Two simple steps to change for good

Lord 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” – St. Francis of Assisi

Have you ever spent hours regretting something you can do nothing about?

Have you ever done nothing about a situation that is making you miserable?

St Francis’ Maxim captures the dilemma perfectly – when to act and when to move on.

When we’re faced with any difficult situation, a great place to start is always – what can I change and what must I accept?  Cracking this helps us be a little bit wiser.


Some things we simply have to accept.

Sadly (and trust me I’ve tried), we can’t control the people and world around us.  Sh!t happens.

Sometimes it is seems totally illogical and unfair.  Terrible things befall good people.

Christopher Reeve is an amazing example of how to accept uncontrollable events.

He accepted becoming a paraplegic without complaint and started to look at how he could make the most of his condition to help others in the world.

Understanding that the world isn’t always fair and sometimes people do screw us over is very powerful.

Anger can be very cathartic, but usually unconstructive if it lingers.

When we can’t change something, the best approach is: Accept it, Learn from it, Move on.


There are many situations that you can choose to change.

Change is often difficult and St. Francis is right that it usually takes courage to be different.

When facing you a new challenge or opportunity, you can either change “you” (yourself) or change “it” (the situation)

For example, I have two close friends who were stuck in jobs that they hated.

They were consultants working 80-hour weeks serving demanding clients.  They both had families at home that they barely saw and it was ripping them apart.

“Kara’s” story – Changing “You”

My friend “Kara” changed herself.

She realized that a lot of her situation was actually created by her huge drive and ambition to be successful.

She loved her work and was committed to getting results for herself and her clients.

Somewhere along the way, she had lost all her personal boundaries and work had just taken over.

No-one was really forcing her to work as hard as she was and make the personal sacrifices she did.

Her colleagues weren’t working all weekend and until 2am every night.

She learned new skills to set better boundaries around work, to manage her time better, to let go and delegate and to get more energy.

As she changed herself, the world changed around her.  She was able to get her schedule under control and with her new lease of energy even serve them more effectively.

Her clients were grateful for the toning down of her intensity (she had been scaring them away with her naked drive).

Kara changed herself to be able to balance her passion at work and her love of her family.

“Andrew’s” story – Changing “It”

My second friend “Andrew” decided to change “it”.  He decided that the consulting lifestyle was no longer for him.

He stepped back to look at what was important in his life and realized that it was family that counted most.

He explored the potential of setting up his own consultancy and found that temporary contracting was a great solution.

He now works for 6 or 7 months of the year with his clients and earns the same he did in his old job.

The rest of the time he can devote to being a family man.  He is able to be around for family holidays and spent precious time with his young children.

Andrew changed the world around him, and is delighted with the results.

What next?

St. Francis was no fool.  Learning what to accept and what to change helps us act more wisely.

I’ve created a St. Francis decision tree which helps me to address a new situation or challenge:

The last thing I do comes afterwards.

Whatever path I chose, I ask what I learned from the experience and how I could approach it even better next time.

Over to You

What do you think about St. Francis’ maxim?

What do you choose to accept in your life?

What could you change – about yourself or about “it”?

Related posts:

  1. Make 2010 your Best Year Yet – Six Steps to Lasting Change


  1. Phil
    November 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    How do you decide when to accept things and when to change things?
    Where do you get the courage from to change?

  2. November 10, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil,

    Like your change tree. It’s true we can change.

    Yes, I’ve changed something significant in my life. Somewhere along the line I got labelled shy. I decided to challenge it one day at a political fundraiser by extending my hand to everyone in the room. Soon, I was introducing folks.

    Since then I’ve been outgoing!

    Thx, Giulietta
    Giulietta Nardone recently posted..Strip!

  3. Julia
    November 11, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Hi Phil
    Nice thoughts but wrong guy. The poem was written in 1934; St Francis lived in the 13th century and wrote the other one, Lord make me an instrument of thy peace, also a good source of inspiration! Keep up the good work!

  4. Phil
    November 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Giulietta – I like the fact you didn’t just accept the label of being shy – you could change yourself and your impact as a result.

    Julia – thanks for the correction and my apologies for the mistake. I have seen this attributed to St. Francis and picked it up on my recent trip to Assisi. Please keep on reading and commenting.

  5. December 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Phil, love this information. Actually, this formula is very empowering. There really is a lot we can control when we have the courage to do something about it.
    Steve-Personal Success Factors recently posted..Check Out This Goal Setting Template For 2011

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