Acceptance Is Your Superpower

a person floating peacefully in a river.

If you accept something, are you giving up and giving in? Rolling over and resigning yourself to a reality that you’d rather not experience?

When I bring up the idea of acceptance with my clients, I find that this is often their reaction. They resist the idea of acceptance because they’re afraid it will lead them to quit taking action in the world. I encourage them (and you) to take another look at acceptance and its place in their lives.

Acceptance is a powerful tool — a superpower that you can cultivate within yourself as a human. Through acceptance, you can achieve peace, freedom, resourcefulness, and honor your desires. Cultivating acceptance is useful in creating the reality that you want to experience.

If you’re ready to get started, I can equip you with strategies for building acceptance in your life.

What Is Acceptance?

Before we jump into what acceptance is and how it can be useful in our lives, it’s helpful to take a look at what acceptance isn’t. By process of elimination, we can start to develop a better understanding of how acceptance looks — and the role it can play in our lives.

So what does acceptance not look like?

  • Acceptance is not tolerance of the status quo.
  • Acceptance is not resignation to the lot you’re dealt.
  • Acceptance is not agreeing with what’s going on.
  • Acceptance is not owning what’s in front of you.
  • Acceptance is not condoning the situation.

Rather, acceptance is surrender. 

Imagine reality as a river. It’s a big, powerful river with a torrential flow.

rushing river, white rapids, oil painting.

You can fight against that river if you want to. You can stand in its path and hold your feet against the river of reality for a while.

But at some point, you’re going to be exhausted. You’ll wind up going with the flow of the river anyway because the river cannot be stopped.

Trying to swim upriver requires all your might. And if the river’s flowing fast enough, then treading water in one place may be the best you can accomplish. It’s more likely that you’ll find yourself traveling in the direction of the river’s flow.

In acceptance, you become present to the fact that you’re in the river, and you let go of resisting it. Instead of putting your agency into fighting against the flow, you put it into guiding your way through it.

In other words, you’re not just lying there and letting life take you where it will. You can use your agency to guide your way — around the rocks and through the river bends. You’re still making choices, but you’re using your power and agency more wisely.

Acceptance is an act of allowing. We are allowing reality to be as it is. We aren’t holding our personal experience hostage, contingent on the universe’s good behavior.

4 Consequences of Holding Our Acceptance of Reality Hostage

What’s the opposite of allowing reality to be as it is? It involves holding our acceptance of reality hostage.

Doing that has consequences in our lives. Let’s take a look at four ways that fighting against acceptance can affect you.

#1) Living in Fight or Flight

Imagine yourself in that raging river, fighting against the stream. How would you feel? 

My guess is that you’d be pretty stressed out. There would be cortisol racing through your body. Your pupils would constrict, and your blood would be pumping at a furious rate.

“Frustration” probably wouldn’t begin to describe your emotions. Perhaps “anger” or “rage” would be more accurate.

Can you feel your heart rate climbing higher and higher just from thinking about it? Take a deep breath and give yourself a moment to relax.

We’re not designed to sit in states like that for long periods of time. It kicks our fight-or-flight response into high gear.

Fight-or-flight is valuable in short spurts. It’ll help you stay alive if you’re being chased by a lion, for example. You can’t live like that all the time, though. You benefit from having downtime to rest and digest.

But if you’re constantly fighting against reality instead of living in a state of acceptance, your body and mind stay in that high-stress mode. It harms your physical body, and it keeps you from experiencing freedom in your life.

#2) Expending Unnecessary Energy

Coach David Baker talks about two states that we can be in. There’s the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is activated for fight-or-flight mode. It zaps so much physiological energy from you. Your muscles clench tightly. Your eyes narrow, so you can’t see as much. It’s exhausting to stay in that stressed-out mode.

On the other hand, there’s the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s what I call “rest and digest”. It doesn’t demand such a large chunk of your physical resources.

The parasympathetic state frees up your resources for other purposes. It allows you to live in a more resourceful state.

#3) Experiencing Lack

A lot of times, when people decide to make a change, it’s because they’ve identified something in their lives that they don’t like.

For example, let’s say that you’ve decided that you don’t like your body. You’re not in acceptance of it. You’ve decided that you’re going to go to the gym, and you’re going to create some results. It’s gonna take grit and willpower, but you’re determined to persevere.

An image of someone making a terrible face while lifting weights. grit and determination.

Could that be a workable strategy? Sure. It could produce the desired results for a while.

The problem with this approach is that it’s built on a foundation of experiencing lack in the present moment.

Then, even if you transport yourself to a new external circumstance — a more fit body, perhaps — you’re still going to have the same internal experience going on. Inside, you’ll still be plagued with the sense that things aren’t good enough.

Rather than experiencing gratitude and celebrating what you’ve created, you’ll experience dissatisfaction. You’ll identify a new lack in your reality and immediately orient yourself toward trying to fill it.

The vast majority of your life, then, will wind up being an experience of dissatisfaction with the world. You’ll always be striving or struggling for something more.

#4) Judging Yourself Against the Theoretical

Do you ever try to beat yourself into submission? You figure that judging yourself hard enough is the key to success. If you beat yourself up enough, you’ll stop doing all the garbage things that you do to yourself.

How’s that going for you? I’d bet that it’s not bringing you into a relationship with an authentic version of yourself.

This approach to life always demands more. Whenever you reach a supposed goal, a new one pops up. There are always more pounds you could lose, more time you could spend at the gym, a better way you could show up in your relationship, or more you could do for your business.

This sets up a theoretical “perfect” that you can’t ever actually approach. It gives you a reason to stay in a place of perpetually disliking yourself in some way.

This line of thinking will convince you that there’s some formula of external events that will somehow make you worthy in the world.

When you’re operating from that place, it doesn’t matter how many boxes you check. The list of possible boxes will always get longer and longer.

You’re always going to be judging yourself on the gap between yourself and the theoretical ultimate.

The horizon is always on the horizon. It doesn’t make sense to tell yourself, “If only I work really hard, I’ll reach the horizon.” You can’t get there; that’s a misunderstanding of reality. You’re always right here, where you are, right now.

photo of the horizon, sun setting pinks and golds

4 Benefits of Acceptance

Fighting against reality demands so much from us. Acceptance does just the opposite. It can be life-giving.

#1) Peace

Acceptance brings you into a place of peace with reality.

Byron Katie talks about “loving what is.” That’s a great concept. What if you could just love things exactly as they are?

You can do that while still wanting them to be otherwise. You can even invest your efforts into moving things in a new direction. All the while, though, you can be loving them exactly as they are. That’s peace.

Sometimes we think of acceptance as a relationship between us and the world. But it actually has to do with the relationship between us and ourselves. The key essence of acceptance is acceptance of ourselves, exactly as we are.

We may resist accepting ourselves in that way because we don’t trust ourselves: I can’t just let myself be. I can’t just accept myself as I am. Then I’ll stop going to the gym; I’ll eat garbage. I’ll never change.

Acceptance allows you to be at peace with who you are. You may be a person with warts and flaws and inconsistencies, but coming to a place where you’re at peace with that is such a powerful lens.

#2) Freedom

Let’s pretend that deciding to accept yourself means fully letting yourself go. You just give yourself over to unhealthy, contrarian behavior.

How long would you actually sit on the couch and eat Cheetos? How long would you last in inaction? How long would you ignore your business and your relationships?

I think you have a built-in immune system that’s going to come online in that situation. Your heart’s desire will suddenly start to speak louder. It will compel you to get up and create.

When that happens, it will come with a newfound sense of freedom. You’ll create in a way where you’re completely free and detached from the outcome because you’re bringing acceptance into it.

On the other side of making the decision to accept reality and yourself exactly as you are, there’s freedom to create from a place of sheer possibility and enjoyment.

#3) Resourcefulness

Acceptance delivers us to a place of supreme resourcefulness as humans.

Let’s say that there’s an intense situation going on in your life. Maybe you’re in the midst of a divorce or a devastating breakup. Maybe you’re facing something big in your business. 

Resisting that situation is to resist your resourcefulness. It keeps your resourcefulness from coming online because you’re in denial of what is.

The more that you can let go of being in denial, the more you can fully see the map of what is actually happening.

That doesn’t necessarily mean saying “I’m okay.” But it allows you to say, “Okay, I’m seeing things as they are. Now, what do I want to create? What’s the best move for me — what’s the action that I want to take?”

The trust and faith that you’ll have in actions taken from a state of acceptance will be far higher than any actions taken from a place of resistance. You’ll be fully tapping into your resourcefulness.

And resourcefulness will allow you to get where you’re wanting to go faster and with more power.

#4) Honor for Your Desires

There are two kinds of motivation: the carrot and the stick.

The stick is the avoidance of fear. It involves moving away from pain. It goes right along with that idea of judging yourself into submission.

But the carrot is what you desire. It motivates you because it’s the reality that you want to experience.

Imagine yourself walking down the street. Maybe you weren’t hungry a moment ago, but as you walk past a restaurant, the most delectable aroma wafts out. It smells amazing.

You turn toward the scent. You extend your neck and start to move toward the restaurant door.

You’re not moving toward the scent because your stomach is twisted by hunger pains. Turning in the direction of the restaurant doesn’t happen because you’re trying to stave off the misery of starvation. There’s no negative thing that you’re trying to avoid.

Rather, you’re moving toward something that you’re loving. The aroma entices you, and you want to move in its direction.

This is carrot-style motivation, and it’s the sort of motivation that flows out of acceptance.

It allows you to create your reality out of love for yourself. It honors what is truly important to you and what you want to experience in the world.

How to Cultivate Acceptance in Your Life

So are you ready to develop greater acceptance of yourself and your reality? There are both tactical and philosophical tools that can help.

Radical Self-centering

The philosophy I use for embracing acceptance is what I call the radical self-center.

Radical self-centering is the idea that you are the center of your universe, and no one else can possibly compete for that role in your life.

My version of it goes like this: I am the embodiment of God. There’s only one of us here. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. This is the language I use to say that I am the center point of my reality.

It is a subjective reality from the place of an eternal being.

If I’m an eternal being, then I want to experience everything. Sure, I want to experience all the “good” things, but for variety, maybe I’d like to experience some “not-so-good” things too. 

Maybe I don’t even know what’s in my own best interest. I’m not entirely aware of what is “good” for me. So it’s possible that every experience is just fine the way that it is.

No matter how “good” or “bad,” every piece of my reality is just an ephemeral experience that I am giving to myself on an eternal journey.

Meditative Techniques

In the present moment, there’s actually not a lot wrong. Meditation can help you connect with the present moment.

Even if you’re in pain at the present moment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the present moment is wrong. We have a lot of judgment surrounding pain. We tell ourselves stories about it, such as “Oh, I’m going to lose my arm, and what will that mean for me?” If you can get past that story and right into the present moment, acceptance becomes easier.

Here are two meditative techniques you can use:

  1. Find the Fingertips — Rub your fingers together with such attention that you can feel the ridges. It can take some effort. But I’ve discovered that as soon as I reach that point of being able to feel the ridges, I become super present and tuned in.
  2. Next Thought — Ask yourself the question, “What will my next thought be?” I’ve never had anything bring me into the present moment more profoundly than this question.

Breath to Surrender

Since acceptance is surrender, this technique I call Breath to Surrender can be a useful tool.

It’s a full exhale, followed by an inhale to capacity. After that, you exhale with an audible sigh. Let your diaphragm snap back as you do it.

Throughout the process, you’re priming your mind for surrender.

Physiologically, you’re switching from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. You’re going from fight-or-flight mode to rest and digest.

You can feel it happening as you do it. Softness in your experience of the world settles over you.

4-step Reaction Model

Carl Buchheit of NLP Marin offers a four-step model for reacting and responding to a situation.

  1. Shock — First things first. When an experience happens, it can hit you with a shock. You take it in and realize that there’s been a deviation from peace.
  2. Resistance — The next thing out of your mouth might be “What the fuck?” That represents your resistance to the experience.
  3. Arrival — This is when you take a deep breath. You say “Okay.” You come back into rapport with the present moment, with things just the way they are. That is the restoration of your resourcefulness.
  4. Question — Once you reconnect with the present moment and your resourcefulness, you can move into the next phase. It’s the part where you ask, “What would I like? What do I want to create?” You bring your desire back online.

This is a technique you can use with yourself, or you can use it when talking with others. It’s a handy model for coaches, for instance.

When someone tells you something devastating, whether it’s something from their childhood or something that’s going on in their life right now, you can internally run through these four stages. The question to ask in the fourth step is “What do they want?”

Running through this model in your head allows you to relate to the person’s situation from a place of acceptance. There’s a good chance that their mirror neurons will pick up on how you are relating to their situation.


Playfulness is a superpower that creates safety. 

My general attitude is “I’m not gonna take it too seriously.” I approach life with the idea that I’m just here to kinda poke around.

This goes back to my belief in myself as the radical self-center of my universe. If I’m an eternal being, then from that perspective, there’s nowhere that I have to be. I can play with reality exactly as it is right now.

For me, that’s such a fun way of going about “problem-solving.”

Rapport with Reality

Radical acceptance is coming into rapport with reality. It’s being friends with things exactly as they are, even if you do want them to change.

  • You can love yourself and still want to be stronger.
  • You can love yourself and still want to be a better business person.
  • You can love yourself as you are right now and still want to be in a relationship.

You don’t have to hate yourself to get where you want to go. In fact, you can’t really hate yourself to get what you want.

Experiencing the reality that you want to have begins with choosing radical acceptance of yourself. Through acceptance, you can experience more peace and freedom, tap into your resourcefulness, and be faithful to your desires.

My friend Clayton Olson was instrumental in helping me develop these ideas about the power of acceptance. Listen to our discussion in Episode 9 of The Shift to Freedom Podcast.
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