I learnt these two life changing phrases this year and yes, you read that right, LIFE CHANGING. What seemed like two silly phrases that you merely use to escape the reality of a situation became an easy way to remember one of the most important rules of life: change what you can and accept what you cannot. A number of wise people, who will be discussed in this post, have shared the same sentiments using different words. But the bottom line? It is what it is and we move.
Like it or not, life is not perfect. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, 24/7, 365 days a year. Bad things are bound to happen. That’s simply the way it works. There are ups and downs. And when bad things happen, we ought to classify them into one of two categories: the things we can change, and the things we cannot. The only way to successfully deal with problems is to know in which category they fall into because the two require different weapons. Use of the wrong weapon leads to the problem dragging on for longer than it has to.
Luckily for us, there are people who have already tackled this issue. An author and a theologian. The theologian’s prayer was published in 1951 and the author’s book in 1989. In the century after that, in 2020 to be exact, a few boys created the viral tiktok video, “it isssss warririsssss 😂🤷🏾♀️”. Words that we needed reinforced. Especially in such a difficult year.
Let’s dive deeper. 🌊
1951: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer
The famous serenity prayer starts as follows:
✨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.✨
Niebuhr’s prayer was wise, to say the least. From this prayer, it is clear that he classified “things” into those that he can change and those that he cannot. For the things that he could change, he asked for courage to do so. If the problem that you’re facing can be changed, tackle it! If you’re having money problems, sit down and evaluate the way in which you’re spending your money. Are you pumping it into assets or wasting it on liabilities? Do you have a budget that allows you to spend your money wisely? Are there any skills that you can work on that will result in you getting more money? An irresponsible use of money is a problem that can be changed. And Niebuhr asked for courage to change the things that he could change.
But most importantly, Niebuhr asked for serenity. For the serenity to accept the things that he could not change. A lot of the stress that we allow to affect us in life comes from overthinking and worrying about things that cannot be changed. If something that cannot be changed has happened, the only thing you can do is accept it, as difficult as it sounds. Because guess what? Worrying is not going to make the problem disappear and the situation suddenly change. Worrying and stressing will do nothing for you except wasting the precious time that you have here on earth. It adds nothing of value to your life.
Scenario 1: You failed your VERY IMPORTANT EXAM THAT DETERMINES WHETHER OR NOT YOU GET INTO UNIVERSITY. It sucks, yes. But it is what it is. You just have to move. You’ve already written the exam and it has already been graded. Acceptance. That’s they key. And from there, you move. You take your next step, which is probably registering for the exam again. And starting afresh, now with more experience than before. But imagine if you had spent weeks crying and stressing over your mark. What was that going to do for you? Absolutely nothing. The ink was not going to transform itself from a 49 to a 94. You just have to move. Time waits for no man.
Scenario 2: YOUR EXPENSIVE MERCEDES-BENZ WAS STOLEN AND YOU HAD JUST CANCELLED YOUR CAR INSURANCE. This one seems really tough, right? I wish stressing about the incident and going over it again and again would return your car but unfortunately, you just have to move. Because it is what it is. Hopefully after reporting the incident to the police they will be able to find your car. But in the event that they don’t, you just have to accept the situation. And move. Being angry about it for the rest of your life is not going to bring back your car.
Scenario 3: This one hits different because it’s something we are currently going through. ALL THE LIVERPOOL DEFENDERS ARE INJURED AND MO WILL APPARENTLY BE OUT FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS (hope he gets better soon 😔). What is happening to Liverpool right now is any soccer fan’s nightmare. Imagine what Klopp must be going through. But you know what? We unfortunately just have to move because it is what it is. Us stressing about their injuries is not going to magically heal them. What matters most is their health and I’m sure the rest of the team will carry us through because they are all talented players. Less stressing. More accepting. More moving.
You see? It actually isn’t as difficult as it seems. Just like with anything else, practice makes perfect. Lastly, Niebuhr asked for the wisdom to know the difference. This is particularly important because as earlier mentioned, the weapons needed for these two scenarios are different. In fact, one needs powerful weapons and the other needs no weapons at all. Know the difference. It could save you from a lot of unnecessary stress and replace that with positive vibrations.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feel sad or affected by bad situations. Feeling emotions is very important. If something makes you sad, feel sad. If something makes you angry, feel angry. What you shouldn’t allow yourself to do is to dwell on those emotions. Feel them and let them go. Feel them and move.
1989: Stephen R. Covey’s Book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
I am currently reading this book and to say it is a masterpiece would be an understatement. The lessons taught in this book undoubtedly transform lives. The book is recognized as one of the most influential books ever written for a reason! Amongst these lessons is one that ties in perfectly with this blog post: understanding the difference between the things you can control and those you cannot.
Covey speaks of the circle of influence and the circle of concern. The circle of influence contains things that we can do something about. Proactive people focus their efforts on this circle. Reactive people on the other hand focus their efforts on the circle of concern, and this enlarges the circle of concern, narrowing the circle of influence. They focus on things that they have no control over. In order to be proactive, you need to focus your energy on things that can be changed. And those that you have no control over do not deserve any energy at all. You just have to accept those things and? And move. Because? It is what it is.
Next time you find yourself confronted by a problem, ask yourself whether it is something that can be changed/controlled or if it is something outside of your control. This always has to be the point of departure. If it can be changed, then great! Do whatever you can to deal with that problem. But if it cannot, don’t waste more time than is necessary moping over spoilt milk (no pun intended 😌). Is your crying going to make the milk jump back into your glass? No. Just tell yourself these words:
IT IS WHAT IT IS 🤷🏾♀️😂 WE MOVE.
Update: Liverpool actually won their match, 3:0 against Leicester 😁
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