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From Vol. 1, Issue 10, October 2019

Everyday acceptance: Key to Thriving


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Work with the material you are given.

Epictetus Discourse 2.5.22 

The makeup of your life to-date is the sum of the material you’ve been given. Your experiences, your setbacks, who your family is or isn’t, your abilities—the lot we’ve been assigned is not in our control, but what we do with and how we respond to it is. What you’ve just read is arguably the bedrock of Stoicism, and this piece is precisely about what gets us to that sought-after Stoic response—acceptance. 

What acceptance is not 

To understand what acceptance is and looks like, we must understand what it is not. Acceptance is not apathy, laziness, or idle helplessness. It’s not the status quo or refusing to push yourself. Acceptance is simply coming to terms with what is real (read: irrefutably, irrevocably true). It has nothing to do with whether you’re happy about said reality, and has everything to do with a peaceful acknowledgement of that thing—that concrete thing—being true. 

What acceptance is 

Acceptance is saying, I care deeply and while this is not preferred, I acknowledge that this is my reality—my responsibility lies in how I bear it. Acceptance is not repeatedly getting angry over something existing. Acceptance transcends that cycle, empowering us to decide what to do given the circumstance. 

The path towards acceptance asks two questions: 

1. Can this be changed? and 

2. If the answer is no, what work needs to be done to accept this, emotional or otherwise? 

When you’ve accepted something, you don’t have an outburst every time it surfaces. True acceptance only leaves room to be pleasantly surprised. Acceptance yields freedom. When your emotions are no longer at the mercy of an external (as the Stoics implore us to relinquish), you’re freed to expend energy on efforts that produce and fulfill. 

Acceptance empowers growth 

"Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths. Prudent people look beyond the incident itself and seek to form the habit of putting it to good use." -Epictetus 

Our thriving demands a graceful acceptance of our realities, subsequently opening up the space necessary to creatively navigate next steps. It’s the simple declaration of, “This is my life. Now how do I make something of it? How does this not look hopeless? What does my reality require me to do?” 

Epictetus might be one of history’s best examples of this. A disabled slave, his thoughts and writings helped to form the basis of Stoic philosophy. His reality was something that many of us would describe as unideal, to say the least. And yet, instead of lamenting his circumstance to the point of hopelessness, he bore it dutifully and as a result, produced a perspective-altering work that would shape receptive minds for generations to come. 

When it comes to our lot in life, we either overcome it, or accommodate it. Accommodate doesn’t mean giving in or giving up. It means designing a lifestyle that enables you to not be destroyed by that thing. Most problems that can’t be solved (i.e., eradicated) can be managed. The question turns from “How can I get rid of this thing?” to, “How can I not be debilitated by this thing?” The latter requires acceptance and a creativity that often leads to relief. 

Elizabeth Azide is a marketer and writer based in Austin, TX. Her blog is, and she can be found on Twitter- @elizabethazide.