This post was originally written by Leo Babauta for Zen Habits. Republished here with permission.
One of the greatest sources of unhappiness, in my experience, is the difficulty we have in accepting things as they are. Without judgment, without wishing for otherwise. When we see something we don’t like, we wish it could be different — we cry out for something better. That may be human nature, or perhaps it’s something that’s ingrained in our culture. Here’s how to accept what is.
Accept What Is – Don’t Judge As Good or Bad
The root of the unhappiness isn’t necessarily that we want things to be different, however: it’s that we decided we didn’t like it in the first place. We’ve judged it as bad, rather than saying, “It’s not bad or good, it just is.”
It’s not negative to expect things to go wrong, and prepare your mindset for it. It’s only negative if you see it as negative. If you judge it as bad.
Instead, you could accept it as the way the world works — as the way things actually are. And try to understand why that is, and embrace it. As it is.
This can be applied to whatever you do: whether it be how other people act at work, how politics works and how depressing the news media can be. Accept these things as they are, and try to understand why they’re that way.
It’ll save you a lot of grief, because you’ll no longer say, “Oh, I wish things weren’t like this!”
Does it mean you can never change things? Not at all. But change things not because you can’t accept things as they are, but because you enjoy the process of change, of learning and growing.
Can we make this world a better place? Again, that’s assuming that it’s a bad place right now. But instead, you could say the world is just what it is — and that’s neither good nor bad. You can say that you’ll continue to try to do things to help others, to grow as a person, to make a difference in this world — not because you’re such a bad person now, or the world sucks, but because that’s the path you choose to take, because you enjoy that path.
As you catch yourself judging, and wishing for different — and we all do it — try a different approach: accept, and understand. It might lead to some interesting results.
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu