In a previous post, I talked about the Serenity Prayer and how it helps keep me on the path to serenity. In the first line of the prayer it talks about learning to accept things we cannot change. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks at length about understanding our Circle of Influence. I found the photo below on pinterest which describes the idea.
My circle of influence includes only one thing…ME, my thoughts, my actions and my words. Outside my circle of influence is everything else including everyone else and their thoughts, actions and words. I also have no control over their pain and suffering. I have no control over mother nature, I have no control over anything, outside of myself and how I choose to think, act and speak.
Acceptance means understanding those things that are not part of my circle of influence and letting them go. It does not mean I agree, I approve or that I have overlooked or forgiven those things. It simply means I acknowledge they exist and understand they are outside of my control.
Learning to let accept that some things simply are not part in my circle of influence and out of my control has worked well for me. Sometimes, I need only to close my eyes, take a deep breath and recite the serenity prayer to find the serenity to let go. Some how, once I do acknowledge the things I have no control, I am able to change my perspective and refocus my energy on the things I do have control over.
Additionally, I have no control over the past. There is no serenity in ruminating over past mistakes because I am powerless to change them. Whenever I find myself thinking those key negative queues, I gently remind myself that I cannot change what I did before this moment. My time, energy and thoughts are much better spent on what I do have control over, which include the intent and the action to fix my mistakes. For example, when I started to berate myself for not packing the other day, I redirected my attention to my circle of influence. Once I looked around and recognized how much packing I did get done and changed my focus to the positive aspects, it immediately motivated me to do more. I didn’t have control over the fact that I slept late, it was in the past, what is done is done. I did however, have control over my intention to pack and my decision to start packing some more.
The interesting thing is, it didn’t all go down like that, I didn’t at the time even intend to pack anything else, I merely meant to stop the negative thought. In stopping the negative thought and looking for the silver lining, I realized that I got quite a bit of work done in a small amount of time, despite my late start. Simply changing the thought freed up my energy to go do some more work. Had I stayed on the negative line of thinking and continued to berate myself, I probably would not gotten anymore accomplished and I would’ve been in a negative mood.
Did reframing my thoughts clear my head enough to focus on right now, which helped me find the motivation to do more? Or, was it because reframing my thoughts and focusing on the positive allowed me to accept myself; flaws and faults and all, which redirected my attention to the task at hand. Maybe, accepting myself, accepting that I had no control over my past mistakes did help me to reframe my thoughts, preventing negative thoughts from taking control over my mood and my actions.
Accepting responsibility then, is another part of the equation. By accepting responsibility for the one thing that was in my control, me, I became present in the moment and grabbed the power to change the circumstances. I was in control of my mood. I chose to stop the negative thought. I chose to reframe it and look for something positive. In doing so, the action came almost sub-consciencely, I simply began working more.
I cant say for certain if it will come so easily for me every time, but celebrating my small successes gives me motivation to continue being mindful of my thoughts. The serenity prayer is one of the tools that helps me sort through them. Accepting things that are outside my control gave me the space inside my head to accept responsibility and take actions that were.