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The difference between acceptance and resignation—and what it means for your life

When it comes to change there are two things we generally do – accept it or feel resigned to it.

Feeling resigned and accepting something are related but distinct emotional states which have different implications for how you live. Which camp are you in? Here’s why knowing is important because of what it means for your life.

Resignation is a state of surrender or giving up in the face of a challenging situation. It often involves a sense of defeat or disappointment or even a lack of control. When someone feels resigned, they might experience a loss of motivation, enthusiasm or a belief that change is possible.

The result? Feelings of frustration, bitterness or being trapped.

Acceptance, on the other hand, involves acknowledging and coming to terms with a situation, often after a period of reflection, understanding or personal growth. It comes with a sense that you’re willing to embrace or make peace with the reality of a situation without necessarily giving up hope or personal agency.

Rooted in a more positive and proactive mindset, acceptance lets people adapt, find solutions and focus on what they can control.

The result? A sense of inner peace, contentment or a shift in perspective.

So, yes, when it comes to leadership and life, it’s best to be in the acceptance camp!

But it can be easier said than done. Often our default setting can be resigning ourselves to the fact something has happened and it puts you into a negative mindset with a hefty dose of resentment. Throwing our hands in the air, ‘this is not my fault, I’m the victim here’.

It’s only when you accept the situation—whether you’ve brought it on yourself or not—that you can move forward, make the best of it and give yourself and your mindset the support you need.

Acceptance is much more my jam these days but in the past, in my corporate days, I definitely went down the resignation road. When I realised the organisation where I’d spend nearly 20 years wasn’t for me anymore I felt really resentful. I couldn’t see a path that I wanted to take so I resigned myself to thinking that I was stuck in a role I didn’t like forever! Like, ‘why have I given this organisation two decades and there is just nothing for me and they don’t even seem to care?’

It was only when I accepted that change had to happen to enable me to be happier that I explored my options. I established that leaving meant I could have a whole fabulous second act that I found my way through with a very different mindset. I thought, ‘okay, it is what it is, now I need to work out what to do to make this work for me.’

The process of moving to acceptance wasn’t immediate. It saw me showing up to work every day feeling apathy and not operating in a way I felt proud of. I was in danger of damaging my reputation because I didn’t want to be there anymore. I decided to do my absolute best and maintain my brand while navigating a way out.

For me, that way out was to jump into my business fulltime. I had to make sure I finished my coaching studies, then took on more clients to get a humming side hustle so I had something to jump onto.

Acceptance brings benefits that resignation doesn’t. It allows for emotional healing and growth. By acknowledging and embracing reality, people can process their emotions and move forward. It fosters resilience and adaptability, and helps you focus on what you can control, explore alternative solutions and find new paths forward.

For me—and I’m not woo woo—acceptance also reduces stress and promotes internal peace by freeing you from the burden of resistance. You let go of what you can’t change and open the door to new opportunities.

My advice? Be willing to learn and evolve. Resign from resignation!