Accept the Things You Can’t Change Prayer: 3 Lessons

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Here's some good news about acceptance, prayer and lessons on change… the learning and growing you do will bring you one step closer to peace.

Maybe there was a time when you felt down, unloved, alone and helpless. Maybe you still feel that way.  Or perhaps, all is well, and you're focused on finding your purpose and true happiness. Either way, your journey may have only just begun.

Today, it's time to transform yourself into the person you've dreamed of being. Today is the day to accept the things you can't change.

Fortunately, that process only involves three simple steps: One, firmly accept the things you can't change. Two, have the courage to change the things you can. Three, accept that through experience and hardship, you'll find yourself with the wisdom to know the difference.

From there, your path to happiness will be clearer than ever, as you'll be equipped with the kind of thinking needed for success.

For now, let's begin with a discussion about The Serenity Prayer. This prayer will guide you through your journey of acceptance. When you say these words, you open your mind to happiness. You fill your mind with solutions to conflicts. Now, say it with me..

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

Remember, peace comes after acceptance… happiness begins with understanding the changes you'll make to be happy. Those changes can happen after you've accepted what can't be changed. Complete acceptance, however, begins once the mind is untroubled.

Your mind should be focused and free of uncertainty. Regarding personal growth, the way you think about yourself will give you the room you need to change. You can use positive self-affirmations to reduce anxiety and stress. You know, those bite-sized phrases that remind you of how special you are? Equipped with these, the time you spend envisioning happiness begins. You start with learning to let go of what you can't change. From there, you can be clear about the decisions going forward. That is, choosing whether you'll accept the challenge of letting go.

Today, the Serenity Prayer invites us to accept the challenge of following a path. You may have already created goals for the future. But wait, you might be worried that there is so much outside of your control. How do you progress in your career when you feel you have no input on your advancement? Can you establish a healthy relationship with a partner if they already know everything about you?

The good news is: yes, you can.

…courage to change the things I can…

The Serenity Prayer's strength is in encouraging people to find peace. That peace is derived from the process of overcoming obstacles to happiness. Your path to success begins with adopting an optimistic mindset. What you can't control only deserves so much of your time. However, what you can't change may deserve even less. That said, when the mind is clouded with doubt, the ability to see your visions and goals is heavily impacted. Regarding the process of finding happiness, the future is simply clearer. That is, so long as you take on the role of a willing participant.

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Your path to success begins with adopting an optimistic mindset.

Remember, The Serenity Prayer also refers to what can't be changed. But accepting the fulfilling journey toward happiness begins with an understanding: through previous challenges and successes, you learn to stay mindful of the present. In doing so, you become aware of what changes you can make.

For example, you can be happy in spite of a prior divorce. But you might not be able to change what your ex-spouse says about you when your back is turned. Either way, your ability to be happy will begin when you have the freedom to decide. No matter what, it's okay for you to take steps towards happiness,

…and wisdom to know the difference

For now, generate a list of obstacles. Start with those related to your environment, your physical location, current emotional, physical, or mental barriers, and your prior history of decision-making. You'll see you have plenty of things that look like problems you can't change. For each obstacle on the list, generate ideas to make that change at one point in your life. Surprisingly, there will be more ideas than you think.

Going forward, accept the things you can't change today. Then, embrace those things that you can. Use this list of questions for assistance. They'll guide you toward differentiating between the two.

  • Do I have the abilities to change anything? If so, how?
  • Am I sure what I intend to change must happen? If so, why?
  • What resources will I draw on to make the change happen?
  • What will I do if I don't have the resources to change?

These questions will place you on a path toward change. To begin making changes, you have to assign the right amount of time to each effort. Fortunately, you'll see that spending your time making the most important changes will always have a lasting impact. Fortunately, you can begin accepting the past and present, beginning when you've established a plan for tough times.

Dealing with adversity requires a few memorable words. By believing in your resilience, you begin looking forward to challenges. Still, you should think about direct confrontation with conflict. After all, it's the only way to build courage for the future.

Beyond AA: The Serenity Prayer and Challenging Situations

The Serenity Prayer began with a prayer meant for finding peace; a prayer meant for finding peace through courage. Later, American theologist Reinhold Niebuhr's prayer evolved. Over time, prayer became a source of guidance and wisdom. Now synonymous with Alcoholics Anonymous, a closer examination reveals the prayer's many benefits. Many of those benefits extend beyond the recovery group.

For challenging situations, The Serenity Prayer helps with:

  • A memorable prayer to think about during acute stress
  • An invitation to reflect on your past ways of handling conflict
  • A way to stay emotionally strong in tough situations
  • A way to stop rumination and negative self-talk
  • A series of goals to accomplish amid the hardest moments of life

Challenging situations are opportunities; opportunities to use strength to find happiness. Think of those challenges and explore ways you can use them to invite happiness into your life. The challenges you tackle will give you strength, and with that strength, you can be vulnerable. Of course, being vulnerable lets you think critically about yourself.  After all, you'll find opportunities to question your past and future. But with success and happiness being the goal, a deep examination of your flaws and successes is in order.

In fact, to achieve happiness, you must get struck down. Not by others, mind you, but by your own inner critic. The Serenity Prayer suggests you must accept things you can't change. If, from there, you can find peace, then the process of acceptance was well worth the challenge.

Why do we feel the need to control things?

Imagine a world where control takes priority. Where you're alone and you must have control over every circumstance. A world where you must predetermine every outcome. In this world, everything from others' reactions to the way pictures are arranged on a shelf will matter. In fact, they'll matter until you can no longer grow. But the freedom to let go, or follow a brighter path forward? Still, by themselves, they won't be enough to find tranquility in life. Not if you're the kind of person who depends on constant control.

The shocking truth is that when you must control every aspect of life, staying sane is impossible. You can never be truly happy, as the desire to control everything becomes addictive and toxic.

Still, despite the risks of obsessing over control, people persist, for these specific reasons:

  • To ensure their success as much as possible
  • Because they feel more control is equivalent to greater happiness
  • To avoid ever having to feel uncertain or vulnerable
  • To establish dominance over their surroundings
  • To regain what was lost after a tragedy
  • To cope after a period of trauma or suffering

Control and personality types, upbringing, and social circumstances

Your personality type, upbringing, and environment can make you more or less likely to crave control. If you were also the Extroverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, and Judging personality type, (ENTJ, you'd be inclined towards assertiveness, anyway. At the very least, you can feel the need to establish control in your relationships.

You could also consider an Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging personality type (INTJ). This personality type would produce an innovative individual. But even relentless problem solvers like the INTJs can still come off as intense masterminds. To others, they seem intent on solving every problem.

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Today is the day to accept the things you can't change.

Clearly, depending on personality type, the amount of control you need can vary widely. Naturally, if you were sheltered by over-protective parents, later, you might exhibit controlling behavior at your workplace. Growing up in poverty in a high-crime area? Remember, gang members are born out of a desire for control; the control they've lost from the start.

Still, deciding whether you need too much control is a process that requires careful analysis. Here are some questions you might think about:

  • Will I suffer lingering emotional distress without control?
  • Will I jeopardize my relationships to gain more control?
  • Will I sacrifice what I've gained to gather more control?

If the answers disturb you or make you desire change, trust that your intuition is guiding you in the right direction. The Serenity Prayer suggests you should accept both the past and the present. Only then will you have a clearer picture of the future.

Often, the first step to putting the past behind you is making a conscious decision to do so. Interestingly, the events of the past produce answers to questions in the present. In the end, combining conscious decision-making with problem-solving is essential to the kind of progress that produces happiness.

The Serenity Prayer advises relying on courage to change. But a lot of courage comes from being able to have some glimpse of the future. You'll be thinking of ideas of where you want to be in your career. The feelings you have for your significant other might become stronger. Especially when you see there are things within your grasp that you can change.

The most important lessons derived from The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer asks those pursuing happiness to explore their relationship with faith and courage. A commitment is required to accept the things you can't change. Today, you'll be embarking on a journey to change old habits. You'll embrace new ways of thinking and overcome obstacles that stop you from finding peace. Your happiness depends on your ability to accept a new way of doing things.

To proceed with a challenge, consider the acts of courage you must consider to find the peace you desire. The lessons you take from The Serenity Prayer are intended to keep you smiling and happy. Ultimately, the goal is to feel free from lack of confidence and filled with hope.

1. Delay rewards to achieve happiness quicker

The brain is wired to want rewards, especially when you're working through tough challenges. Whether you're new on the job or starting a fresh semester at college, delaying gratification is part of achieving happiness. Wait until later to reward yourself for hard work. Then, the happiness you waited on for so long will feel even better. Especially now that you've worked harder, for longer.

Fortunately, the Serenity Prayer creates opportunities for discussion on happiness. When accepting what you can't change, there will be times to draw on your strengths. Consider which strengths you need to overcome obstacles. If you list them one by one, you'll see that, despite having those strengths, you'll probably want positive reinforcement, likely, as soon as you begin battling the obstacle. Know, however, that true happiness takes time. Plenty of time, and more than you think.

After trying for a little while, you might not always feel happy. Nor might there be excitement, joy, or pleasure so soon. But compare pursuing happiness to physical exercise. The longer you work out, the better you'll feel in the end. So for now, delay your rewards and refuse to settle for less. The reward will come when it's time.

2. Accept what you can't change now, then change it another day

Among your most important lessons to digest is this: despite the challenges before you today, one day, you may be able to summon the courage you need. From there, you can transform complex problems into manageable conflicts. Start today by accepting that while you may lack the abilities, you should gather resources and information, as one day you might be equipped to change what you can't change at present. Over time, your abilities, vision, and goals will keep you moving forward. Some day, you may see that what you couldn't change before is suddenly able to be changed. That's the day you get closer to peace.

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Remember, progress towards happiness depends on you building momentum. What lifestyle habits can you change today? If you can't change them today, what steps can you take toward doing so? Say you're trying to get healthier by exercising. The first few days may be too challenging, especially with limited mobility or physical pain. But if you were to start earlier and eat healthier, you've just taken the steps needed to increase your chances of working out. Suddenly, what you can't change is very much able to be changed. All you need to do is look at what you can't change. Then, see if there is a way you can change it in the future. This kind of constructive thinking will work well, all while helping to restore confidence in your abilities.

3. Motivate yourself with what you can't change

It's natural for people to want to stay motivated for life. Ideally, you can use the things you can't change as motivation to carry you forward. Fortunately, what you can't change will put you in the mindset to overachieve. With the help of The Serenity Prayer, you can slow your mind down, then begin to accept what you can't change. From there, you'll be in a perfect position, as what you can't change can be used as motivation.

Right now, you might feel the need to change everything in life. Your appearance, clothing, habits, and hobbies. But if you want to change everything to achieve happiness? Doing so requires you to think about your limitations. At least, in a way that motivates you. Whatever it is that holds you back. Or, anything that makes life more difficult. If you can train your mind to see these as opportunities, the success you accumulate will mean so much more.

Final Thoughts on the Accept the Things You Can’t Change Prayer

You need to trust that you have more courage than you think. True faith translates into knowledge… and, in knowledge, there is truth and confidence.  There is conviction and belief.

Think of the list of changes you want to pursue.  Write them down.  Then, think of your reasons for pursuing them.  Write those down.

The Serenity Prayer's words are designed to motivate and inspire action. They are not designed to give false hope.  Everyone wants to take profound steps towards happiness… but the journey toward happiness starts with acceptance.  So, starting today, accept the things you can't change in your life.

Keeping a journal is a great way of sorting through your feelings and taking action. You can read our article on journal prompts for anxiety to get started.  

Finally, if you want to increase your happiness and life satisfaction, then watch this free video that details the 7-minute habit for planning your day to focus on what's important.

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