Things You Cannot Control
posted: May 18, 2020.
Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference. - Serenity Prayer
Written by Tara Chandler
The Serenity Prayer has long been associated with recovery and with helping alcoholics and addicts to understand what they do and do not have control over. Though the prayer is noticeably short, it packs a lot of wisdom into its three short phrases. Often figuring out what we have control over is the most anxiety-inducing thing we experience as humans. This is largely because we have free will, and because we are subject to others’ free will, which doesn’t always coincide with ours.
We are constantly interfacing with things we cannot control; from our company downsizing and being laid off, to our digital information being stolen and having to pay the consequences, (and even to a global pandemic that shakes our lives). We are also at the mercy of our own interpretations of these decisions. The company downsize can feel very personal when our boss, who doesn’t have a family to support, retains his job. When the bank doesn’t understand the credit score you have is a result of credit theft and, therefore, denies you a home loan, anxiety can grip us. (Other people’s behaviors, words, and actions during this pandemic can seem contrary to what we believe is important and right, digging at our frustration, fears, and social justice.) Although these things feel extremely unfair and rage-inducing, we have little to no control over when, where, and why they happen.
The good news is, we don’t have to be victims of all the things in the world that we cannot control. One of the most powerful tools in the fight against feeling out of control is to recognize what we have within our control. Most of us have a great deal of things we can control or have significant input into each day.
Make a list of these things, starting with the small, such as clothing choices, food choices, activity choices, and then list more significant things. Recognize that the choice to do or not to do something IS actually a choice, even if that choice is to maintain your values or integrity.
Another powerful tool in the battle for managing things out of your control is gratitude.
Although this may sound obvious, this kind of gratitude recognition is a little more in-depth than what you may have done around the Thanksgiving table as a child. Gratitude recognition is the continual taking of inventory in your life and giving thoughtful thanks for the opportunity of these gifts. Some do this via prayer, some utilize gratitude journals, and there are now some really great digital apps that can help direct you in this activity.
Research tells us that practicing regular gratitude has all kinds of health and emotional benefits that can counteract those moments where life feels unmanageable or out of control.
The practice of gratitude recognition is ultimately choosing to focus on the positive aspects of your life as opposed to those things that you cannot possibly control. It is an active choice to commit to the positive side of your own life and to consciously recognize that you do indeed have control over a great deal.
What are some things in your life for which to be grateful?