The Key to Happiness

The Serenity Prayer by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr goes like this:

The Serenity Prayer


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.

On this website, I have often talked about things we can change. So today, I will present a little perspective on things we cannot change. A relatively similar topic has been discussed in a previous post.

The idea is remarkably simple: In life, it all comes down to only two options:

  1. Enjoy whatever is out there
  2. Prepare a checklist of items that need to be aligned to your wishes before you can be happy

Clearly, practising item 1 is the only way to happiness in such situations. You can never adjust everything around you, so why not make peace with the universe?

Interestingly, since interrupted plans lead to unexpected outcomes, and mind has an ability to remember surprises more, these changed circumstances and your response are going to be the true experiences etched in your memory forever.

For example, a BBQ is a celebrated tradition in Australian culture. I have had many, where the weather was nice, the social interactions were pleasant, the food was delicious and in short, things went exactly as planned. However, once it started raining as soon as we began, there were severe cold winds blowing around and suddenly it was no time to be outside, let alone doing a BBQ. We accepted whatever was out there, went through with it and tried to enjoy this different experience. As you would have guessed, I remember this more than any other.

Countless such examples occur in everyday life. People have a general tendency to complain about just the weather itself that needs to stay within 20-24 degrees throughout the year. Every time, just go with your best plans and make an internal commitment to enjoy, no matter what — instead of making a list of items that should be necessarily present to make you happy.

Time and again, it strikes me as one of the simplest ideas possible AND one of the most widely ignored one at the same time. Here is a great talk about happiness and its role in life. His book The Happiness Advantage is a great resource to go deeper in this concept.

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