An excellent workout for your inner self!
I think I’ve made it clear that Relaxed Leaders must strive to ACCEPT others as they are. And I’ve also explained that I see this as an ongoing and active acceptance because, in order to accept certain people, we will need to intentionally address some of our emotions and ways of thinking.
In other words, acceptance starts within us, so we may need to work on ourselves a bit before we’re able to offer and maintain at least a basic level of acceptance without conditions.
Why it matters:
As Relaxed Leaders, we should be trying to improve ourselves all the time. How can we expect to help drive progress in our organizations and communities if we can’t make progress in our own lives? But when we don’t accept others, we take that desire to change and turn it outward. Doing this means we run the risk of trying to impose our will on others and that’s NOT what a Relaxed Leader should be doing.
To be clear, I’m not just talking about “accepting” our political or philosophical opponents – I’m also talking about our family and friends. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, I think we’ll find there are plenty of situations where we don’t fully accept even those who are closest to us. This can cause a lot of psychological stress because it puts so many conditions on our relationships and can weigh heavily on our minds and our hearts. That lack of acceptance becomes a barrier between us and it’s often a barrier the other person doesn’t know about until it’s too late.
So we need to do a little internal work to train our heads and hearts to deal with this whole acceptance thing head-on!
How to practice:
Step 1: Choose a person who is truly important to you. (Don’t start using this practice with some public figure whom you despise.) Think of that person and clearly hold them in your mind, warts and all, and let yourself feel whatever emotions you’ve already associated with them.
Step 2: Say or write something like the following and focus on it for a few minutes:
“I accept you as you are. All your life experiences – good and bad, big and small – have brought you to this moment in time and caused you to believe what you do, say what you do, and act the way you do. It is what it is. I can’t change your past and I don’t need to change you. I choose to simply let it be and accept you as you are.”
Step 3: After you have focused on a general acceptance, try focusing on some specifics that annoy you or are hard to accept. Say or write something like this:
“I accept that you... get snippy with me when you’re tired.”
“I accept that you... ask questions that seem condescending or accusatory.”
“I accept that you... get hurt or offended at things I think are silly and trivial.”
“I accept that you... dominate the conversation.”
NOTE: Remember that acceptance doesn’t mean you agree with what the person believes, says, or does. You can accept someone and still disagree with them or even confront them in a caring, constructive manner.
Step 4: Focus on the feelings that come up when you write or say these things. Does it make you uncomfortable? Is it easy and a relief? Does is soften or “take the edge off” any underlying emotions?
A lot of us avoid trying to truly accept others because of these underlying emotions it causes us to face. As a Relaxed Leader, I challenge you to face them, deal with them, and work on accepting others!
What to watch out for:
Accepting others doesn’t mean you agree with their words, approve of their actions, waive your rights, or need to overlook how those things impact you. In fact, I encourage you to care enough to constructively confront the other person if you need to protect yourself or others.
On the other hand, you can simply let them be. The main goal is to just accept the reality of that other person. You don’t have to like it. You can even feel a bit of righteous anger towards the reality of that person. But if you can extend to them at least a basic level of acceptance, then below any surface level emotions you will be at peace. That’s a wonderful gift you can give to yourself with just a little bit of work.
The bottom line:
Offering acceptance in exchange for gaining inner peace is an excellent trade and it really is a wonderful gift to yourself. And when you’re extending this acceptance to people who are close to you, it’s amazing how much your personal relationships can improve. Acceptance will end up being a gift that gives back and multiplies!