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Acceptance vs Ambition (Part 2)

Last week I wrote a piece about acceptance, ambition and profound truth. Since then I’ve been thinking more about acceptance, and how for some reason it’s both important to have acceptance, and to resist acceptance and aim for ambition instead.

And I thought to myself:

Why would I accept something I can change?

The only reason to accept something, I think, is when it falls on the “uncontrollables” side of the weighing scales of life.

Too often, though, we accept things we can change.

We accept things sometimes because we don’t fully believe in ourselves and our power to change them. We accept things sometimes because we are afraid of the new reality that changing them might bring.

Perhaps the most cited lines ever written by the spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson are:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

This — the fear that we are powerful beyond measure — might be the main reason we find ourselves accepting things that we can and should aim to change.

If we can change something for the better, to make our tiny corner of the world better for us and better for everyone around us, who are we to accept the status quo?


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Ambition, acceptance and profound truth

It’s the paradox of profound truth in our daily happiness: balancing the restless ambition to be better with the restful acceptance of being just enough.

To have the ambition to improve and develop ourselves is, I think, a critical ingredient in happiness.

Tony Robbins defines happiness as progress, and it has been my experience too that I am happier when I am making small progress every day. Big leaps forward are great, but they rarely happen. Overnight successes usually take ten years of daily grind.

So an aspiration of self-development is vital.

Yet the flip side is also true.

Accepting ourselves for what we are is also a critical ingredient in happiness.

Even if rationally we’d like to move faster, aim higher, reach further, we must still accept ourselves today, in this moment, as enough.

Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize-winning Danish physicist of the early 20th century, said that the definition of a profound truth was the fact that the opposite is also a profound truth.

So it’s okay to have a restless ambition to become more than we are today. And it’s also okay to accept ourselves fully when we fall short.

And maybe it’s more than just okay. Maybe it’s profoundly true.


If you like to receive Shane’s daily blog on living a life well lived as an email straight to your inbox every day, add your details to the form below. (There are checkboxes for Shane’s weekly bullet points and longer monthly newsletter too. Check them to receive everything.)