possibilities that are being offered. Once we are able to accept, we are back in the driver’s seat deciding which turns to take and at what speed to take them. And even if it at first appears that the road of our journey is taking us through an endless dessert without any possibility to take a left or right, perhaps at some point a winding road leads us to a pass we need to drive over, yet once at the end or at the top, we reach a beautiful valley opening ahead of us and offering us new possibilities, new perspectives, new opportunities.
What is acceptance?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the acceptance has several meanings; nevertheless, I would like to highlight the one most relevant for this Power Tool: one that is referring to acceptance of a situation or oneself.
The act of accepting something or someone; the fact of being accepted.
More than the official definition, several quotes really bring acceptance to the point:
Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it. Michael J. Fox
The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. Nathaniel Branden
What is resistance?
Among the several definitions, the below ones most precisely describes Resistance relevant to this Power Tool.
An act or instance of resisting: a means of resisting.
The power or capacity to resist: such as the inherent ability of an organism to
resist harmful influences (such as disease, toxic agents, or infection).
The second definition I would like to put in a slightly different context. It is US who use the POWER to resist. And, the Resistance is the result of our belief that whatever it is, it is bad for us or much worse, it can hurt us. Here I would like to share a personal anecdote with you. For the longest time, I had had issues with my feet, particularly my toes J This was because I, once upon a time when I was a little girl, overheard an old woman make a comment about the size and shape of my toes. I was carrying this with me for over two decades and resisted to walk barefoot or in any kind of shoes that would showcase my toes because I was fearing others will make fun of me. Only once I became aware of why I think badly of my feet and was able to accept them with all the faults and beauties, I took action that changed my behaviour of always hiding in socks and shoes. No, I didn’t undergo a plastic surgery; I bought the very first pair of sandals.
The meaning of acceptance in psychology
Acceptance is also having an important place in psychology. While some would still argue that acceptance means resignation, calls for no or little action, almost like giving up, it is actually the very opposite and is increasingly used in therapeutical and counselling settings.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the author of “Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness” made an excellent description of what acceptance actually is.
Acceptance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is- especially when you don’t like it-and then work wisely and effectively as best you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in and with the resources at your disposal, both inner and outer, to mitigate, heal, redirect, and change what can be changed. (p.407)
Acceptance has been also put as the main focus in some new theories of therapy. Most known is ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Training/Therapy). It focuses on mindfulness: the mind is fully attending to what is happening, to what we are doing, to the space we are moving through without any judgement. It helps to tolerate negative feelings and thoughts, and finally, it brings the person to behave in line with his/her values.
Application in coaching
This Power Tool can be used in variety of contexts. To name just a few:
- Self-acceptance à of our body, abilities, traits, etc.
- Acceptance of change that is firstly perceived as a negative and can be either personal or work-related (e.g. loss of a job position, conflicts with a superior or team-members, relationship, family, grief of a loved person/pet, etc.)
Essentially, it all comes down to the change of perspective that empowers one to take steps in a different direction. In order for that to happen, the person firstly needs to be aware of what is happening and accept the situation. Only then, a re-route on person’s journey can be planned.
Some powerful questions a coach can ask the client when he/she sees the client is having difficulties accepting current situation:
- What would you like to have happen?
- What choices do you have?
- What do you need to let go of / What is at stake for you to accept the current situation?
- What is the value of your current attitude (when resistance is noticed)?
- What are the options for action here?
- What in this situation can you be grateful for?
- How can you challenge the situation instead of letting the situation challenge you?
- How can you turn the current situation to your advantage?
- What is in your control?
- What is stopping you to accept the things that are outside of your personal control?
- What resources can support you to overcome the obstacles you are facing?
- Which of your values can support you going forward?
- What are the positive aspects of the current situation?