There's less in our control than we're used to. And there wasn’t a whole lot in our control to begin with. In coming to that realization, you may experience a sense of helplessness. Instead of succumbing to that sense of helplessness, this awareness can be of great power. Not only in the midst of a global pandemic, but also in everyday life, we can find serenity amongst uncertainty by bringing our focus to that which, no matter how small, is in our control.

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

The first step, as it’s recommended in the serenity prayer, is to...

accept the things we cannot change.

Though the list can fill quickly, I have found it helpful to journal on and write down the myriad of things I cannot directly control:

  • the weather
  • traffic
  • my health
  • the health of others I love
  • how others view me
  • the actions of others
  • my DNA
  • ...and a whole lot more!

It's helpful to write these out because, at an intellectual level, we of course understand that we can't control the weather. But in practice, do we get upset that it's raining when we don't want it to? Or do we get angered that others don't believe in us the way we believe in ourselves?

It's a shift that, for me, took conscious effort and immersion in the philosophy of stoicism to really understand and practice. To first accept that which I cannot change, and then to have the...

courage to change the things I can.

The etymology of the word courage is "heart." We must have the heart to take ownership for that which we can change and then most importantly, take action. Though action, triumph, and failures, we’ll gain the...

wisdom to know the difference.

The difference between that which we can and cannot control. So what is in our control? Simultaneously not a lot and, if we use it well, more than we could ever need or be able to master.

What I can directly control:

  • the time by which I wake up
  • whether or not I exercise on a given day
  • whether or not I write
  • whether or not I bring presence to people I love and the work I care about
  • my response to inputs and that which I cannot control
  • my actions
  • ...and a whole lot more!

It's simultaneously humbling by how little we control in the grand scheme of things AND daunting to consider what it would mean if we took full control over all that we can directly control - even in the midst of a global pandemic or any level of uncertainty.

All of that to say, NOW is the time to double-down on that which we can control. When what we can control narrows further, we must go deeper and bring a higher level of consistency to that which helps us to show up at our best. Both for ourselves and our loved ones.

So to you I ask, what is in your control? List out at least five things.

Now, pick one. Pick the one that most needs your attention and consistency. Maybe it’s staying connected with loved ones. Or sleeping. Or learning. Or exercising. Or meditation.

How are you going to step up and be courageous to bring more consistency to this one thing? To the extent it’s possible, do it right now.

Text your friend, call your Mom, do a push-up, take a breath, read a page. Action helps us to curtail fear and close the gap between who we are and who we want to be. Taking action, no matter how small, helps us cultivate courage to change the things we can. Because ultimately, and I think, beautifully, that’s all we can do.


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