We've heard inspiring miracle stories about someone recovering from illness, meeting one's soulmate in a serendipitous way, or getting a job amongst thousands of other applicants. But as I struggle to live with unfulfilled aspirations, the "miracle of acceptance" increasingly resonates with me.

I used to think that acceptance was sort of a spiritual consolation prize -- not getting what I really want, but sort of a backup plan to minimize disappointment. However, I've come to believe that acceptance can be an empowering and proactive response to the pain of difficult circumstances which have not (yet) changed. Acceptance allows me to release negative energy and create the space for a life=affirming environment.

Negative energy can include an obsessive need to control all aspects of the situation; failure to feel gratitude for blessings I do have; self-absorption and ignoring the needs of other people in my life; constantly focusing blame and anger against myself and others; and rejecting any further relationship with God seen as allowing/causing my suffering in the first place.

Acceptance frees me to focus on the actions I can control, engaging openly with those around me and treating myself with compassion.

With acceptance I still have the situation to deal with, but it is much lighter when the negative "baggage" is surrendered. I am now free to focus on those actions I can control, engaging openly with those around me and treating myself with compassion. I can also develop an honest relationship with God, seeking comfort and meaning to deal with unmet expectations. It also leaves me open to finding "hidden" blessings and new opportunities that can arise from the difficult circumstance itself.

Of course, this is easier said than done, but it's not an all-or-nothing process; acceptance can be seen on a continuum in which even small shifts in perspective can lead to a positive transformation of one's inner world. In that spirit, I offer these eight affirmations. They are not meant to replace pursuing the more tangible miracles we ask for at this time of year. Rather, they can be the other side of the coin in which we recognize that acceptance has its own inherent value.

1. Acceptance Can Bring Happiness and Peace of Mind.

I anticipate going with friends to my favorite kosher restaurant all week, in particular because their "artisan" pizza tastes amazing. Alas, when I get there, they don't have it. I feel disappointed and upset that what I had been looking forward to isn't available. If I can accept this situation, I can consider my other options (pasta primavera?), enjoy this alternative, and have a nice time anyway.

But what if I can't accept it? I feel irritable and even cheated. I wonder why the restaurant has put me in this situation. Frustrated, I order the first item I see on the menu, eat it quickly, and still feel upset that I couldn't have the pizza I'd anticipated.

Yes, it's a trivial example, and acceptance is far more difficult when the stakes have very real and serious consequences – a raise declined at work which was needed to pay off a mortgage; a relationship it took years to develop now going through a very rocky period; a child in desperate need of recovery from addiction. Yet in some sense, the dynamic is the same. To whatever problem we face, the above paradigm can help achieve the happiness and peace of mind we strive for without requiring a change in circumstance to happen first.

2. I Can Focus on Acceptance Without Giving Up On My Goal.

An initial reaction to acceptance may be: "Don't talk to me about acceptance. I won't give up going after what I want no matter how long it takes!" But acceptance doesn't mean letting go of a goal. It just means that at this moment in time, I acknowledge the reality of where I'm at, and have the peace of mind which can give me clarity on how to proceed. In that sense, acceptance is not giving up on a goal, but part of the process of attaining it or deciding to let it go. In a state of unrest, a voice can scream, "Don't just sit there. Do something!" But sometimes a clearer path to the truth can begin with saying, "Don't do something! Just sit there."

3. God Is In Control of the Results.

It's true: God helps those who help themselves. But that's not a guarantee that my desired outcome will occur. However worthy the goal, I am limited by my own understanding of what is best for me at this point in time. God has perfect knowledge of what I need now and in the future, and that may not include getting what I want. I may not like it, but I can accept that as much as I resist, God still runs the world.

4. My Effort Always Matters.

I can go on scores of job sites, spend hours preparing for every interview, and still remain jobless. In such cases, it can be very tempting to view the time spent as wasted and focus on my failed results. However, God is well aware of what I am doing to achieve my vision, and if done with the right intention, such effort is greatly valued. It could be "used" to help another person in a similar situation, or benefit a child or grandchild in years to come. It also could be that instead of God withholding my vision, He is just holding it for the right time to make it come true.

5. A Dream Unfulfilled May Protect Me from Harm or Lead Me to Something Better.

There are accounts of people who didn't get a job and felt horrible, only to remember later that the firm's office was located in the World Trade Center on September 11th. A broken engagement can seem like the end of the world in real time, only to be seen as a blessing when a future relationship is far better than the one that was lost. Moreover, by accepting that God has a plan for me, even if it's not what I intended, I can be more conscious of finding the meaning of where I am at the moment.

6. My Own Disappointment Can Allow Me to Empathize and Comfort Others.

Whether it's a family member, friend, or a stranger I meet at the airport, someone may share with me a distressing situation they are going through. Even if my own struggles are not the same, I can relate to his or her suffering. In doing so, my own pain can help me offer a level of empathy and compassion which would not be possible otherwise. This is particularly true in support groups where each member gains strength from the others in a way even the most well-intentioned person cannot offer.

7. The Longer it Takes to Reach My Goal, The Greater My Appreciation and Gratitude.

When I pursue a vision, I generally want it to happen sooner rather than later. When that doesn't happen, with each passing day (or week or year), my anticipation increases, more work is invested, and when my vision is God-willing fulfilled my fulfillment is more intense and gratifying.

8. I Can Have A More Personal Relationship with God.

Our sages have composed meaningful prayers of great value, and I try to connect to God through them. But in addition to these words, I can have a more personal relationship with God at any time or place. Sometimes my most authentic prayer comes as I'm late for an important meeting and beseeching God to help me make it on time. I can say a prayer for health hundreds of times a year during services, but my intensity and passion can be exponentially higher if I'm awaiting test results which could determine if I have a serious medical condition. I may not like stressful situations (who does?), but if I can let go of excessive worry and trying to control things, accepting them can allow me to connect to God on a deeper level.

Actual visible miracles, like oil burning for eight nights instead of one, are beautiful and inspiring. Accepting God's plan for us with peace and tranquility is another way to powerfully connect to Him.