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How to Tell “Acceptance” and “Settling” Apart

moneyRecently I was reading an article about contentment.

Contentment – the middle way through life – is one of my favorite words.

I aspire to live a contented life, craving nothing yet renouncing nothing, and feeling happy with what comes into my life unsolicited while remaining unconcerned about the rest.

I really, really love contentment. Unfortunately, by nature I do not seem to possess a contented personality.

One contentment-based issue I have often arm-wrestled over the years (nearly always finding myself on the losing end) is the matter of “settling” versus “accepting.”

For instance, let’s say I am not earning as much money as I want to earn.

Here, I have three main choices for how to approach and work through this situation.

  1. Settling. I could drop into hopelessness – “I guess I’m just always destined to struggle and do without.”
  2. Struggle. I could struggle against the situation by nurturing feelings of entitlement – “How dare others withhold from me what I need and deserve – after all, I am a hard worker!”
  3. Acceptance. I could accept the situation as it is – in this particular moment in time – and then set an intention to work through the difficulty with a hopeful, open attitude.

In reading through these three choices, I know which one feels best to me (#3). But I can also say with absolute honesty that, up until now at least, I have been more likely to drop into #1 or #2 – sometimes without even realizing that is what I am doing.

In the article on contentment, the writer made the point that accepting a situation in our lives is not the same as settling for less than what is possible. He then offered three steps for moving through difficult challenges with a contentment-based approach.

  1. Acceptance. With acceptance of today’s reality comes relief. We’re not trying to convince ourselves it is not happening, talk ourselves out of the need to make some changes, blame someone else (or ourselves) for events leading up to this moment in time, or tamp down on our strong feelings about what is occurring.
  2. Release. With acceptance comes permission to release resentment, struggle, anger, hopelessness. So this is what today has presented in our lives – so be it.
  3. Change. Once we have accepted the situation as it is, experienced it fully, and released our held emotions about it, we have then freed ourselves to make the necessary and desired positive changes.

In the income example, both “settling” and “struggle” are ways to not have to accept today’s reality. Each produces the same predictable result – no real ability to make positive change.

But with acceptance, I permit myself to accept and feel the strain of today’s experience of “not enough.” In doing so, it might feel like a tornado has gotten trapped inside me for a little while – but eventually the tornado will dissipate.

Once it dissipates, what remains is acceptance and a clean slate to move forward. Releasing all the anger, struggle, resentment, resistance, self-blame, et al, frees up so much energy to get creative and change my situation for the better.

Oddly, in the moments I am able to follow this advice, I feel an underlying contentment even as I work to change an untenable situation.

While I may not yet feel content with the number I see on my bank statement, I DO feel content while regarding the positive, accepting, approach I am taking towards solving it.

I feel empowered, confident, supported from within, hopeful, positive…..content.

Today’s Takeaway: How can you tell when you are “settling” for a situation that is SO not all right in your life? Do you see a difference between settling and accepting? What works best for you when you know you need to make changes in an area of your life, and you also know what you’ve been doing in attempts to make those changes is no longer working effectively? What do you do next?

Man with money image available from Shutterstock.

How to Tell “Acceptance” and “Settling” Apart

Shannon Cutts

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2014). How to Tell “Acceptance” and “Settling” Apart. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 9 Jun 2014
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