There are many quotes to help us endure troubles in our life that we cannot control. There is a quote that says “When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening”-Megan Margery. Another one states: “Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Our focus and energy needs to be on the things we can control. Attitude, effort, focus-these are the things we can control…”-Tim Tebow. My favorite reminder of this is the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I could go on and on with quotes from people of all walks of life who agree that there are parts of our life that we cannot control and how we respond to those things makes the difference of whether we end up with serenity or turmoil. I’m a great advocate of prayer. I believe asking God for help to accept what we cannot change and focus on what we do have control over is a good start in the journey towards serenity.
An essential practical step from Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) is learning to focus on what is accessible through any of the five senses. We become mindful of what we do have control over instead of focusing on what we do not have control over, which in many cases is other people or our circumstances. Being mindful of what we do have control over can lead into anchoring. I like this practice because it reminds me of sailing, something I have never done but it is an activity that I would like to try. One of the challenges that sailors have is unfavorable weather. When this occurs, an anchor can be used to keep the boat from being controlled by the winds.
Learning to anchor ourselves when life becomes unmanageable can keep us from reacting to a situation, thought, or feeling in a negative, unproductive way and refocus on what can be managed. Sometimes during anxious moments, we not only stop focusing on what is accessible to our senses, but the anxiety can cause shortness of breath which may lead to a panic attack. Instead of allowing this to happen, anchoring can help reduce the chance of experiencing a panic attack by simply focusing on taking deep, slow breaths.
Anchoring allows us to move into a different direction and refocus on our core values or what we do have control over rather than becoming overwhelmed by what we do not have control over. Success is not always reaching our goals or getting what we want. Jesus said, “What good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul?” Matthew 16:26
Unfortunately, many of us, myself included, have found ourselves moving away from our place of serenity. The good news is, as long as we are alive, we can anchor ourselves and move in the right direction instead of away from our core values. We only have to recognize what is getting us stuck in a pattern of behavior that causes turmoil rather than peace. This is the part of the Serenity Prayer in which we ask for “…Wisdom to know the difference” between what we can change and what we cannot. Once we acknowledge what we cannot change, it is best to stop striving and focus on what we can change, which is usually ourselves. This will move us towards the Serenity that we all long for.