How do you build your own serenity?
“GOD grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The Serenity Prayer is well known. It best sums one of the characteristics of resilient people – the ability to develop and apply psychological flexibility. Resilient people are not wedded to a particular style of reacting or coping; rather they display flexibility, depending on the circumstance. Critically, resilient people are able to determine and accept what they cannot change, learn from failure and use their emotions to determine meaning in times of challenge and adversity.
The first step in developing this flexibility is accepting the reality of our situation regardless of how painful or frightening it is. Acceptance involves not only accepting and acknowledging the reality of one situation; but also assessing what can and cannot be done, redefining goals that no longer seem feasible and intentionally redirecting efforts towards what can be changed. It is not the same as “giving up” or “quitting”.
The next step in developing this flexibility is reframing negative events and looking for a positive meaning in them – the “everything happens for a reason” mindset. Studies have shown that individuals who frequently use positive “reframing” as a mechanism to change their emotional reactions to stress demonstrates positive benefits compared to individuals who are unable or unwilling to reframe. At times, the best way to deal with a challenging situation is to accept and tolerate the situation – at that time! Other times it is best (when you are able to), deal with it then and there. But it is about knowing the difference and having the flexibility to adapt.
In challenging times, resilient people ask themselves the question – “what can I learn from this situation and how can I grow from it?”
The ability to find humour in situations can also be an important component of this reframing and responding differently. Humour – when used appropriately, tends to broaden our focus of attention and thereby fosters exploration, creativity and positivity.
By developing psychological flexibility, you will become more adaptable to events in your environment, leading you to a greater sense of control and peace. And you have to love the serenity…