Content but Restless

There is tension between being content with what you have, and striving for more. We have all heard the “serenity prayer”:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer is supposedly common in Alcohol Anonymous and other 12 Step programs. A little farther down in the Wikipedia article, however, the whole prayer (attributed to American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr) is printed, and it is different:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity The things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things Which should be changed, And the Wisdom to distinguish The one from the other.

Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

So there is the original. The difference between the original and the shortened version is deciding what to change.

If you sat around and changed only the things you could, you’d change easy things, and insignificant things, because changing hard things and meaningful things is hard. It is hard to change things that should be changed, but those are the only changes worth making. And, the original prayer says nothing about changing what you can. It talks about changing what you should.

  • Action is empowering, and it leads to taking more action.
  • Action implies making things happen.
  • Making things happen will eventually lead to failure.

There is great hope in taking action, and there are great lessons to be found in failure. You know how every motivational poster ever to be seen in a school talks about how “You have what it takes” and “You are a beautiful and unique snowflake”?

In addition to being so stupid it hurts, these are wrong. They should say:

  • “Get Shit Done – it will make you feel better about yourself.”
  • “You are not unique. Millions before you have wrestled with your problems. Some have surpassed you, some have fallen far behind. Until you are dead, there is hope for you.”
  • Take action. Keep going until you fail. Then try again.

I’m not sure where I am going with all this. But please, go do something meaningful. It is the only thing that matters. Money, your job, your hobby, your friends – none of these matter without something meaningful being done with it or through it.

The good news is you can define what is meaningful. Then you have to do it.