If coaching is all about moving the client from a state of frustration or indecision to greater clarity and action, where does Acceptance fit? It appears counter-intuitive to introduce this idea to coaching which responds to our dissatisfaction with the present moment. Who wants to be told to accept a situation when seeking resolution to the problem? That is not the type of acceptance I propose in this paper. The Acceptance in this power tool is about the bigger picture .We are driven by the belief that once we fix what is wrong now, we will be satisfied tomorrow. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, as the mind will seek out or replace it with a new issue. Real life is a constant, evolving series of obstacles we seek to overcome. We tussle with our issues in order to find resolution, and if successful have a brief moment of satisfaction before. By introducing this tool into the coaching conversation, the client can shift his or her thinking away from feeling ineffectual and resigned to being freed by the much richer alternative of Acceptance.
Acceptance is opening to the actual feelings you have about [a situation]–the hurt or the anger–and being willing to just feel that. And it is out of that presence that you can respond. Wise behaviour arises out of an accepting presence. Genuine acceptance in its purity is no different than love. The space that accepts is a loving space. Instead of reacting unconsciously through conditioned patterns of behaviour, Acceptance gives us an alternative. We can pause in the midst of our reactivity and make the intention to soften our resistance to opening to our emotions.
Any attempt we make to control our internal experience—in response to suffering—is the opposite of Acceptance. When we say to ourselves” This situation is okay as it is,” but we don’t really mean it, that is a form of resignation, which is not Acceptance. Resignation is not at all in line with Buddhist teachings. Resignation is a way for our egos to push a difficult experience away. But it is our awareness, not our egos, that opens to suffering.
The ego self can’t accept. The ego self is designed to fight, [flee] or freeze. What accepts is awareness. The truth of what you are is what accepts. The most you can do is intend to accept. It is a willingness that aligns you with your awareness. The self can’t do it; the self is designed to react. Tara Brach
We are masters at creating our own internal drama, particularly when an external force, often someone close to us, upsets our state of balance. Allowing a situation to fester and build is unhealthy and leads to more frustration.
Experience teaches us that as individuals our capacity to mold or shape situations is limited in its effect. We can use influence and persuasion to our advantage – we do it every day in business and in personal relationships – but there is much more that is out of our individual control.
For example, although an individual cannot single-handedly change injustice, poverty or climate change, he or she can act as an individual as part of a larger group to make change in an effective way that is incremental and meaningful. This kind of action may be small, but by understanding the cumulative effect of many people acting in this way, the result can be powerful.
This is how voting works – many people question how their one vote can make a difference – allowing the full spectrum of opinion to decide who to elect.
How do we reframe the perspective from a state of frustration or resignation to one of Acceptance and move on?