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.
The “Serenity Prayer” is a cornerstone of Alcoholics Anonymous. The most important lesson for the alcoholic in the prayer is the realization that the only thing you can change, is yourself.
There are three principles in the prayer that are related to change- acceptance, courage, and wisdom.
Accepting that there are things we cannot change is not easy. We want to change people, history, the world… but we really can’t, and who is to say we should?
I let Bill Clinton ruin my life. Everyday I would become enraged by something he said, outraged by some action he took. I would rage in every direction, hopelessly and helplessly afflicted by Slick Willie. One day I realized that Bill Clinton was not trying to torment me; he had no idea who I was, and likely never would. And he certainly didn’t care or even know the angst I felt. I was giving a person who didn’t even know I existed, great power over my life.
I had to accept there was nothing I could do about Bill Clinton. If Bill Clinton was causing such emotional turmoil in my life, I had nobody to blame but me. It was me, not Bill Clinton that could change that.
Courage to change the things I can-me- can be hard. First we have to accept we need to change. This is made easier by understanding what we can’t change- everything else. You can’t change the weather, you have no influence over the powers that be, you cannot force people to do what you want them to- and should you even if you could?
Wisdom to know the difference. Understanding our part in things is the key. If we blame our problems on things outside of ourselves- co-workers, the government, society- we give up our power to change things. If co-workers are the cause of your problems, then you are dependent on them to change. It is likely they won’t.
Thus you have to accept your part- how you let them affect you- to find change. Courage to change requires the conviction to own and change those things. Wisdom to know the difference becomes easy after that.
If you want others to change, show them how. Be a light in darkness, a friend in tines of need, a person that people want to emulate. When you do that, you will realize you don’t need to change a thing.