5 Ways to "Let It Go"

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Queen Elsa from Disney’s FROZEN (2013) is not the first to harp on the importance of letting go. Gurus around the world say that the key to a peaceful life is the ability to let go of worry, expectations and resentments. While that mantra is a sound one, it's much easier said than done.

So how does one actually “let it go"? Here are some tips and guidelines to help you on your path to feeling less worry about things you can’t control:

1. Identify the Deeper Reason You Can't Let Go

When we're holding onto something, it often means there's a deeper issue. Perhaps your trigger is any time you don't feel in control. Maybe it's trust issues. It could even be that you've attached a moral value to something. Whatever it's grown into, it's important to dig deep and find its root. Once you determine the why, you can choose whether or not you want to release it.

2. Journal, Journal, and More Journaling

The practice of writing down your thoughts and feelings (without editing them!) can be very revealing. It's also often a crucial element to the first tip. When you free associate and simply write down everything that comes to mind, it invites your subconscious – which may be the part of you that won't let go! Take fifteen minutes to simply write. Then, go back to it later on to see if you can glean something meaningful. You often will!

3. Visualize the Release

Close your eyes and picture a release. Something like:
• Balloons floating away.
• Birds flying.
• Clouds passing through the sky.
• Wind blowing through the trees.
Then, take the thought or feeling that you want to let go of and visualize it as part of that image. Watch as your resentment or fear floats away in one of the balloons or on the wing of a bird that soars off into the distance. When you use visualization, it can give a new (and more positive) sensation to focus on.

4. Use Reverse Psychology – On Yourself!

What if I told you that you HAD to hold onto everything that ever made you upset? How does that feel? When it feels like you have no choice, it put things into perspective. Specifically, that you do have a choice!

Letting something go is actually something to choose, the same as holding on to something. Break it down into those two options, and that choice becomes vividly apparent. Then, decide which is the more freeing and appealing option?

5. Change Your Expectations

This is a tip to use in the future as well as the present. To change your expectations means to set goals without any emotional attachment. It's not that you can't want anything, but it's helpful to think more logistically than emotionally when you're setting goals. When you limit the emotional attachment, it's easier to keep moving forward. Then, when something doesn’t work out, you're less inclined to hold on to it.

If none of these tips help, you can always resort to singing along to the soundtrack of “Frozen” and see how that makes you feel! (I only make that joke because I know you these tips will work wonders.)

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How to Stay In Touch with Your Mind-Body Connection

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Do you believe in the mind-body connection? It's fascinating (and a little scary!) how so many of us can disregard our physical state of being when faced with emotional distress.

Often, we will say that we feel depressed and anxious – and fail to mention that we aren’t sleeping well, eating healthily, or moving our bodies enough. (That's not to mention the use of stimulants and depressants that we engage in daily, such as coffee, alcohol, marijuana, and the like.)

Luckily, we have some easy life hacks to help us treat our bodies like the temples that they are!

Start with Things You Can Control

If you find that things feel out of sorts for you, it is always best to start with the items that you can control. Take note of what you're eating, drinking, and the quality of your sleep, as all of those will directly impact mood and functionality.

Don't hesitate to use apps to track these elements. They're a great way to see patterns – and identify cause and effect. Once those areas are consistently healthier, you can really take a look into mood levels and dive deep into the emotions you're experiencing. Whether due to stress of relationships, work, or family life, keeping careful track is always a highly productive method for better wellness.

Meditation Is Your Best Friend

You can practice meditation anytime and anywhere! You can even use it in small doses inside of a conversation that is making your blood pressure rise. Seriously! The misconception about meditation is that you must have the perfect spot, with the right lighting and music and no interruptions. While that's ideal, it isn’t always practical. It can also dissuade people from trying it.

To meditate, you simply need to breathe and regulate your body. When you can regulate your body, it helps with your reactions to outside stressors, creating a sense of self-control where otherwise you might feel untethered.

When you meditate, you can learn to provide for yourself what you might be seeking in others: validation, comfort, and knowledge. Spending quiet time with your own thoughts can greatly inform you about your needs and how to best provide them.

Combining Professional Help with Personal Meditation

When you combine the daily practice of meditation with therapy, you can use the insights you gain in sessions as material for your meditative practice. For example, if you learn in therapy that you have a hard time expressing when you feel hurt about something, you can focus on that revelation during meditation – and safely experience vulnerability.

Where to Go from Here

It's important to keep in mind that humans are complicated machines that need lots of care and compassion. You cannot abuse your body without having it affect the way you operate emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. So be extra cautious with how you're taking care of yourself, and note when things are potentially off.

The more intimately you know yourself, the better!

 

5 Ways to Overcome Your Resistance to Change

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When it comes to change, we tend to think of it as either frightening or exciting. Those are two powerful emotions! And, amazingly, change is a combination of both.

When we first enter adulthood, we're forced to change into mature, functioning grownups. Leaving childhood behind means changing in huge ways, and it's scary, exciting, and we're (likely) better for it.

But then we get older and set in our ways – and change starts to feel dangerous. The fear of the unknown takes over, and we dig our heels into our routines and ways of thinking. In fact, change is often scarier than fixing dysfunctional behavior; even when we know we'd be happier, more fulfilled, and better off for it

That's not a headspace you want to be in. Don't wait until change is absolutely crucial, start the moment it pops into your head.

How? That's what I'm here for! Here are five considerations to help you overcome our natural resistance to change:

1. Understand the Consequence of Staying Unchanged

You need to have a clear image of what will happen—both for you and to you—if you decide not to change something. When you can slow down and play the tape forward, you can see how your behavior will continue to negatively affect you and, potentially, others.

2. DESIRE the Change that YOU Need

In case you couldn't tell, the two keywords there are "YOU" and "DESIRE." You cannot change for anyone else – it must be because you want it. And when it comes to desire, there needs to be some forward-motion energy behind the decision.

3. Go for Bite-Sized Goals

Figure out ways to change using baby steps. For example, let’s say you’re trying to cut back on caffeine. Instead of going cold turkey and suffering caffeine withdrawal, taper back one cup at a time, and ween yourself off. Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither will ending a dependency.

4. Identify Your Reward System

When going through a behavior overhaul, you need to be encouraged and acknowledged by yourself and others. Some of us need words of affirmation; others need to treat ourselves here and there as a reward. Celebrate every accomplishment. Relish every validation. You can overcome anything with the right support system, even if it's from within.

5. Track Your Results

Remember: baby steps. Giving up something we're used to is uncomfortable at first, and the positive effects might take some time to illuminate. Take notes on how you feel. Track little (physical, emotional, social) changes that you see. Every so often, take some time to look at all the progress you have made.

Keeping your progress written down will help you stay on track! (It always does.)

Getting Started

In the long run, you can’t (nor should you) change for anyone else. What it truly takes is your own willpower to make a shift.

But! And this is a big but, I cannot lie:

You can take advice and encouragement from those around you! When you decide that you're ready to embark on this journey, ask for help. Let someone who loves and supports you to hold you accountable. It's a free, meaningful, and effective tool to help keep you moving in the right direction.

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Are You a Good Listener or a Good Speaker? Here's How to Be Both.

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Did you know that your facial features are a good indication of your strongest sense? If you have big ears, you're a good listener. If your mouth is large, you're a great public speaker…

I'm kidding! That old folklore is absurd – but feeling connected to our stronger (and weaker) senses can be incredibly helpful.

As a therapist, I constantly need to incorporate all of the senses. But most importantly, I am there to listen first. And I mean really listen. Only then can I interpret and reflect back what I'm hearing.

Listening is my most valuable tool, and I happen to be good at it. How? Well, it didn't happen overnight: it took years of training and practice.

Making Sense of Our Senses

What is your most valuable sense? And how can you work on improving it? In photography, seeing is a skill. In the culinary arts, taste is a skill. Like all senses, listening is a skill too – and all skills require practice to get stronger.

Each of us prioritize the use of different skills in our work lives. But we all need to be good listeners and communicators when it comes to our interpersonal relationships.

Let’s say that you're great at getting your point across. Your choice of vocabulary, tone, and subject matter is always well-received. While that's a crucial skill, how are you at relaying back what someone else has said? What about listening for additional meaning beneath a person’s chosen words?

On the flip-side, perhaps you are amazing at parroting back a message that was relayed to you. Maybe your listening ability makes you a master at interpreting what others are saying. But when it comes to speaking your mind, do you often find yourself at a loss for words?

Honing Your Skills

The best way to heighten our senses is to be honest with ourselves. "What areas am I good at, and which do I need to work on?"

If You Need to Work on Listening…

Instead of being the one who always speaks up in a one-on-one conversation, try staying quiet and letting the other person fill in the empty spaces. Further, instead of interjecting with a new concept or idea, try asking questions to get clarity on what they just said. Once you're sure you heard their idea, repeat it back to them using a phrase like, “So, what I’m hearing you say is…”

Pretend as though you’re on a fact-finding mission and get as much clarity as you can!

If Speaking Isn't Your Forte…

Find a person who is willing to listen and practice with them. Start by communicating how you feel about something. Often, a feeling is one of the hardest things to formulate. If you can start with that, then you have already overcome one of the most typical hurdles.

For example, if you were to say, “I am really excited about this opportunity!" you would be using a feeling as an opener. This helps endear the listener to you and personalize the experience. Then, you'd try to prioritize the most important points you’re trying to make. The simpler the better when you're making a point. Too much embellishment leads to unnecessary details that can lose the listener's attention.

Find Your Role Model

Whether you need to work on speaking or listening, time some time to observe someone in your life with that skillset. Notice what it is that they do to be successful in that area. At first, mimicking someone can help you embody behaviors – and it won't be long before you're initiating it on your one.

Alternatively, you can also come right out and ask the person what makes them such a good listener or speaker. The compliment will certainly be well-received, and they may have specific advice to help you on your journey to improving the skill.

While we each have our own natural talents, it’s always a good idea to work on improving areas of communication. It will help you create more meaningful connections, guaranteed!

How to Always Pursue Happiness

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As all Americans know, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are inalienable rights. They're not privileges, they're rights. As such, we are all encouraged to pursue and define our happiness as we each see fit (as long as it doesn't impede another's happiness, of course!)

However, like all rights, we still need to make the choice to pursue it. While most of us can grasp the concept of pursuing what makes us happy, the ability to do that often requires a shift in perspective.

Shifting Your Perspective

Your happiness becomes tangible the moment you decide to do something about it. Much like dating, it is near-impossible to meet someone if you never leave your couch. Unless the pizza delivery person is single or you take the enormous risk of inviting someone over off a dating app, finding the right person takes action.

The same is true for finding your bliss.

In a previous blog, I go over some tips to reach happiness on a more consistent basis. But the first step is recognizing you're unhappy – or not as happy as you could be. Since happiness is a choice, so too is unhappiness. Our inalienable right is the pursuit of happiness. That phrasing reinforces the fact that there is some chase and effort involved.

Happiness on a Situation-to-Situation Basis

You can look at every situation differently. In fact, it's within that variety of perspectives that makes it possible to find happiness from one situation to the next. Of course, sad news without an obvious silver lining will eventually arise. But even then, you can decide how best to take care of yourself and get to a place of calmness, peace, and, eventually, happiness.

The key? The ability to shift perspective as the need occurs.

For example, say someone is going through a divorce – and it's a muddy and drawn-out process. You can choose to focus on what’s being taken away and the grief of loss. Or, you can choose to focus on what new opportunities lie ahead — and the prospect of a fresh connection with someone new.

If you're grateful for your current experience, you have control over your perspective. The more you engage in this practice, the better you'll be at stringing together longer moments of satisfaction – which leads to an enduring sensation of happiness.

A Journey Worth Embarking On

Remember: happiness is a journey that takes chasing and endurance.  There is nothing passive about the word "pursuit." Doesn't it make you imagine law enforcement going after a suspect? It's a word that strong implies acting with purpose – and purpose requires a crystal-clear goal.

Besides choosing to be happy, it is important to get clear with yourself on what you believe contributes to your happiness. A winning equation would be:

Action + Choice + Perspective + Gratitude = Consistent, Long-Term Happiness.

 

 

Personal Shame Can Be Good. Toxic Shame…Not So Much.  

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Social media "gurus" are making countless videos on the subject of shame, which has ignited many conversations with my clients. Our discussions lead to realizations that range from inspiring and uplifting to shock and relief, because many don't know that there are two forms of shame: healthy and toxic.

I've researched the concepts of shame, guilt, and remorse at great length. And I've delved even deeper into the idea of shame as a motivator. The key finding: the negative effects of toxic shame versus the positive motivation of personal shame.

Toxic shame comes from the outside; i.e., from a friend, family member, or stranger. That type of shame is considered toxic, and it does NOT motivate a positive change in behavior.

I tested this concept recently during one of my addiction groups. I showed them a "fat shaming" video and asked how it would make them feel if someone made the same type of video for "addiction shaming." I asked, "Would it motivate you to stop your negative behaviors?"

The resounding consensus: it would not. In fact, many group members shared stories of friends and family who had used shame and blame as a tactic – and how it drove them to drink more, score more drugs, or isolate even further.

However, shame felt on a personal level can be a strong motivational factor for some. The key here is that the individual needs to experience the shame from their own ego, their own core self. That's what creates the dynamic shift that results in a change in behavior.

Most of us know the discomfort of feeling ostracized from family or friends because of something we did. It makes us feel alone and isolated. From there, it becomes a loneliness cycle, one that promotes more toxic shame and negative behaviors.

Connection and transparency, on the other hand, create an expressway to healing and clarity.

Shame may be tempting to use as motivational tool. But it really only works on the self. And when you do experience personal shame and remorse, the key is to feel it, let it drive you, and then learn to let it go.

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The Balance Between Courage and Kindness

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Having courage and kindness are both hailed in our society. But we often make the mistake of separating the two. Instead, let's consider the fact that courage and kindness are intrinsically linked.

“Have Courage and Be Kind.” – Cinderella

In the 2015 live action telling of the Cinderella fairytale, the Princess makes a point to remind herself and those around her to have courage and to be kind. (It has an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, see it!)

But these are particularly inspirational words to live by, and I'm drawn to them because it appeals so well to both our strong and gentle sides – and promotes a good balance between the two.

What does it mean to "have courage"?

Having courage means stepping outside of your comfort zone AND doing something worthwhile. Of course, bravery has different levels. But it all starts with taking a personal risk. You can be courageous by standing up for yourself. Standing up for others. Speaking truth that's likely difficult for others to hear.

Courage takes reaching down to a very primal place. It means following your gut instinct, to take action and do the right thing – despite the potential consequences.

We often describe our servicemen and women as brave and courageous for their willingness to put their very lives on the line for the betterment of others.

But sometimes, courage means simply not giving up. A brave person is one who does all they can to keep their spirit and willpower ignited.

In Cinderella, she doesn't allow her spirit to break by the cruelty of her step-family. She stays true to her gut instinct at all times. And yet her kindness remains.

What does it mean to "be kind"?

Put simply, kindness is when you take others into consideration when making a choice. For example, if you saw someone drop their wallet on the sidewalk, you'd have three choices. You could continue on uninterrupted (neutral choice). You could keep the wallet (cruel choice). Or you could stop and return their lost possession (kind choice).

Where there is kindness, there is goodness, and where there is goodness, there is magic.
— Cinderella

But kindness can be subtler, especially when combined with courage. Consider this: you're about to speak a truth that might be difficult for someone to hear. Those words never need to be cruel or punishing. When you word your truth in a way that considers the other person's feelings, you're making a kind decision while taking a brave stance.

Further, kindness comes through in your tone and the overall energy that you give off. Can't you often tell just by looking at someone whether they're likely kind and open? It's in the facial expression, body language, eye contact, and so on. Beyond how your words come out, consider how you're coming off too.

Combining Kindness and Courage

It can be a challenge to find the sweet spot between standing up for your beliefs while not imposing them on others. Saying what needs to be said is brave; doing so gracefully is kind.

You've probably heard that being kind can make you a pushover. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Kindness when it's undeserved or unexpected (or both) is an act of pure strength and willpower. And frankly, if you're a kind person (and you know you are), it's courageous to stay true to who you are at your core.

Most circumstances in our lives are out of control. Yet we're always accountable to how we react to those circumstances. But when we make both courage and kindness our guiding principles, we can stay on course to happiness.

 

 

 

How to Overcome Feeling Overwhelmed

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We all feel overwhelmed from time to time. We might be juggling too many commitments, dealing with work pressures, or navigating relationship expectations. Combine that with everyday chores, keeping up with social media and the latest trends, and finding the time to relax? I'm getting overwhelmed just listing it all out!

And when we get overwhelmed, it triggers our flight or fight response. As a result, we tend to make hasty decisions to alleviate some of the anxiety and confusion, which is never a good idea. Instead, we need to change our relationship with "feeling overwhelmed" by learning how to deal with it – and move on from it.

Short Term Tools You Can Use in the Moment

Feeling overwhelmed can come out of nowhere. Here are some tricks you can use to deal with it as it's happening:

Rewind: Recognize your discomfort as well as your rush to get out of that state of mind. Sure, we hate discomfort, but within that moment is a real chance to figure out what's challenging you. Getting specific about your discomfort is a great way to sharpen your weapons against it.

Reset: Pause and take a few breaths. Take six long, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Reflect. Repeat. Move forward.

Fast Forward: Literally! Travel into the future. Visualize the clear paths ahead, where everything is calm and works out for the best.

Long Term Tools You Can Use Right Now

Limit Screen Time: Including social media, because way too much information is out there for us to consume regularly and stay balanced. Use your phone with intent rather than being motivated by compulsion. Otherwise, you'll waste idle time scrolling, which fills the mind with useless (and potentially toxic) content.

Don't Procrastinate: Feel like you always have too much to do? First, figure out if you can get rid of anything from your calendar. Second, set a strict schedule for one week (including time to relax) and adjust accordingly. It won't be long before you're a lot better at managing your time.

Let It Out as It Comes: Let out feelings on a slow drip rather than holding onto them until they burst out. Not being able to share how we feel when we really need to vent is exhausting. Instead of letting many things pile up emotionally, make sure you’re using an outlet to express how you feel as it comes up. Manageable doses of relief are crucial to peace of mind.

Set a Goal: And make sure that each decision moves you in that direction. For example, let’s say your goal is to adopt a more positive mindset. Every time you're faced with a choice throughout your daily life, make your decision with that goal in mind. Soon, you'll notice an overall, positive shift in your mindset.

Be Joyful: What brings you joy? Make sure you know what makes you smile and fills you up. When the overwhelm comes knocking, you can tap into a resource that counteracts that negativity. If you can’t seem to pull yourself away from feeling overwhelmed, find the time for some fun and lighthearted activity to help balance you out. Not only does it free the mind, it gives you something to always look forward to.

Always Remember

Feeling overwhelmed stems from the myth that you have to figure everything out, all at once. But when you can separate items out—and look at one decision at a time—your to-do list will seem much more manageable.

 

 

 

 

Your Head vs. Your Heart vs. Your Gut: Who Wins?

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What do you do when you have a decision to make – but feel torn about what to do? Sure, you can

make a pros and cons list. That can be a truly helpful tool for your brain, but it can leave out the key

ingredients of decision-making: what’s in your heart, and what your gut instinct is telling you.

All too often, the head, heart, and gut are framed as an internal battle. But really, they can all work

together to formulate a fuller picture, one that delivers vivid clarity.

Putting the Concept into Action

For an example of the above mentioned, let’s say you’re choosing between your top two choices for

college.

Thinking with your head means you’re reminding yourself of the facts, logistics, and analytics of a

situation. In this college scenario, perhaps you would highlight location, cost of tuition, or if they offer

public transportation around campus and beyond.

Considering your heart is when you embrace emotional responses and the overall romance of the

situation. When you visited the campuses, what feelings are stirred? Is there a family alma mater to

honor, or a fun social element worthy of your immersion? And which of the two campuses were harder

to leave?

Following your gut instinct is when your (literal) gut/stomach gives you signs and signals about which

choice is more aligned with your core self. For most, it feels like a churning in the pit of your stomach, or

a hollowness. Intuition is usually sparked when there’s a clash between the head and the heart, a

referee who comes in to settle the score.

If your gut doesn’t feel clear, your head and heart likely haven’t gathered enough information to feel

comfortable enough to move forward with a choice.

If the gut is quiet, it’s because it needs more information from the head and the heart.

The Head, Heart, and Gut are Intrinsically Connected

Let’s work with a more sensitive conflict.

In this example, you’re trying to decide if you should stay in a relationship or if it’s time to leave. With

these more personal scenarios, it’s beneficial to give each category an actual voice, and to allow yourself

to hear what the head, heart and gut are saying to you. Here’s some potential dialogue:

Head: “We’ve invested so much time in each other. It would be very inconvenient to have to move out. I

don’t know how I will afford someplace else. We work so well together on paper.”

Heart: “I really love them and don’t want to see them hurt. Maybe we can work it out. I’ve always

imagined myself with someone just like them. They can probably change for the better.”

Gut: “Do not settle. It doesn’t feel good to settle. You have one life to live, you deserve better than to

settle.”

Usually, the gut doesn’t have to say much to confirm what you already knew.

But, as mentioned above, if the gut is quiet, it’s because it needs more information from the head and

heart.

In this “leave them or don’t” relationship example, the person may need to ask their partner to go to

counseling with them. Based off their response (and how the sessions go), the gut will have more

groundwork to draw from.

The head, heart, and gut work in tandem to make you feel more at ease as you navigate life’s

crossroads.

So, make sure that you truly give room to all three before you sign any (literal or figurative) contracts!

The Price of Ambition: Self-Love vs. Self-Acceptance

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They may sound similar, but self-love is different from self-acceptance. Both are certainly necessary for success, but only one promotes your best self in the long run: self-love. Where self-acceptance can often equal a complacency that slows your drive and motivation, self-love requires you to be critical of yourself.

Wait! Don't go! It's not as scary as it sounds.

That's because self-love means being kind to yourself. It means finding things that keep you functioning and filled up emotionally. Sometimes, we can't just accept where we are, even if it's easier. No, especially if it's easier. Sometimes, we have to fight with ourselves because we shouldn't accept our current state. We all have those moments where we need to look in the mirror and say: "I can do better than this."

When Self-Love and Self-Acceptance Intersect

It's true, they can become one! And surprisingly, it's all summed up in this simple phrase:

 “I love myself so much that I will only accept my best.”

Repeat it. Say it to yourself in the mirror. Make it your mantra. Why? Because it's true! Listen, you need to learn to accept the things you have no control over. We all do. If for nothing else, do it for your sanity. If it's unchangeable, it's pointless to try and change it.

But you can do something about how your body performs. You can go to bed early and wake up feeling better. You can improve on how you interact with others and communication.

What's the Right Way to Critique Myself?

When you’re being critical of yourself, there is a way to do it without being cruel. Think of yourself the same way you'd think of a coworker. You have feelings too, and you're probably the best equipped to hurt them. And don't forget: criticizing yourself is not a bad thing. It’s for the betterment of you! Talk about motivating.

Here are 5 ways to constructively criticize yourself:

1.       Never name call. No words like “idiot,” “dumb,” “lame," etc. Too much of that, and you might actually start believing it. It's not true, so stop!

2.       Criticize and then move forward. You made a mistake, don’t dwell. You can't go back in time.

3.       Be specific with what you want to change. E.g., "I DO NOT want to change my love for video games, but I DO want to regulate how often I play."

4.       Remind yourself of how you feel when you don’t live up to your own standards. At the same time, remind yourself how you feel when you do!

5.       Make sure that this is something YOU want to change. Are you doing it for others? That breeds resentment, which is woefully counterproductive.

If you are never criticized, you may not be doing much that makes a difference.

The Wrong Way to Self-Criticize

Don't wake up for the fifth day in a row of binge-gaming and head to work looking like a trash panda. Self-acceptance in that regard is self-destruction, because something needs to change. You're not at your best, so you'd be missing the self-love part.

For this example, you'd develop the mantra: “I love that I am into video games and that playing helps me relax. But I do not accept that I can’t control how long I play. I can't accept how it affects my work life either."

Now that is some productive self-love – with a dash of necessary criticism.

In Conclusion

Don’t hate yourself. That never gets you anywhere. Indulge in the things that make you happy and make you feel loved, but do so in moderation. When you reach a point of going overboard with anything, it’s time to question your level of self-acceptance and go into edit mode (AKA, self-love).

As the Serenity Prayer goes, “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.”