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Are You Better Off Accepting Or Resisting What's Going On?

Some are stuck in downright blame while others are doing their best to make lemonade out of the lemons. The latter approach is one I call "acceptance" while the former is one I call "resistance."
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It probably doesn't take a genius to recognize that despite various assurances that the recession is over, there are plenty of us out here who are still challenged in many ways.

I have worked with a number of people over the past year, each of whom has taken a different approach to working with the reality of our shaky economy and warring political camps.

Some are stuck in downright blame while others are doing their best to make lemonade out of the lemons. The latter approach is one I call "acceptance" while the former is one I call "resistance."

If acceptance means learning to simply "live with it" or, worse yet, giving up, then that just won't cut it for most people, no matter how positive their outlook or disposition.

However, the word acceptance actually comes from an old English usage meaning "to receive from." Other early but less commonly held meanings of acceptance are "to recognize as true" or "to agree to undertake a responsibility."

So what does all this mean when faced with the short end of the stick? A workable, practical acceptance mindset means that you had better recognize and learn to face what's in front of you, no matter how unfair it might seem, and then start to figure out what you can do about it. Why? Because if you don't, you're stuck with it!

Hopefully, the pragmatists can see the wisdom in recognizing what's so and then working to make things better. That's what true positive thinking is about - recognizing the present reality, differentiating that from a realistic and preferred outcome, and then setting about moving toward that more positive future by taking positive, proactive action in the here and now.

Yeah, yeah - I know - I can hear the complaints already. It sucks out there, the fat cats always wind up OK, and life ain't fair. Ok. I get it. So what?

Even if that's true, what should you do about it? Whining won't help. Blaming won't help. These approaches don't work even if you're right. How about just giving up? Pretty obvious what results quitting will produce.

So what do you do instead?

For most of the past 18 months, I have been writing about various ways you can expand your field of choices, take a more proactive, positive approach to the world, and get on with making the improvements you can. (You can skim my archive of free articles for some ideas if you like.)

This time around, let's take a look at the opposite choice, one I call "resistance."

Let's assume you don't like it, whatever "it" might be. Your boss is unfair, the whole company/country is taking advantage of you, and your husband/wife doesn't appreciate you the way s/he should. Life just isn't fair.

You are free to deny any response-ability, for the situation in which you find yourself, to blame, whine, complain or just plain sit on your "buts" and not do anything about what bothers you.

I call this "resistance," the opposite of acceptance. Resistance can take multiple forms, ranging from simple denial over to an active kind of pushing back, fighting or just plain being stubborn. Oddly enough, resistance can have an apparently active side to it because resisters are, well, resisting; however resisting is rarely the same as proactively doing something about what troubles you. (Unless, of course, you mean something like the French resistance during WWII - they did not simply resist, but worked actively to do what they could to improve the situation with what was available to them.)

While I understand the natural tendency to resist or push back when challenged, it is important to recognize a very common consequence of resistance, which I can best sum up with an aphorism: "What you resist, you are stuck with."

Now this can get quite subtle, and I would encourage you to access your intelligence here, not just your intellect. Resistance can take many forms, ranging from the outright and obvious to the more subtle and passive. "That will never work" is one form of resistance. "That's dumb - you'll never catch me doing anything like that" is another.

If you judge an idea rather than actually engage with the idea, you are unlikely to learn anything new, progress or improve. Resistance in the form of intellectual judgment rarely results in learning and more often than not condemns the resister to an unconscious form of self-imprisoned ignorance.

We have all encountered that kind of resistance in life. Surely you have seen it at work, perhaps with friend. It can be pretty frustrating when you encounter someone who is resisting without actually engaging.

Sometimes, we can even frustrate ourselves, resisting our own ability to move ahead. That's a more subtle form of resistance, a form of self-doubt, wherein we undermine our own possibility: "I'm not sure I can do that." Or, "Oh if I tried, I'd only come up short. Or, "Never mind - it doesn't matter anyway."

These forms resistance really aren't that different underneath - they just look and sound different on the outside. The result of most any form of resistance is to wind up stuck in a place that most would find unpleasant.

Earlier this week, I was at Costco, a busy place just about any time of any day. A woman was pushing her cart across the entrance area toward the road at the same time a driver was turning around the corner near the entrance. The woman apparently didn't care too much about the fact that the driver was already in mid-turn and she just walked right in front of the car, glaring at the driver all the while.

You would have loved the scene that ensued. The driver had to revert to a classic "panic" stop in order to narrowly avoid hitting the woman. He rolled down his window and said rather politely to be careful next time as he almost hit her.

The woman resorted to a different classic, this one of being "righteously indignant." She began yelling at him about how pedestrians have the right of way, etc. Of course, she took no response-ability for having walked right in front of the turning car. She was strangely happy to blame him for her lack of awareness or common sense.

I would say this is a great example of someone (the pedestrian) stuck in her story about being right, resisting the obvious learning and setting herself up for an "accident" downstream. Now, that's not to say that she will be involved in some kind of auto accident later on.

Having worked with thousands of people stuck in one kind of resistance or another, I would predict that she will repeat this kind of "almost" hurt scenario over and over again until she can accept that she had a role in the "almost" incident. Future issues could take many forms, from something like the pedestrian/car scenario to difficulties in relationship and communication to troubles at work.

In this case, what you resist, you're stuck with leads to blaming others for one's own lack of conscious, response-able behavior. That, in turn, can easily lead to hurt, whether physical, mental or emotional.

We all have walked in front of some kind of car, whether literally or figuratively. Sometimes, the other guy really was at fault; sometimes it's just our own lack of awareness, focus or understanding. And sometimes, we just go blindly forward, hoping that things will work out.
I have met more than one person in the course of my work who has constructed a "story" about their life circumstances, about why they can't achieve something, be someone, experience something they would prefer, because of something that happened earlier in their life, because of something someone else did or said.

We all have stories. The challenge is not in being able to tell a story but in the willingness and ability to do what you can to move forward despite the circumstances.

If you recognize past choices and current stories about why you have not produced that which you say you want, and it all comes down to you, then you have a choice and an opportunity. The choice is to accept what is present and make new choices; the opportunity is to begin moving more fully toward what you truly want out of life.

What if you gave up all the stories you have told yourself, your friends, and the rest of the world about why you don't have what you say you want in life? What might happen if you started small, built a little bit of success, and began to take on even more personally meaningful goals?

One possible outcome could be an enhanced sense of freedom: the freeing realization of "no wonder I haven't gotten there yet! Now I understand! Now I know what to do differently as I go forward."

You can accept what is present and start to make new choices, or you can resist the car in front of you. The choice is yours. However, do remember, what you resist, you're stuck with!

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)