1 SMALL YET HARD STEP YOU NEED TO TAKE FOR YOURSELF TODAY
You’re likely familiar with what’s known as the Serenity Prayer. It goes like this:
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.
There’s an important lesson here—one that’s very often glossed over…
When a chaotic reality is swirling around us, we often try to relieve our anxiety by exerting our will over external things we cannot control.
It helps us stave off one of the most dreaded feelings: complete powerlessness.
With that in mind, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that generally speaking, almost everything is outside your control. What other people do, whether it will rain tomorrow, whether or not your efforts will be appreciated—all of these outcomes depend on factors that aren’t you.
That’s also the good news.
The friction and frustration created by trying to change things you cannot change is the crucible where a ton of unhappiness is born. Accepting that most things are outside your influence gives you explicit permission to let them unfold as they may.
Stoic philosopher Epictetus put it this way:
“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.”
Overcoming the “three big un’s” that so many of us struggle with daily—unhappiness, unconvinced things will ever change, unsure what to do next—begins with understanding what you can control and what you cannot.
The mental shift here is not easy. Most of us have spent a lifetime worrying about things that we can’t control. Society practically encourages this. For most, it’s a bona fide habit…
A habit that should be replaced with a healthy understanding of how much we can actually change. Again though, it’s hard to get your mind wrapped around all this when you’re constantly hearing…
“Why don’t you just get over it?” “Just let it go.”
We’ve all heard some flavor of this advice before. And it passes the sniff test, to a certain extent.
I mean, “time heals all wounds,” right? Well, yes… sort of. But wounds heal differently depending on how they’re treated.
Left alone, a gash in your skin will leave a large scar and be vulnerable to injury again in the future. This is why we get stitches—it helps the wound heal in a way that limits the chance of re-injury down the road.
Emotional wounds work the same way. Given enough time, most emotional pain will diminish—that’s true.
But just “getting over it” leaves scars.
In the emotional sense, scars equal baggage—baggage we carry with us into every aspect of our lives. These scars grow and accumulate until one day you wake up suffering from one or more of the “three un’s” (unhappiness, unconvinced things will ever change, unsure what to do next).
Don’t get over it. Go through it.
Honestly, I understand the desire to “get over” difficult experiences rather than face them. Revisiting painful memories and facing our demons is really, really hard. And we’re hard-wired to not cause ourselves pain.
However, as our parents taught us, ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away.
And in addition to the scars, to ignore or downplay a wound puts you at risk of infection, emotionally as well as physically.
Unresolved issues from the past take up residence in your mind and influence your decisions, your relationships, and your attitudes.
They rob you of your happiness. Doing the hard thing now will be hard, yes. But it’s far better than the alternative.
Of course, doing the hard yet necessary thing can feel impossible.
This is how Marc and I felt a decade ago when we were knocked down and stuck in a rut after simultaneously losing two loved ones—including my dear brother—to suicide and illness. It was nearly impossible to move when we didn’t feel we had the strength to push forward.