Time and again, I find that the key to progress is first to become fully aware of and accept the situation I'm currently in.
It helps to tell myself literally, "This is the situation I'm in." (Telling myself silently, that is. Talking to oneself in public tends to raise eyebrows). I am not thinking of where I'd rather be, strategising how I could have prevented the situation, left, avoided, or improved it – not comparing the situation to another, better, more desirable situation. And not trying to paint over the current situation with daydreams, anger or any form of mental escapism. Instead, simply fully and consciously arrive at this present moment. "That's the situation I'm in".
I had recently used this approach in a difficult discussion with a client when I was blamed for something I had no influence over. At first, I felt a strong urge to justify myself. To point out the obvious flaw in the other person's thinking. They got it all wrong! They greatly mistreated me! And then, just as I was about to open my mouth to "set things straight", I found that magic switch inside my head and chose to become aware: "That's the situation I'm in". Poof! What a relief.
It felt like a wave of clarity washing over me. I started to feel a sort of curious joy towards that particular moment. "What a remarkably unjust situation this is. So, this is how it feels to be wrongfully accused. Interesting. I wonder what made the person in front of me come up with this nonsense." I decided the best thing I could do at that moment was try to enjoy the situation that seemed utterly unjust to me. I mean, you don't get served BS like this every day. And so I did. And after the meeting, I reflected on possible ways to avoid a similar misunderstanding in the future.
Most spiritual traditions teach the idea of acceptance or surrender in some form. In today's western culture, where success equals winning, acceptance is easily mistaken for a passive attitude or inaction. But accepting the situation you're in – any situation – as your current moment reality is an active choice and may take much more courage than blindly succumbing to your emotional reactions.
So, to me, acceptance isn't passivism. And it's not the end of the process. I see it more as a launch pad from where you can take further conscious action. That's why surrender, rather than making you feel helpless, can be empowering and put you in the driver's seat. My active choice to not instantly react in that meeting gave me agency over how the relationship with my client further unfolded. All it took was to pause and become aware briefly: "This is the situation I'm in".