Everyone faces something in their lives that has the power to stop them in their tracks. Mine was weight. I always had to struggle to stay at my ideal weight, and for many years I white-knuckled it with diet and exercise. For five of those years, I did not consume sugar or wheat, and that kept me within two pounds of my goal weight. But when I turned 50, I developed some autoimmune thing, let go of control and gained a lot of weight.
I didn’t kill myself but I sure was mad. Mad that I had gained, mad that I was not able to lose the weight quickly or maybe at all. So what could I do in the mean time? I could accept what was.
Accepting my weight gain didn’t mean giving up doing something about it. It meant that I understood that this was what was up for me at that time. I could choose to pout and withdraw, or to get out there. When I accepted my weight gain, it no longer stopped me from living my life.
Playing your cards
I often think of life as Monopoly. Like picking Chance cards. You select a card and find out your long-lost Aunt Elba has died, when you find a check for $10,000 in your mailbox. Draw another card and your phone rings. Your husband has been driving back from vacation in Florida and calls to say he and the kids are fine, but had an accident, flipped the car and they are now stuck upside down in a tree in the smashed up car. True stories. Both.
When I was a kid and got behind in Monopoly, I was known to get so mad that I would turn the board over. Sometimes it is really tempting to do that in real life, but chucking it all is not a great strategy. It also doesn’t help to bitch and moan about your situation and make everyone else miserable.
I was pissed off about the weight gain since I didn’t think I ate differently than anyone else I knew who had relatively healthy eating habits. But, that wasn’t working for me. Life went one way and I had to get on with my life. Acceptance helped me to step up and do the things I knew I should do including starting two businesses, organizing WordPress Meetups, speaking, writing, taking on new challenges and basically living my life full on. The good news is that while doing my life, something clicked and I have been in the process of steadily losing the extra pounds.
I couldn’t have done any of this without first accepting what was, and doing the next right thing. Sometimes, I think this challenge for me has been kind of a cosmic test. I can see now that I could only do the next right thing by first accepting what was. Acceptance is essential when you encounter a roadblock on your way to something big and meaningful.
People come to me for help with their businesses. Sometimes it’s to start or redevelop their business website. Other times it’s to develop an online marketing strategy. Most everyone has some sort of challenge that confronts them. Last week I wrote about the “I’m not technical” challenge. There are people who feel like they are too far behind, that they are too old, who are waiting for money to come in or for their children to leave home.
Everyone’s pulling their cards and playing their own game. Sometimes we’re able to acknowledge what is and keep moving. Other times, we could use some time, self-compassion or help to see what we need to do next to keep from flipping the whole board over.
How to get there
Here are some ways that I found useful for getting to acceptance and moving forward despite real or imagined limitations.
- Find a mantra and focus on it. For a while, mine was, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” This helped me learn to really love myself, and others and go on with saying yes to life, no matter what.
- Realize the cost of not accepting what is. A friend who knows about my weight struggles, teaches yoga and has to be in front of 50 young students wearing her little yoga togs, was embarrassed to admit to me that she can let a five pound weight gain determine her moods and behavior. I told her that the number doesn’t matter; it’s the feelings it brings up. To let five pounds or 80 pounds—or anything—stop us from doing what we are meant to do is a tragedy.
- Remove false milestones (the “when I” habit). We often sabotage ourselves by putting something else in front of what we are meant to do. “If and when (fill in the blank) happens then I will start blogging, start my own business, find a new job, find my true love, etc. etc.“ Time doesn’t stop while you are waiting for your false milestone, and meanwhile you may never get to where you most need to go. There is always going to be something to use as a false milestone.
- Get clear about where you want to go but don’t have to have it exact. Having to know in advance and have everything mapped out completely before you start something is another one of those things that stop action. You will never there. The target is always changing. Get comfortable with moving forward in the general direction of your dreams. You might not know exactly where it is you are going to end up until you start moving. The fluidity allows you to take advantages of important forks in the road. But knowing the general place you’d like to end up allows you to be honest with yourself if the decisions you make and the actions you take are moving towards it or not.
It is good to cultivate the habit of finding things perfect. Perfection is what is happening with you or anyone right now. You can fight against what is or you can accept it, which doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it. But we get into trouble when we make excuses or lie to ourselves, or others about what is up for us right now. Life goes much more smoothly when we accept and gracefully deal with what is and move on. ‘What is’ is what is—period. No matter what happens next, we have to start right where we are.
So what is it for you? What’s stopping you from doing what you need to do?