“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
– The Serenity Prayer

I started going to A.A. meetings as a kid.

My Mom was an alcoholic so me and my siblings would attend the meetings when she would be getting a new “sobriety coin.”

It must have been during one of these meetings where I first heard the “Serenity Prayer” being discussed. It didn’t mean much to me back then when I was 10.

But when I was 19 it took on a whole new meaning when I found myself back in A.A., this time attending because I needed help.

I loved the Serenity Prayer. But even back then it was more of a cliche than anything else.

I’m 32 now. And I feel like I’m only just beginning to realize how powerful the concepts contained in this short little prayer really are.

There are three parts to it:

1) Acceptance
2) Courage
3) Wisdom

I’ve found most people gravitate toward the “acceptance” part.

They love to talk about the peace that comes when they “accept the things they cannot change.”

But for the last several years I’ve focused more on #2: “courage to change the things I can.”

I’ve discovered there really is a lot we can change.

For example, I hated how biased the media was and instead of just “accepting” that, I decided to muster up the courage to do something about it.

I started my town’s first hyperlocal media website and within a few days of launching it I was having coffee with the Mayor.

I could have also decided to “accept” the fact that I had to endure a 1-hour commute to work and spend 40 hours a month sitting in traffic!

But I had the courage to quit my job and start my own freelance copywriting business.

So I like to change things.

I’m not good at the acceptance part because I honestly believe I can change things. And I believe you can to. That’s what it means to be “empowered.”

We’re not just powerless victims of circumstances or chance. We can exercise our free will and decide what we want to happen.

Wisdom to Know the Difference

But of course there’s the other side of the coin.

And this is why I’m meditating on #3 more these days: “the wisdom to know the difference.”

One of my biggest frustrations in life is watching people, churches and organizations operate in a state of disarray. When I see a lack of vision or people trying to do things without a clear strategy in place, it drives me crazy!

And of course I want to change it.

But I can’t afford to fight every battle. I’ll burn out. And so will you.

This is why I think we need wisdom to know which battles to fight, especially entrepreneurs who are prone to just go change things.

It’s also good to remember that we can’t change people.

So if your frustrations are mainly with people then remember that you cannot change them. But you can decide how you will respond to them.

Simple Exercise to Know What You Can Change

A great exercise to do comes from Shawn Anchor in his book, The Happiness Advantage.

As Anchor was consulting with some high-level leaders he asked them to write out all their stresses, daily challenges, and goals, then to separate them into two categories:

1) Things that they have control over
2) Things they don’t

“Anyone can do this simple exercise on a piece of paper, an Excel spreadsheet, or even on a napkin over post-work martinis. The point is to tease apart the stresses that we have to let go of because they’re out of our hands, while at the same time identifying the areas where our efforts will have a real impact, so that we can then focus our energy accordingly.”

So if you’re feeling stressed then try this out and see how it works.

And write this prayer down somewhere where you’ll see it throughout the day:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”