God grant me the serenity to change the things that I can change;
to accept the things I cannot change;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
One doesn’t need to be an addict, to employ the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer to help resolve personal and interpersonal problems in life.
The Serenity Prayer at Work
In my first session with Jim*, I listened as he complained bitterly about some of what he considered to be the “stupid and counter-productive” work practices at his place of employment. He was becoming increasingly angry and depressed about his work situation and it was also beginning to have a deleterious impact on his marriage, as each evening he would come home and complain about work to his increasingly exasperated wife.
As I listened it became clear to me that many of the things that were enraging him at his workplace, were things that he could not possibly have any control over.
Things You Cannot Change
He was incensed about the new CEO that had just been appointed, judging him incompetent; frustrated with the size of the workspace that had been allotted to him; angry with the shift to a different product that their company was producing; annoyed by the work habits of a particular colleague.
After listening to him for some time, I began asking him about whether he could do anything about the new CEO; the shift in product; the annoying work habits of his colleague etc.
At first he ignored my question and continued to rage about how completely frustrated he was with everything at work. When some space opened up, I sympathised with him in regard to all his frustrations and asked him again whether there was anything that he could practically do to address the frustrations that he was experiencing. This time he heard me and went quiet for a while, before in a tired sad voice, he admitted that there was nothing at all that he could do to change these things.
It was at this point I introduced him to the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer.
The 3 Column Strategy
Over the following few sessions, I worked with him to develop a “three column strategy” with which to analyse and constructively deal with his workplace issues.
In column one he noted down things in his workplace that he could do something about, and an action plan for each of them.
In the second column he noted down everything that he had no control over and into that column went three of his major concerns. He now understood that if there was nothing he could do about these concerns then the only sane and logical course open to him was to radically accept the way things were, that in raging futilely against them he was only giving himself an ulcer and damaging his relationship with his wife.
Into the third column, he noted down things that he was not sure whether he could do anything about. Into that column went the issue of the annoying work habits of a colleague as well as some other issues. He would work up an action plan around the issues in column three, and see how they worked. Items in this column would eventually land in either column one or column two.
This strategy allowed Jim to devote all his energy to firstly column one, then column three, and not waste any of his precious energy on column two.
Over the course of therapy Jim’s anger and depression dissipated, and he actually began enjoying going to work.
The three column strategy can be employed to assist in many work and relational situations. I would be happy to work with anyone who feels that such an approach may be helpful to them.
Author: Matthew Ryan, B Psych (Hons), MA (Marriage & Family Therapy).
Matt Ryan is a senior psychologist with over 25 years of experience, and has seen great success in helping individuals, couples and families, to work through their problems and difficulties.
To book an appointment with Matthew Ryan call 1800 877 924 or book online today!
*not real name