First things first: I’m agnostic today, but I was raised in a Protestant household. I don’t pray to any God, god, goddess, statue, or being.
Originally published in 1951 by German theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, you’ve probably heard (or heard of) the Serenity Prayer. The popular version looks something like this:
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.
While it was part of an army chaplain’s book of prayer during World War II, you can thank AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and their 12-step program for seeing it spread into everyday, secular use.
The longer version of the Serenity Prayer, as promised in the title:
God grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time.
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as he did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would like it.
Trusting that he will make all things right,
If I surrender to his will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this world
And supremely happy in the next.
Similar sentiments can be found throughout history — first-century Greek philosopher Epictetus said:
Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.
Wikipedia offers up a similar thought from 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar Shantideva:
If there’s a remedy when trouble strikes,
What reason is there for dejection?
And if there is no help for it,
What use is there in being glum?
This post isn’t about any one religion’s interpretation of shared wisdom. It’s about applying it to the digital nomad lifestyle.
If you can’t change it, stop worrying about it. If you can change it, focus on changing it instead of feeling bad for not changing it. There. Done. End of line.
Everything in this universe can be broken down into two basic categories: things within your sphere of influence, and things not within your sphere of influence. What the Serenity Prayer calls “the Wisdom to know the difference” is a big one as well — I may think I have a shot at creating world peace, but until I seriously raise my profile, that goal isn’t within my sphere of influence.
That said, we control where we go, why we go there, and what we hope to do while there. We control our jobs, how we make money, and many nomads have the luxury of choosing which specific clients they work with / for. I daresay the average digital nomad of 2019 has far more control over their lives than almost anyone not in the richest 1% of the world.
As we travel, every country and place seems to reset what can and cannot be changed. It’s up to us to accept it, tolerate it, and look past what can’t be changed. It’s not our place to change how locals do things. We can, of course, pass on ideas of how things are done in other countries, but even this has to be done delicately.
The New Nomadic Serenity Prayer, without the religious parts
Call it a saying, a mantra, or belief if the word ‘prayer’ offends you. Say it out loud if you want, or just put it where you’ll see it regularly:
I seek the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.
I choose to live one day at a time,
in one place at a time,
and enjoy one moment at a time.
I accept difficulties as a pathway to understanding,
and accept this crazy world as it is,
Not as I would like it.
I trust in the general goodness of people,
while researching and learning what I can,
so I may be reasonably happy in this world
And even happier in the future.
Over to you
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