Growing up, my mother had a plaque hanging on her bedroom wall entitled “The Serenity Prayer”. The plaque had the following prayer on it:
“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.”
During difficult times, I would often hear my mother recite this prayer to herself over and over again. I never fully understood the power of this prayer and the teaching that it pointed to until I got much older. This prayer is a sign post toward what I call “Living Within Your Sphere of Influence”.
What is my Sphere of Influence?
What are the things you can change about your situation RIGHT NOW? What are the actions you can take RIGHT NOW? This is your sphere influence, and it exists in the present moment. It is impossible to change things that have happened in the past because they exist outside of your sphere of influence. Sure, you can do things to reduce the repercussions of a negative event from the past, but you can’t change THAT event. Therefore, it would be more advantageous to accept the reality of the negative situation, and move forward acting within your sphere of influence to affect the things that you can change.
The same thing applies for the future. You can’t worry about possible situations that may arise in the future, because they too exist outside of your sphere of influence (in fact they don’t exist at all). The most you can do is take action right now to hopefully reduce or prevent the likelihood of a negative outcome. Worrying about it renders you helpless, and prevents you from acting within your sphere of influence to affect the things you CAN control.
I often imagine my sphere of influence as an imaginary circle that contains all things directly in my physical presence in addition to all the actions I can take in the present moment. Below is a list of things that aren’t within your sphere of influence
· Other People’s Actions, Behaviors, and Decisions
· Future Events (though you can take actions NOW to reduce or increase the likelihood of an event)
· Other people’s life situations
· Negative events that happened in the past.
Any attempt to affect the examples mentioned above will eventually lead to feeling impotent, powerless, and frustrated. Resign yourself from attempting to influence anything outside of your sphere of influence. The only thing you can control is how you react to the outcomes of past events, and take actions to prevent future events without worrying about the outcome. Operating within your sphere of influence allows you to accept the things you cannot change; gives you the courage to change the things you can; as well as wisdom to know the difference.”