Acceptance: the key to resilience?

Updated: May 9, 2019

Enjoy and be grateful for the life that you have. If you are experiencing darker times then have faith that brighter days will come.

A stress-free life can come from practising what the Stoic philosophers called the 'art of acquiescence'. Broadly speaking this requires an acceptance of events that you cannot control. You may fear the unexpected but the Stoics would tell you that this is simply a waste of emotional energy. Life is full of highs and lows but you must learn to accept all events and have faith in your response – this is the part of life that you can control.

6th century Chinese philosopher, and contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu, advised, “Life is a series of natural spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like”. This imagery of flowing water is interesting and one that is also harnessed by Stoic, Epictetus who wrote, “Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will – then your life will flow as well”. Imagine the events of your life as twigs and leaves being carried by a fast flowing river. The uniform leaves could represent life’s smooth and joyous events while the sharper twigs could represent some of life’s more challenging times. The river rapids will carry both along without incident. There is little that could be done to stop the journey of the twigs or leaves and once they have passed through there will undoubtedly be more. Viewing life as a fast paced, ever changing existence full of interesting events that will happen whether you want them to or not can help you to practise acceptance.

American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote “for after all, the best thing one can do when it’s raining is let it rain”. Accept that rain will fall; but that the sun will shine again. You cannot control everything that life throws at you. Stop making it your responsibility to create and avoid incidents. Just let all of life flow. In the end it will all be okay.

Action plan:

  1. Acceptance is an active practice. You must decide how to react to life’s events. You cannot change what has happened so do not dwell on this.

  2. Do not take things or people for granted as change is inevitable. Love/money/careers can be easy to come by but are just as easy to lose.

  3. Be fluid in your approach to life. Imagine your life as a fast flowing river. You cannot prevent the flow or its contents, so don’t try.

  4. Enjoy and be grateful for the life that you have. If you are experiencing darker times then have faith that brighter days will come.

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