God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Most of us have all heard or read The Serenity Prayer many times in our life. I believe wholeheartedly in the logic and sentiment expressed in these very concise and powerful words. Where I take issue with this prayer is the black and white nature of this request.
People tend to divide aspects of their lives into two categories - things they can control and things others control. When we are in control, the resulting feelings are serenity, happiness, accomplishment and improved self-esteem. When we are out of control, usually synonymous with another person or organization dictating what we must do, the results are that we either give up and take on the role of the victim or lash out and exert a great deal of anger and negative energy. These "controllers" can be family members needing care, society that doesn't understand or approve of our choices, our inside voice that tells us it's not all right to take care of our needs or old school management who doesn't believe in innovative approaches.
What I propose is seeking out areas where you feel out of control and explore the possibility of sneaking in control. Do you really need to answer that person's call right now or call them right back? Do you have to do the task another person has asked you to do immediately? Is is all right to explain that you can't give someone a ride home because you are going the other direction?
I am not advocating revolution or outright aggression, but many times our knee-jerk reaction to requests and demands is to do them without thinking or analyzing. We phrase our explanations to other people using the words "have to" and "need to", not "want to". I am advocating assertiveness, and a little bit of manipulation. Take a moment to look at any "have to's" or "need to's" and see if you are making them a priority because you've always made them a priority. Its a bad habit to fall into. On closer inspection, you may discover that you have partial control over when you fulfill these obligations or if you fulfill them at all.
The other, more insidious, aspect of this process is to continue to allow someone else to control things in order to build up their confidence in your loyalty to them, all the while making small changes to be implemented later on to regain your control.These small changes can range from seeking out ways to delegate some of the work, to beginning a new job search, to suggesting small procedural adjustments to the "controller". All this may mean "playing along' for a while; however, keep your eye on the ultimate goal and it will make the waiting period more acceptable.
When I work with clients to balance home and work life, this is one of the first steps we tackle in our coaching session. In less than an hour, it is possible to redefine the areas of your life so that you have, at least, a bit of control over all of them. Changing your perspective can change your life.