A Powerful Change Skill – Acceptance

Acceptance is one of those things we rarely think about as a Personal Skill or a Change Skill, but it can make a huge difference in our success in change situations – in all parts of our life.

A story to illustrate my point:

I’m a fly fisherman. I learned from my uncle – a great guy who only used one kind of fly, had one rod and one reel and was extremely skillful in seeking out and catching trout in mountain streams. I grew up believing there were certain ways to fly fish – especially for trout. As my experience grew, I stuck to what I had been taught by my uncle, and I regarded with suspicion all the changes and new things that had come to the sport after the movie “A River Runs Through It” created a whole new group of fly fishers. In my mind all that had happened was the streams had become more crowded – and with people who didn’t share a lot of my values and experience. But then I began to notice that a lot of these people were pretty good – good casters, good flytiers, good knot tiers, and good at catching trout. Gradually, and grudgingly, I came to realize that I was standing still while the sport that I loved was changing and growing. I decided to join in and find out what all this stuff was about. I learned more in one year than I had learned in all my previous 20 years of fly fishing! What a change! What a terrific set of possibilities opened up for me! And it all started with my being willing to accept change in my beliefs and attitudes toward my sport.

That’s my story, and I share it to illustrate how acceptance precedes change as a behavior. Without the openness of acceptance there can be little change. If I hadn’t accepted the changes and made them my own in fly fishing, I would have missed out on a whole new set of possibilities. I’d still be a fly fisherman, but I would have missed so much!

My fly fishing experience helped me become aware of how many possibilities I was missing by not being more accepting of other people, other ideas, other cultures, other stuff! And I decided I really needed to hear my self talk, start questioning why I do things the way I do, and start listening to others and accepting what they have to say as having as much value as my own ideas and thoughts.

It’s easy in our lives to “harden up” and become fixed in what we do and say and think – to stay in that comfort zone of what we already know. Except, we really start shrinking a little every day when that happens.

I don’t want my world to shrink as I get older. I want it to grow and be bigger and richer and filled with truly interesting and challenging things. The only way I know to have that happen is to become more accepting of things different from me. Not easy – but essential to continuing growth.

The really great thing about acceptance is how it prepares people for inevitable change. When the plant closes, when a career change is required, when a new boss shows up, when a move to a different place to live occurs, the people who have prepared themselves to accept and greet changes with a positive attitude are the people that will not just survive, but prosper. And with the rate of change increasing all the time, acceptance is really a survival skill, as well as a critical leadership skill.

Make acceptance part of your daily self talk and habits of thought – make it part of goals – make new experiences things to be treasured. You will live a fuller life for it!