Helen McKillen

helenmckillen accepting what I cannnot change


Accepting what I cannot change made a huge impact on my life. Until then I believed that answers could be found to every problem – you just needed to know where to look.

One of those problems was how do I save my sister from her excessive drinking habit.

Thankfully, my search led me to the doors of Al-Anon – a support network for friends and family affected by another person’s drinking.

This was where I came to understand why acceptance was such an important concept to learn in life. Together with awareness it is one of the building blocks to creating change in your life.

The dictionary defines acceptance as ‘the willingness to tolerate a difficult situation’.

I wouldn’t say I was completely willing to tolerate my situation, but I did understand that there was nothing further I could do. Having  exhausted all attempts to make my sister see what she was doing to herself, I now had another option, to accept that I couldn’t change her. Instead, I could change my irrational thinking and behaviour towards her. Choosing the latter was the best decision, and that made a huge difference to my life.

These are just some of the things I learned in the process and which have helped me to manage unpredictable and difficult circumstances  – they can of course be applied to any situation.

Acceptance does not mean that you like or agree with what is happening.

Neither does it mean that you are giving in or giving up on yourself, another person, or your circumstances. It just means that for today you are coming to terms with the reality you find yourself in. From that place you can start to separate what you can and cannot change. Rather than feeling helpless about a problem that is out of your control, you now have a choice. You can choose to let it consume your every waking moment or change your attitude about it. This is the first step. Coming to terms with any situation brings you into the present moment – the only place to start creating change.

Nothing is certain 

No matter how much you try and do all the right things in life, there are no guarantees that it will turn out the way that you want. This doesn’t mean that you don’t proceed anyway. Go ahead with plans and dreams but try not to get attached to the outcome – as we cannot determine what will happen. Much of our frustration comes from trying to control the uncontrollable. It’s better to let go of trying to change people, places, and things that are outside of your control. Instead, put your focus on what you can change – yourself and how you respond to circumstances.

Life is like the weather

It’s always changing and unpredictable. However, if you are prepared and know what to expect you can weather the highs and lows. We go through different seasons in our lives -harsh and cold periods of vulnerability, depression, and doubt, but just like the colder seasons of autumn and winter, dark days eventually pass into the lighter and brighter days of spring and summer. Understanding that everything passes, and nothing stays the same can help us through those tough times.


Suffering is part of life

Death, sickness, disability, aging, addiction, and divorce, are just some of the difficulties people are experiencing every day. These can be challenging to come to terms with. People may go through states of mind such as shock, denial, guilt, anger, bargaining, and depression before they eventually come to acceptance. This is all part of the healing process and takes time. Everyone deals with suffering at their own pace. There is no simple way through. We just need to be patient and kind to ourselves and others when living through tough times.

We are all human

We will fail, make mistakes, disappoint, and mess things up at times.  So too will other people. Forgive yourself and others when this happens. Its best not to judge, as no one knows what might be going on in someone else’s life that makes them act irrationally and out of character. Its best to keep an open mind and treat others just as you would want to be treated. This is not being passive.  It’s accepting and realising that we are all vulnerable at times. The more understanding we are of others, the more accepting and compassionate we can be to ourselves… and who doesn’t need this at times.


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