If the news is anything to go by, we are in for tough times ahead. However, I have never been too keen on predictions. Until something has happened, it hasn’t.

For all we know right now, 2009 could be the most remarkably good year that any of us have yet to experience. What is more, it can be that when things are really difficult, we find greater meaning, sense of purpose, deeper self-knowledge and even more fun because we reach out to others in our community for support and fellowship. What might look bad turns out to be enriching. What seems diminishing is actually expansive.

So what to do when you might be facing new and challenging circumstances, feeling possibly hopeless or helpless? The 3 A Formula is:




Acceptance is a way of saying: I am in charge of my life and I have choices as to how I lead it. What if we can go through life laughing or crying? What would you prefer?

Acceptance does not mean resignation, as in: I may as well give up because there is nothing I can do, and anyway, anything I could do would not make any difference. I call this the Eeyore Syndrome (from A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh), quite prevalent I find in England. Born in England, I know it well. Poor old Eeyore is definitely not high in energy or joie de vivre.

Acceptance is a simple statement of observation, the reality of the moment. It is a neutral note in what may be a discordant cacophony.

“Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change.”

— Katherine Mansfield

Awareness is a gift that comes having managed to stand back with some objectivity. Less frozen, we can be open to understanding the truth about a situation, taking a new view of events, or our feelings about them. Movement has taken place. With this movement comes freedom. The situation or experience no longer traps us.

Awareness lifts us above the pit of no hope, gives us visibility, vision, and potentially fresh choices.

“Awareness is the power that is concealed with the present moment.
That is why we may also call it presence.
The ultimate purpose of human existence, that is to say, your purpose,
is to bring that power into this world”

— Eckhart Tolle

Action is where we effect a change. Action uses up the energy that was stagnating, and makes you feel better. Almost any action makes a difference, if only providing a change of view. Have you ever found that going out for a 15 minute walk can give you a whole new look on things?

Action could be taking a few deep breaths. You are in charge. No one else is going to take those breaths for you. I have girlfriends who put on upbeat music and dance to change their mood. Taking a moment to change that light bulb you have been meaning to change for ages could give you a whole new look on your life, apart from perhaps being able to see better at night.

“Acceptance is not submission; it is acknowledgement of the facts of a situation. Then deciding what you’re going to do about it.”

— Kathleen Casey Theisen

Now you have the formula, here is how I have found it works well. The three A’s turn into three statements to complete:

I accept that….

I am aware that….

My action is to….

You complete them spontaneously without too much thinking. They could look like this:

I accept that I don’t feel like going back to work after the holiday.

I am aware that I do enjoy my job.

My action is to take time out for lunch to give myself a break.


I accept that I am feeling concerned ever finding another job at my age.

I am aware that there are not many jobs around for people like myself.

My action is to repeat this exercise for more clarity.

I accept that I am feeling concerned about finding another job.

I am aware that I have some really good friends and contacts in my field.

My action is to call Bob who has offered to help me.


I accept that Patricia is late whenever we arrange a time to get together.

I am aware that I cannot change her.

My action is to take a book with me to read while I wait for her to join me.

In my experience, I have sometimes run through the 3 A’s a few times with the same issue until I get the awareness and actions that will move me forward. Why bother? Small actions to take care of our “tiny ten acres” serve to make us feel better. In feeling better, we are clearer about what we can do to effect the bigger changes we want.

You have so much in your life going for you. Yes, I know that life can deal us some cruel blows. But please know that deep down, who you are is so much greater than any slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Maybe this year, you will discover more of the extraordinariness of your ordinary life.

When you feel stuck, how do you get clear? Please leave a comment. I would love to learn from you.

“Accept your genius and say what you think.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Counselling Director Mark L Lockwood (BA)(psy)
Counselling Director
Mark L Lockwood (BA)(psy)

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