By Dr. Jo Wolthusen, Psy.D.

I would imagine the first thing that comes to mind for most people is the infamous episode of Seinfeld. However for this post I will be examining a powerful philosophy that is the cornerstone of Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA) and many other treatment programs ~ The Serenity Prayer. This ‘prayer’ is an extremely potent yet simple maxim that has provided spiritual bedrock for countless people. Many people have been exposed to some version or another. My version goes as follows:

[Insert your “Higher Power”], grant me the courage and strength to change the things I can, Acceptance for the things I can’t, and Wisdom to know the difference.

Discovering the secret key to managing any problem.

Fully adopting this mindset can be akin to re-discovering a secret instruction manual for leading a healthy and balanced life. Being able to appropriately identify what exactly is in YOUR control and the required actions to effect change in your life is extremely empowering.

Squeeze too tight and you will lose control.

Many people often try to control all the variables in life that are simply uncontrollable. This prayer grants you the power to release any unnecessary death grips on things you CAN NOT control. I encourage you to apply this strategy with whatever issue you may currently be struggling with in your life.

But how does this work in the “real world”?

One potential real-world application of this philosophy could be when you are experiencing conflict with a difficult coworker. You can’t control that your coworker may not be easy to work with, that they are usually late or rarely completes their assignments on time. But you CAN control how you respond to them, what you say and how you say it. It is very difficult and sometimes unwise to attempt to change other people but it is always advisable to take full ownership of your responses and make the most of difficult situations.

Now! Place a microscope over your life.

So let’s plug your particular situation into our Serenity formula. Write down two columns, one labeled “What’s in my control” and the other labeled “What’s not”. See that first column? That’s where your energy and focus should be directed. That’s the empowering part. That’s the part where you get to identify your choices, be assertive, problem solve and create a game plan. That next column? That’s the plethora of stuff that you have absolutely no way to control, fix or change. Letting go of that death grip is the liberating part.

You can apply this philosophy to every aspect of your life. It is very simple and elegant, yet if fully devoted to, will yield profound results. Serenity Now!