Things You Can and Cannot Change

People who have been involved in a 12 Step program have been exposed to this concept, but it’s also appropriate for those of us who just tend to live in our heads a little too much –  determining what we can change and what we can’t. It makes all the difference in how we view the world and our part in our own problems. The following by Ralph Marston is an excellent way of helping me decipher the difference:

There are things that you can change, and there are things that you cannot change. Both have much value.

The things you can change can enable you to create, to achieve, to express yourself, and to improve the world in which you live. The things you cannot change give you the opportunity to grow stronger, to develop real wisdom, patience, acceptance, flexibility and effectiveness.

There is much you can learn from the things you cannot change. And there are countless ways to positively apply that learning toward the things you can change.

The things you cannot change give you a base from which to work. The things you can change give you an ever-increasing world of possibilities.

When you accept what you cannot change and find positive ways to deal with it, you lay the groundwork for success. When you understand what you can change and find positive ways to put that change to work, success and achievement are yours.

You are fortunate to live in a world where there are things you can change and things you cannot. As each moment arrives, you’re in a position to make the best of it all.


The most difficult thing (in my life) that I can’t change is other people’s behavior. I work daily on being nonjudgmental, and I believe I accomplish that much of the time. (The one thing I can admit to being intolerant of – is people who are intolerant of others). And one of my most hurculean lessons, which I’m still working on, is to send them love. I do believe we all come from the same source, but we arrive in an array of different colors, ethnicities, sexual orientations, personalities and genders – for a reason. I practice seeing God/Source/Beloved in each human and animal, which makes it much easier to meet them where they are.

And yet, those I love the most are the ones I have the most difficulty not judging! When we get upset with people’s behavior, what we’re really saying is “You’re not enough like me!” So when I can remind myself that the person before me is exactly who (s)he has always been, and that is the reason I love her in the first place, then I can accept the behavior much more readily. (I don’t have to LIKE it, but again – I can’t change it). Then I can determine whether there is something about it that I can change – not that I can change the behavior, but maybe I can see that his behavior makes perfect sense, given the situation at hand. Perhaps I can work on getting to know that person a little better, which could help me understand why she reacted the way she did. If it’s someone I do already know well, hopefully I can start a conversation (with curiosity, not judgment) about the circumstances or belief that drove the action. Or maybe I can change the way I look at the situation, which might make his behavior a non-issue after all.  Finally, I want to show each person the respect I would ask in return, to make the choices for their lives that they see appropriate. Even when (sometimes with every fiber of my being) I believe it is harmful or inappropriate for them.

Bottom line is that the only thing we each have any control over is our own attitudes and behaviors.  Coming to terms with what I can and can’t change helps with that. If I want to live in peace, which I do, then it’s up to ME to make that happen!