I’m an optimist, a dreamer, a believer—that things change, people change, miracles happen, the impossible is possible. This positive bent is a gift to me and to those around me…but sometimes it gets me into trouble down here in the real world. As you well know if you also live in the real world, sometimes things and people don’t change, miracles don’t show their sparkly faces, and the impossible stays firmly out of reach. Those of us with high hopes have further to fall when disappointment inevitably strikes, and the force of that blow can instantly replace our passionate optimism with an equally hefty amount of cynicism and despair. But it’s not our nature to stay in that hopeless state; thus we begin again to climb upwards. And while I love riding roller coasters at theme parks, those of the emotional variety make me sick and aware that I need to get off this thing.
While there’s still room in my life for staggeringly great expectation and deep grief, I’ve been working on growing where I’m lacking, which is the middle ground between the two extremes—acceptance. Acceptance is not flashy. It deals with situations exactly as they are and encourages me to welcome into my life every angle, which usually includes a dash of hope and a sprinkle of disappointment. Acceptance leaves me room to dream of a brighter future but gently reminds me that this life is hard, while remaining a firm emotional footing on which I can stand. Thus acceptance is a quiet friend I’m inviting over more often these days.
To cultivate acceptance I’ve developed an unorthodox practice that’s simple, quick, and fun. Why unorthodox? Well, it’s a three-step process which includes a mindfulness posture, a prayer, and a country pop jam session—an atypical combination, I know. But, hey, sometimes you’ve got to think outside the box to find your secret sauce! I'm happy to lead by example. I do this five-minute exercise when I notice myself trying to control an uncontrollable circumstance or becoming very emotionally attached to a particular outcome. Are you ready for it?
1. Open your hands.
Nope, not in the theoretical sense--I told you this was easy, remember? Physically open your hands, palms facing upwards. There’s something about making tangible in our bodies what we want to happen in our spirits; an outward shift becomes a catalyst for an inward shift. As you open your hands release your expectations and bravely welcome reality.
2. Pray the Serenity Prayer.
I bet you’ve heard a version of the first few lines of the famous Serenity Prayer by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Recently I read the prayer in its entirety and loved it. Pray it with me:
"God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
"Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
There’s so much good stuff here, but I’ll just mention what has been meaningful to me recently, which is the last two lines of the prayer, a beautiful reminder that Jesus-believers can be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with God forever in the next.
3. Listen to “Meant to Be.”
You’ve oriented your mind towards acceptance. It’s almost time to get out of your head and back into your boots-on-the-ground life. To groove through that transition listen to Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s country pop hit, “Meant to Be,” an upbeat song that will get stuck in your head and help you maintain a chill vibe all day long. Trust me.
That's it! I dare you to try it.
Did you try out my quirky method? How do you cultivate acceptance and stay off the emotional roller coaster? Let me know in the comments below.