Posted on: May 7, 2018
Featured Expert: Gina Snavlin, LCPC
Ikea furniture- seems like a win-win doesn’t it? Its financially friendly, and great for most spaces. I’ve never enjoyed thinking about organizing more than after pursuing the many different colored bookshelf section. The store is set up in a way that no matter what language or skill level- you will be able to find what you want, load it in your car and drive off into the sunset with your household concerns resolved completely.
Ok, well for those of you who have actually built a piece of furniture from Ikea, you probably eye-rolled and laughed a little reading that last paragraph. The shopping experience and idea of Ikea is great- like most things in life we have expectations for experiences. We believe events will go a certain way and we invest energy and feelings into that outcome. But what happens when they don’t go that way or there is no way of reaching our expectations?
About six months ago I moved and needed a new dresser. So, Ikea it was. I remember unpacking each box, organizing the pieces and studying the illustrations closely to help with each upcoming step. After what seemed like forever (to me) I had the dresser made. It looked great… well except for one issue. Early on I couldn’t determine which way a piece should face. The instructions alluded me. I made a decision, but now realized I chose incorrectly. My dresser looked perfect … except one piece was backwards.
My expectations of building a perfect dresser were shattered instantly. After becoming very grouchy towards my partner and humoring an idea of throwing the whole thing out, I was left with two choices: Do I change this situation or do I accept this situation?
Change versus Acceptance
It sounds simple- rebuild right? Sometimes in retrospect our fix-it mentalities can betray us. Going back to our expectations, when they are not met we often have an emotional reaction that may be hard to manage. We may experience thoughts of “It shouldn’t be this way” or “Why don’t they understand how it is affecting me?” This can often lead us to making decisions that might not, in the long run, lead to contentment.
Sure, I could rebuild. After tearing the dresser down, I could start over and after a couple hours- Voila! A new dresser. But that would require more time, emotion, energy that in the long run may not be worth it. Sometimes the path to more contentment is accepting the dresser for what it is and not what it should be. Does this mean that I love the dresser or think it’s the best dresser in the world? No, but it also means I am not spending energy trying to change something or continually thinking about what is not right.
When to Change and When to Accept
It is not always a clear path. Questions to ask yourself is: Have I tried to change the situation previously? Is this situation permanent? Examples of Permanent situations may include the loss of a job, relationship, home etc.
When we keep trying to change a circumstance that won’t budge or we try to change situations which are permanent- we increase our misery. We may feel deflated, resentful, and hurt. Acceptance can be painful, but it also may allow us space to see the situation differently. We may feel we have more choice over how an experience affects us.
How to Practice
If we decide to practice acceptance how does it work?
It’s a mind state that may require regular practice. Something to consider is acceptance does not mean approval. Often situations are unfair (losing a job, a family member treats us poorly) and its valid to be hurt and want a different resolution. Be mindful that right now this is how it is and shift your focus.
Practice focusing on what you can influence, where you are willing to invest energy and time, and nourish other areas of your life. You may find that with this intention you feel more grounded and relate to previous roadblocks differently.
By the way, I chose to rebuild the dresser. It took much longer, and by the end of it I didn’t even appreciate it being fixed. In retrospect I would have enjoyed relaxing and spending time with family during that evening. Take it from me: Acceptance isn’t always our first or easiest choice, but sometimes it may be the most helpful