Four Ways to go from Expectations to Acceptance
What's the way to free ourselves of our expectations? Accept reality. Acceptance doesn't condone a given person or event, it brings you peace and love. You're not rolling over and giving up by accepting someone/something, rather it reframes your understanding so you respect another person's views, needs, or behavior as being as valid as yours.
Rather than continuing to stew and fume, here are four simple but effective techniques to go from expectations to acceptance.
1. Express your anger constructively.
Emotions are just pure sensations in our bodies. Emotion = E (energy) + motion. Expressing anger entails releasing that pent-up emotional energy in a safe place and a constructive way. Kick leaves in your yard, stomp through the house when no one is home, push against a doorjamb, or scream and shout into a pillow. If you use words, yell something like, "I feel SO frustrated!" Actions such as these move the energy out of your body. Do it hard, fast and with abandon, and notice how afterwards you instantly feel calmer.
2. Accept that things aren't the way you'd like them to be.
John was not enthusiastic about expressing his anger physically but was open to the idea of changing his thoughts. He needed to accept what is. The best way for him to do this was to remind himself, over and over, that: Ellen is the way she is, not the way I want her to be. It's even more powerful if you repeat it to yourself out loud. Over and over, many times a day John told himself "Ellen is the way she is, not the way I want her to be. I love her. She's not me. Let Ellen be Ellen."
After repeating these words, John had a shift. His acceptance statement became a fact instead of a platitude. By interrupting his old thinking and repeating these phrases over and over many times a day, John got that he needed to accept Ellen for who she was and relish the activities they enjoyed doing together.
John also realized how it wasn't just Ellen who he didn't accept, but actually most everyone. His neighbor. The other drivers. The inept store clerk. His kids. So he found he needed to repeat "People and things are the way they are, not the way I want them to be," all throughout the day.
The benefits were real and amazing. He felt more loving and lighthearted. He appreciated what was good rather than what he didn't like. He adjusted his expectation so they were more realistic. He enjoyed the fact others approached him more and he was having more meaningful conversations. And lastly, John found more ease and noticed he could face tough situations with a genuine smile.
3. Accept what is and then decide what you need to say or do.
Acceptance of "what is" doesn't mean being passive. First accept, and then figure out what, if anything, you need to say or do about the situation. John had a great idea. The following weekend, he decided to ask Ellen to teach him how to use Facebook. Working together on the computer led to a lot of laughter. After a while and much to Tom's surprise, Ellen suggested they walk to the pier and watch people fishing. They got out of the house.
If you decide you need to speak up after you accept what is, make sure the conversation is about what's true for you, and not laced with finger-pointing, name calling, and generalizations about the other person's character. Read
to refresh your memory about Attitude Reconstruction's four simple rules of effective communication.
4. Count your blessings
Rather than believing the world should conform to our view, we have the ability to focus on other things, such as counting our blessings, enjoying the beautiful day, or marveling at what wonderful people we have in our lives. If you give up your expectations that things should be different than they are, you'll enjoy more positive thinking and feel more loving and lighthearted. You'll suspend your agenda for others, which sets the stage for more meaningful conversations and connections.