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Serenity. What You Can – and Can’t – Control

Over the past months, I have participated in con-calls, conferences, and webinars. Some were better than others. None that I attended were bad. Overwhelmingly I enjoyed them. I found the information useful. I enjoyed the hopeful and enthusiastic spirit of the presenters. You sensed that they wanted to help others. They like what they do. They’re good at it. They know something useful and wanted to share it with others. They wanted to make the lives of other people better.

There was one discussion theme I often heard repeated. It also seemed to be the mantra of people who were handling the Covid-Crisis the best. It involved a discussion of two circles:

  1. The Circle of Concern
  2. The Circle of Control.

The Circle of Concern is broad, even limitless. It contains the results of the NFL draft, what the President and Congress say today, the weather, the economy, death, computer hacking, the stock market.

The Circle of Control are items over which you exercise influence and action. These include your attitude and emotions, where you will go on vacation (after the “Stay-At-Home” order is lifted), your choice of occupation, when and where you pray and worship, books you read, skills you learn.

Some factors that are in both circles. These would include the person you married (up to a point), your children (up to a point), your children’s school, your job, major purchases, your activities.

This is a very popular topic. In terms of corporate strategy and market conditions, Journera CEO, Jeffrey G. Katz, advises people to stay focused on your strategy and don’t fret over what you can’t control. Jon Waterman, CEO of Ad.net says that to develop resilience, focus on understanding what you can control and what you can’t.

How about within the workplace itself? Lauren Settembrino at TopResume writes about “What You Can & Can’t Control If Unhappy at Work.” Mallory Stratton talks about “3 Ways to Stop Stressing Out About Things You Can’t Control at Work – Simple Strategies to Keep Yourself From Spiraling Out.” Actress and Singer Samantha Diane offers 5 Life Lessons in “The Only Person We Have Control Over Is Ourselves, Our Soul And Our Outer Bodies. We Can’t Control Other’s Thoughts.”

One article that struck me was a Covid-related article entitled, “Grant Me The Serenity To Accept What I Can’t Control And The Power To Make A Difference.” The title put a hopeful and purposeful twist on the classic “Serenity Prayer.” This prayer is attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr. He was an American theologian, ethicist, commentator and professor at Union Theological Seminary. The article echos another spiritual master – St. Padre Pio. Among similar advice, Pio famously wrote “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

You can’t be cavalier about this. This is hard. Realizing that something is amiss, identifying what is disturbing your peace, going to the roots of the issue, intentionally deciding to mentally go in a different direction and acting on this decision is an arduous process. It is a skill that needs practice. It is an attitude that needs reinforcement. It requires encouragement and support from others.

But, it is better than the alternative. You don’t have to get it perfect. You only have to get it started and ask for the help from others.

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