Many of us spend our lives wishing for something that just isn’t. We want to change the past. We want to change another person. We get so caught up in wishing things were different, that we have no energy left to change the things that we can. When our thoughts are consumed with “why me” or “life is so unfair” we stay stuck and miss out on “what is” and “what can be.”
Marsha Linehan, founder of dialectical behavior therapy, uses radical acceptance to help herself and her clients. Radical acceptance is an acceptance that comes from deep within and is free of judgement. It is not saying that something is good or bad, it is saying it just is. When you radically accept something, you stop complaining about it and start doing something to improve your life. Linehan uses the purple room as an example.
“Imagine that you hate the color purple. Then imagine that you move to a house where your room is purple. If you refuse to accept that the room is purple, you will never paint it a color that you want. Fighting reality causes suffering. (I hate this room) Sometimes people get so caught up in hate that they don’t change things. First accept the purpleness of the room, and then paint it.”
After my dad’s friend, Skip Wilkins, became paralyzed in a water skiing accident, he went on to become an author, an international motivational speaker, and a gold metalist in wheelchair sports. Without radical acceptance, he would not have been able to accomplish any of those things. He could have very easily spent his life thinking about what his life could have been and how much easier others have it.
Whether the challenge is small or massive, radical acceptance can help us move forward in life. It is the path to resolution, and it is the path to healing. It is about saying, “Here is where I am. Now what can I do moving forward?”
Whether it is a death, a break up, a disease, or a difficult boss, “why me” and “look how good other people have it” will keep you miserable and keep you stuck. It is growing from where you land that elevates you to a level you never thought possible.