“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.”
-Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
In my book, I refer to this poem (or prayer) and turn it on its head. Through a Daily Practice in service of your Vision, we can gain wisdom and courage. We begin to see what we have power over, and what is out of our control. Knowing this is not enough, taking action is the path to serenity.
I’m not knocking the prayer. It’s a lovely reminder and actually harkens back to the Stoic philosophies.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”
—Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5
For today’s journal practice, write about all of the things that have been recently distracting or upsetting to you. Don’t meditate on them, just a simple list will do.
Next, begin to differentiate between the things you have no control over and the ones that you do have an influence on. Be careful with this. Narrow the items that you can influence down to only the ones you have direct control of. Many activists take the streets because they think they can make a difference, and perhaps they do. But a political activist has no direct control over the changes they wish to see. The activist relies on other people to come around to their view before any change can be made. Something under your direct control doesn’t require the cooperation of another person.
Put a checkmark next to the items that you have direct control over.
Once you identify the times from the list that are not in your direct control, set up some barriers for yourself. You do not need to stay in the current news cycle in order to be informed. Make a plan to only get on anti-social media once per week. Check your news sources once per week if you feel you need to. I promise you won’t miss much.
For the items that you do have direct control over, use the time gained from your media consumption to take action on them.
At the very least, use that time to read a book, connect with loved ones, or create something.
Don’t underestimate the value of serenity. The world could use a lot more of it right now. But the only one you can give it to is yourself. So start there.