Why Practice Acceptance?

Acceptance helps you heal. Acceptance turns failures into successes, helps you engage with what you can control, and most importantly, acceptance helps you savor life.


People are wonderful at finding faults, real or imagined. Life is too short to squander your time pondering other's imperfections, worrying and trying to change what can't be changed. A constant desire to improve, infringes on your ability to savor. The challenge is that, like time, the human mind doesn't stand still. It comes installed with powerful fault-finding software that forgets an important lesson: everything fixable doesn't merit fixing. Acceptance helps you save time and energy for the important things.

Accept Others If You Want Them To Change

Perhaps you are surrounded by people you wish were a bit different. Your spouse or friends may not be the same as when you first met them. Your older parents may be getting more stubborn, your children may not behave like the gentle souls you wish them to be. Your employees, colleagues may not be as accommodating as they seemed at first. You may have spent considerable energy trying to bring all these other people to a more desirable state, mostly without success. If this applies to you, take comfort in knowing that you aren't alone.

Part of your unhappiness comes from living in an imperfect world. But the greater part comes from the desire to control and change others and frustration at your inability to do so. The more you try to change people, the greater the assault on their egos and the more stubborn they'll become. Trying to change others is an insurmountable task, like trying to paint on a moving cloud; the paint won't stick.

The key to changing people is with them, not you. Only they can change, once they are willing. They'll be more willing if they feel good about themselves. They'll also listen if they perceive your unconditional warmth. How can you enhance their self-esteem and show your warmth? Accept them as they are.

The Practice of Acceptance

Our perceptions depend on a mix of attention and interpretations. The deeper and stronger our attention, the richer the sensory input we receive. However, quick interpretations that originate from ingrained biases prevent the mind from perceiving the truth, instead seeing only what it already knows. Acceptance softens this bias by delaying interpretations.

Realistically, completely letting go of biases is extraordinarily difficult. But you can:

  • Minimize bias by being more objective.
  • Consider the possibilities that deviate from your preconceived notions by becoming more flexible.
  • Develop a willingness to work with the imperfect, the undesirable and the uncontrollable.

In other words, the practice of acceptance requires objectivity, flexibility and willingness.

This article is an excerpt from The Mayo Clinic. Guide to Stress - Free Living.