• Bill Petrie

Does acceptance mean that we can't strive for a better future?


There was a strong reaction to a Facebook post of mine recently.

The post read:

“At some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and live with what is happening.”

Jen, the woman who objected, responded by writing: “Never. That is the road to pessimism, lower expectations, and depression. I’ll never give up my dreams.”

She got me thinking.

For a start, let me say that I agree with Jen in her belief that dreams are important.

We function best when we are living our dreams.

We thrive when it feels like we are living our genuine life purpose.

Without dreams, our lives become meaningless and we can easily become deeply depressed.

And, being depressed, we can easily become pessimistic.

Pessimism, of course, is a kind of negative dreaming – a negative fantasy about the future:

“The world’s going to pot.”

“I’ll never be able to…”

“Things are never going to improve.”

“He’ll/She’ll never ever understand/appreciate me/ love me etc.”

Pessimism leads to cynicism and deepening depression and the antidote is in finding what is, for us, truly meaningful, practical and possible.

So, positive, meaningful, practical and possible dreams are important.

In fact, the very health of our souls depend on them.

And, I treat these dreams as being callings of our soul.

Such dreams have an expansive feeling and they feel as if they come from our hearts.

And, when we think of these dreams, we feel as if there is an opening and relaxing in our hearts.

We may think, for example that : I’d really love to:

  • learn to paint

  • or to take up yoga

  • or to learn to meditate

  • or to become an interior designer

  • or whatever genuinely moves you.

It’s a soft feeling and there is a lack of compulsive urgency.

In fact, it’s very important that we don’t confuse compulsive urgency with our true calling because compulsive urgency always comes from a sense of threat.

And, these threats are often disguised in the form of ‘shoulds,’ ‘musts’ and ‘have tos.’

We might, for example, have the thought: “I really should loose weight.”

And, when we look deeply into this, we might find all manner of threat:

  • If I don’t, I won’t be able to fit into my clothes

  • If I don’t, I’ll feel ashamed

  • If I don’t, he/she is going to reject me

  • If I don’t, I won’t be able to find a partner

  • If I don’t, I’m going to get a serious illness

  • If I don’t, I won’t be able to enjoy an active life, …

Or, we may think: “I must get on top of my work”

And, if we dig we'll find fears like:

  • If I don’t get on top of my work, others will get cross with me

  • If I don’t get on top of my work, I’ll loose my job

  • If I don’t get on top of my work, I won’t get paid

  • If I don’t get on top of my work, I’ll feel like a failure...

Or, we may think: “I have to find a partner”

And, again, if we dig we'll find fears like:

  • If I don’t find a partner, I’ll end up alone

  • If I don’t find a partner, I’ll feel like a total failure

  • If I don’t find a partner, I’ll feel so rejected and unwanted

  • If I don’t find a partner, I’ll never have a family of my own

Living by these ‘shoulds,’ ‘must’s and ‘have to’s’ is fear-based living and, if you live this way, you'll live much of the time in a state of threat.

Of course some fears point to issues that have to be dealt with.

But, these fears are not to be confused with our dreams.

It is far wiser to live by the dreams that arise from the callings of our souls.

So, dreams are important but how do our dreams fit in with living “with what is happening” right now?

At first glance, acceptance of the present moment and dreaming seem like contradictions.

Dreaming is about wanting something to be different from what it is right now. But the apparent contradiction is not real.

We can:

  • accept things as they are right now

  • and we can follow our dreams

Accepting what is happening right now is simply about accepting the reality of this moment.

And, by accepting how things are right now, we are saving ourselves considerable energy - the energy we would have wasted on fighting reality:

  • How could they do that?

  • Surely they can’t be that stupid / selfish / uncaring?

  • Don’t they realise that we need to do something about the climate change / crime rate / government / corruption?

It's pointless fighting reality.

Reality always wins!

Acceptance, however, does not mean that you're approving of how things are.

Nor does it mean that you need to give up on any dream of changing things for the better in the future.

Accepting how things are right now is simply about accepting the truth about how things are right now.

And, if we completely accept how things are in this moment, we are in a much better position to make wise choices about our future.

Why is this?

Well, if we are fighting reality, we are in a state of threat and, if this is the case, our minds will be busy with defensive thinking - outrage, blaming, defending and so on.

But, if we accept the present moment, we can settle our minds.

And, with more settled minds, we can make better choices.

True acceptance of this moment opens us up to wise choices for our future because true acceptance of this moment opens us to timeless presence.

And, when we rest in timeless presence, we have access to deep wisdom and so make wiser choices - choices that can help us to realise our dreams.

So, acceptance and dreaming go wonderfully hand in hand.

Accept this moment and follow your dreams!