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Exchanging Acceptance for Accomplishment

June 2, 2020

All of us want to be accepted.

From the elementary school playground to the break room, we all want to feel like we belong, like we’re approved, and like we’re doing the right thing. This desire is not bad. In order to lead, you need at least some level of acceptance. I’ve heard it said this way, “If you think you’re leading, and no one is following you, then you’re just taking a walk.”

So acceptance isn’t bad. However, when we focus on pursuing the acceptance of others we can often be distracted from fulfilling our purpose. Instead of focusing on our goals, we focus on winning the affirmation of other people. And we do this in two negative ways.

1. We flatter. We tell people what they want to hear. We tickle their ego, so they will like us. And we shy away from saying the hard things that need to be said. Not only does this produce weak relationships, but an unwillingness to have difficult conversations can drastically decrease the impact and productivity of a team.

2. We don’t try our hardest. Unfortunately, we live in a world that shames success, so we try to do the same amount of work as everyone else to fit in. Not sure what I mean? In high school, kids often tease the straight A students for studying all the time or give athletes a hard time for spending extra time at practice. What about in the working world? I’m sure there is someone on your team (it may be you!) who always goes the extra mile. This person might come in early or stay late to do excellent work, but others say they are too focused on their job. I certainly believe in the value of work/life balance, but many times we (consciously or subconsciously) resent people who work harder than we do.

Each of us need to make this essential exchange:

Give up acceptance when it stands in the way of accomplishment.

The world needs you to fulfill your calling, achieve your goals, and make your purpose come true.

But this exchange comes at a cost. You must have the courage to resist the gravitational pull of compromise and conformity.

Jim Hightower says it this way: “The opposite of courage is not cowardice; it’s conformity.”

In what areas of your life do you need to exchange acceptance for accomplishment? How do you need to step out, and even stand out, to fulfill your calling and make the greatest impact?

Marianne Williamson’s famous words help unpack this principle: “You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.”

The good you can do for the world is bigger than yourself, so use your gifts and work hard to achieve your goals—no matter how many critics discourage you along the way. In the process, you may even find that you’re beginning to be accepted by the right people, which is infinitely more valuable than being accepted by everyone.


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