The morning commute to work did not go as planned. My comfortable morning routine was hijacked once the fuel light illuminated itself on my dashboard as I was pulling out of the driveway. I had not anticipated the need to stop for gas but a 40-mile commute did not allow me the luxury of waiting for a better time. Needless to say, my feathers were ruffled, my heart was beating faster and I couldn't help muttering, "This isn't fair. Why does this always happen to me?"
Although I was able to fuel up in record time I found myself strategizing on how I would make up the ten minutes lost. I pulled into traffic and started playing "follow the leader" with the cars ahead of me. "Why can't anyone just drive the speed limit today?" comes out of my mouth as I change lanes back and forth only managing to provide a gain of four car lengths before having to stop completely at a red light. By this time my anxiety is in full swing, hands shaking, heart beating faster, and the peacefulness gained from a restful nights sleep dissipated. "UUUUUgh!! This is not my day!"
To make a long and stressful story short, I eventually made it to work...ten minutes late.
Do you think I helped my cause at all by becoming angry toward people and traffic situations out of my control? All I managed to do was increase my own suffering. Instead, I could have accepted my situation, realizing that I would have to suffer the consequences of not filling up my tank the night before or allowing for adequate time in the morning, and then letting go of the things outside of my control. I could have practiced Radical Acceptance.
One approach to any problem is Radical Acceptance, which is about accepting life on life’s terms and trying not to change that which I am powerless to change. Radical Acceptance is about saying yes to life, just as it is. Without practicing radical acceptance, I may build my emotion bigger with my thoughts and create more misery by attempting to change that which I cannot. My situation may not necessarily improve, I may still have to deal with loss, pain, sadness, anger, or rejection but I can reduce my suffering by accepting my ability to focus only on that which I have the power to change and discarding the rest.
A Place to Begin:
Life gives lots of opportunities to practice. If you have a problem that you can solve, then that is the first option. If you cannot solve it but can change your perception of it, then do that. If you cannot do either, then practice radical acceptance.
Begin by focusing on your breath. Just notice thoughts that you might have such as the situation isn’t fair or you can’t stand what happened. Just let those thoughts pass. Give yourself an accepting statement, such as “It is what it is.” Practice over and over again. Acceptance often requires many repetitions.
Consider the scenario after practicing radical acceptance:
The morning commute to work did not go as planned. My comfortable morning routine was hijacked once the fuel light illuminated itself on my dashboard as I was pulling out of the driveway. I had not anticipated the need to stop for gas but a 40-mile commute did not allow me the luxury of waiting for a better time. Needless to say, my feathers were ruffled, my heart was beating faster but I forced myself to repeat over and over to myself, "It is what it is, it is what it is." After putting gas into the car I managed to make my way to work. At every stoplight, behind every slow driver, during each slowdown on the freeway, and as my heart rate would rise and fall, I would continue to repeat my mantra, "It is what it is."
I eventually made it to work...ten minutes late.