We have all been there.

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.

When I first started being a source of advice for friends and family, I would sit and think about things for a few days and then come up with some strategy that we could possibly take over the world.  It took me a long time to realize that the core of most of the advice that I always gave came from the Serenity Prayer.  Now, many times when people come to me for advice, I spend most of the time listening to what they have to say and trying to tap into their understanding of each part of what they have to say.  I ask questions like, “Well, what do you think that means?” or “What do you think you’re going to do, if I don’t tell you anything right now?”  It lets me know everything from every angle of the situation before I offer advice.  But most times when I speak, it starts with these three lines and it is organized in that way.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,”

This is a carefully phrased statement, because it does not say, “Don’t worry about the things I cannot change,” it’s asking you accept it, and reach an inner peace about it.  The first step of reaching any goal or finding any understanding is to know that there will be things in your life that you can’t change.  You can’t worry about what’s preventing you from changing it, it’s more important to understand that you simply cannot change it.  Once you take a situation and identify all the pieces that  no matter how much you try, you will not be able to change, you’re ready to attack the real meat of the matter.

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“Courage to change the things I can,”

There are two types of people in this world.  There are those who spend most of their time diagnosing the problem — also known as, complaining.  And there are those who spend most of their time resolving the problem.  My best professional and personal advice I can give anyone is, “don’t come to me with a problem, if you haven’t thought of a solution.”  There’s no country for people who can identify what the problem is, if they won’t do anything about it.  Many times once people identify a problem they sit back and say, “I can’t do anything about that.”  It’s a cowardly response some times.  There will be times when you have situations that  you can change, such as: finding a new job, making a move to a new city, ending an unhealthy relationship, or changing a mind.

You can change your job situation, but it doesn’t start with, “I need a new job” it starts with “I’m going to start looking for a new job.”  You can make a move to a new city, but it doesn’t start with, “I don’t know anybody there” it starts with “I’ll have to work hard to make new friends and contacts.”  And trust me, there’s always someone anywhere you go who you or someone you know knows.  Ending unhealthy relationships can be difficult, but sometimes we feel we’re tied to people because we’ve been friends for so long, or we’ve been together for so long, but trust me you can do it.  You can change minds too.  Inception seems like a difficult thing to do, but it’s not.  You can’t go into a person’s mind and make them do anything, but you can inspire and motivate others to do great things.  The point here is, when you identify a problem that is changeable, change it.

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“And the wisdom to know the difference.”

This is the most difficult part of the prayer because it’s the part that we can get hung up on the most.  At times, we think that we are powerful beyond measure and other times we find safety in, “well there isn’t anything I can do about that.”  As we grow in life we’ve got to work towards the wisdom needed to understand the difference between the things we can’t change and the things we can.  I always like to think about it this way: you can’t change the past, you can only change the present, and you never know what’s going to happen in the future, but you can affect it. As people go through life’s daily bumps and bruises, give them time to hurt, no one is allowed to tell someone that they cannot hurt.  But encourage them to heal, because you can’t hurt forever.  Sooner or later you have to stop thinking about the past, because there’s nothing you can change about it.  Then you have to start doing something about what’s going on right now, because you are missing out on countless opportunities to change the present.

This prayer has gotten me by at times when I didn’t know what to do.  You know your life has reached a rough patch when you are pushed up against a wall with, ‘I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”  It’s times like those when we need this prayer.  When we have to make changes, or do things that we never thought we could do, it’s the best way to approach life.

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What are your thoughts on the Serenity Prayer?  Has it helped you through a situation in your life?  If you are reading it for the first time today, have you found that the structure for this prayer is present in the way you approach problem solving?  Let me know.

– Dr. J

We are pleased to announce the SBM “Week in Review” Youtube Series featuring WisdomIsMisery. Click here to get the scoop and intro video. 2012 is looking better everyday.