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“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.”

Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr


Some things in life are beyond our control, the rest we can influence. Too often, our energy is wasted on trying to change the things we cannot control, while overlooking the changes we could have made.


Complex life situations are hardly ever fully under one´s control or completely beyond it. In any situation there will be some external circumstances you have no impact on, but also things you can influence or fully decide about. Use this article to look at the situation you would like to improve from the perspective of influence and control.


Explore your situation

The following diagram has been used for training managers, and this time you can use it for managing a situation that you would like to improve:

inspired by Stephen R. Covey


Give your situation a title and write it above the diagram. Naming the situation or a problem will help you get a new view on it.

Afterwards, answer the following questions, and write some key words into your diagram:

  • What, within your situation, do you have no control over, as it depends fully on external circumstances or other people´s decisions that you cannot influence at all?
  • What can you have some influence on?
  • And what is fully under your control?


Revise the first draft.

  • Is there anything you could take from the “no control” zone and move it into the “some influence” sphere?
  • Is there anything “under your control” that could work better if you loosened your control and accepted having just “some influence”?
  • Is there anything you have placed into “some influence” that you could actually decide about yourself and thus move into the “under my control” sphere?



Learn acceptance

for the things that are out of your control

Accept that life will never be fully the way you imagine it, and it will also never stop changing. It will take you through different situations, experiences and phases. It will keep giving you chances to discover new options, new inspiration, and new hopes. Learn to be grateful. Seek the beauty of life in its dynamics, and in the great freedom of the human mind to resist being controlled by anybody else.

Accept what cannot be changed and move on.


Decide what you are going to do

about all the things you can influence.

Your influence zone is a zone of huge potential.

You can never have full control over other people, or make your partner, children, parents, boss, colleagues or neighbours behave as you would like them to. But you have influence on your relationships and communication. You cannot save the environment on your own, but you can decide about your own contribution to it. You cannot make a day longer, but you can prioritize. You cannot tell someone to be your friend, but you can show your interest. You cannot force someone to forgive you, but you can apologize.

Explore what you could do to influence your situation. Collect any information you miss and consult other people to gain even more creative ideas.

Plan what, how and when you are going to do – and do it.


Accomplish or make decisions

about the things that are under your control

Decide what you need to decide about. When you can´t decide, find out what prevents you from taking decisions. Use external help if needed. Decisions are not necessarily right or wrong – they are just different and may lead in different directions that are often better than remaining stuck and undecided. Decide, and be consistent: stick to your decision without moving back and forth, until there is the time to make a new decision.

Get things done.


You can control very little, but you can influence almost everything in your life.

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