We are experiencing things in life today that most have never encountered before. People are navigating a pandemic, financial uncertainty, employment insecurity, and a host of family-related issues. And, at the center of it all, has been a contentious political election. 

Like every contest, someone will win and someone will lose. And when that happens, there will be deeply emotionally invested individuals who did not get what they wanted. Losing is hard, especially when someone tries their best to win; there are those who loudly share their disapproval.

When people do not receive the outcome they desire, they experience a range of emotions. Some get angry, protest, and blame themselves or others. Some get despondent, feel hopeless, and sink into a depression. Many get entangled with woulda, coulda, shoulda type thoughts, that continue to fuel their emotions. Whatever a person’s modus operandi, learning to accept what is and surrender the notion of what was wanted, is vital in order to achieve peace of mind and heart.

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The Serenity prayer offers sage advice that can guide us through life:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

While it is always important to do our part in enacting change, equally important is garnering the wisdom to know when acceptance is the only remaining action. Acting out, melting down, disparaging others, doesn’t alter an outcome, it adds unnecessary pain and suffering.

Whether it be an election or any other event, things happen throughout the course of our lives that we simply cannot control, no matter how hard we try. All of the stress, pain, and resentment can be a heavy burden to bear. They say that how we play the game of life shows some character, but how we win or lose shows all of it.

Here are a few ways we can mitigate an unwanted outcome and emerge stronger and happier:

Untangle from negative thoughts. Ask how acting on emotion will help us live life in the long run. Will an angry outburst solve the problem or will it create a greater divide? Become aware of thoughts and strive to change the internal narrative.

Feel emotions. Don’t fight what is felt because those emotions will linger longer. Grieve the loss and then find ways to let it go. Take part in activities that are calming – practice meditation or yoga, or take a walk. Breathe into the part of the body where tension is felt and release it.

Embrace the moment. Be teachable and ask what can be learned from the situation. Can the opportunity enhance a personal trait? Can patience, kindness, empathy or endurance be strengthened? 

Focus on the big picture. We are all in this life together. Disparaging supporters of a different opinion is not in the best interest of our community. Find common ground and try to see the other side. If that is not possible, then agree to disagree.

As the Rolling Stones said, we can’t always get what we want. Learning to accept the unacceptable can be the pathway to peace.