A few months ago, I was interviewed on this podcast by Benjamin Brandt of Retirement Starts Today. We had a great 20 minute discussion on the topic of contentment, and avoiding regrets in life. During our chat, Benjamin brought up The Serenity Prayer, and how it was important to focus on things we can control. Too often, many of us waste effort trying to influence things we can’t control, and it can lead to less contentment in life.
Following our interview, Benjamin and I chatted about doing some potential collaboration around The Serenity Prayer. The result is this article, written by Benjamin as a follow-up to our podcast about contentment.
The timing of this post is intentional. As you go through this Christmas season, take some time to reflect. I trust you’ll find some things to think about as you read Benjamin’s words.
What Does the Serenity Prayer Have to Do with Retirement?
If you’ve read the popular Serenity Prayer before, you already know just how wise and profound these words are. It’s true we can’t change everything we don’t like about our lives, but it’s also true we have some power.
By focusing on areas where we have control, we can improve our lives in ways we might never expect.
Beyond the meaning of its words, however, this prayer means so much more. Let’s start with the definition of serenity itself:Serenity: The state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled. Click To Tweet
When you think of serenity, what mental image do you have?
[Fritz here] I remember a hike I took with a friend on a portion of the Appalachian Trail called “Blood Mountain.” The hike up was brutal, but the view from the top was the exact opposite – calm, serene, beautiful. Some folks imagine a walk on a deserted tropical beach, some folks a mountain lake. What does serene look like to you?
(Back to Benjamin) The Serenity Prayers asks that we accept the things we cannot change, but what does that mean? To me, acceptance is bending to God’s will and believing that everything has a purpose. I may not like the way things are, but I’m willing to accept them since God made them that way.
The Serenity Prayer also talks about wisdom and why it’s important.Wisdom: the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgement. Click To Tweet
We may not be born with wisdom, but perhaps we can achieve it over time, and by accepting God’s will. And eventually, we’ll have the wisdom to realize what is and what isn’t negotiable in our lives.
The Serenity Prayer of Personal Finance
As a Christian, I recognize everything comes from God. Regardless of your religious beliefs, however, I believe the Serenity Prayer could have a profound impact on your future. While the Serenity Prayer itself isn’t about personal finance, there’s no reason we can’t use it to improve one of the most important aspects of our lives – our financial health. After all, there are many, many financial situations we simply cannot change ourselves.
We can’t help it if we get laid off from our jobs, for example, nor can we help who is elected as President. We cannot predict or change the normal market movements that cause our investments to boom and bust over time.
We can’t help it if our parents need our help in old age, and our work hours must be cut in order to help. We have no control over whether our bosses give us the raises we deserve, or whether our health insurance costs spiral out of control. We can’t change our CEO’s mind if she decides to ship thousands of jobs overseas.
But, you know what?
We can change the factors that are within our control.
We may not be able to change the way our employers treat us, but we can change our own attitudes. We may not earn as much money as we wish we did, but we do have some control over our spending and how we budget our money.
You might not get along with your family that well, but you have the power to extend an olive branch and mend old fences. You may feel like the economy has taken a turn for the worst, but no matter what, you can decide to be content.
In this wonderful country called America, we can take any numbers of steps to change the aspects of our lives we don’t like. We can strike out on our own to start a new business, pick up part-time work to earn more, or start a profitable side hustle that lets us control our own hours.
And when it comes to the future, only we can decide to craft – and stick with – a realistic investing plan that will help us enjoy retirement. Nobody can do it for us – not our mothers, or our brothers, or our bosses.
The Serenity Prayer may not be about money, but I can’t think of better financial advice. When it comes to our finances, the vast majority of us would be better off if we focused on the areas we can control.
We can’t change everything, nor should we try. But we should try to be our best selves, and achieving that goal requires knowing where to focus and spend our time.
If you’re struggling with money or simply want to get ahead, look to the Serenity Prayer for wise advice anyone can use. If we can learn to accept what we cannot change and get serious about the financial decisions that could really impact our lives, we will all be better off.