Things We Cannot Control or Change in Life

Change is an inevitable part of life. Realizing that nothing lasts forever is one of the keys to lasting happiness and peace. The other important factor is knowing what parts of our lives we can change and what parts we cannot.

Too many people are unhappy because they do not accept the things or circumstances that they cannot change or have no control over. This leads to unnecessary frustration, disappointment, and suffering. This is one of the reasons that Alcoholics Anonymous meetings incorporate the Serenity prayer that states, “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.” You do not have to be a religious person to see the value offered in this prayer.

It really is quite simple: we should focus our time and energy on the parts of our lives that we can change and accept the ones that we cannot. Unfortunately, many people make no effort to change the aspects of their lives that they are unhappy with and can change; instead, they try to change those that they have no control over. This is a recipe for disaster and heartache.

There are many things in our lives we can change if we are not satisfied with them. For example, if we are overweight, we can change that. If we hate our job, we can change that. If we are not happy being in a certain relationship, we can change that. If we want to have more friends, we can change that. The choice is ours. However, it is important to know that there are some things in life that we cannot change no matter how hard we try. Wisdom is knowing what we can change and what we cannot. We can then focus our efforts on changing what we can and accepting what we cannot. Doing this leads to peace, serenity, happiness, and freedom.

So what are some of the things that we have no control over and cannot change?

The Weather

Have you noticed how many people complain about the weather because it is not to their liking? Let’s face it: we have no control over mother nature so we might as well accept it. If it rains on your birthday, make the best of it.

What Other People Think

Contrary to what many people believe, we cannot change what other people think, including about ourselves. Yet countless numbers of people try in vain to change the opinions and thoughts of others.

What Other People Do

We also have no control over what others do. Their actions are independent of our own. Despite this, some people spend so much time and effort trying to get their spouses, family members and friends to act differently. You are the only one who can decide and control your actions, so why should it be any different with others?

What Other People Feel

We can try to affect the feelings of others but, since feelings are the result of thoughts (remember that we cannot change the way other people think), we ultimately cannot change how people feel. For example even if we give someone a gift, how that gift is received and perceived by the other person dictates how he or she feels. Of course, it is good to have empathy and be sensitive to the feelings of others, but, ultimately, we have no control over what others feel.

What Other People Say

People can say whatever they choose and we have no control over that. We only have control over our own words. It is pointless to get upset over the words of others because it is not a reflection on us. People will say what they want to say and we cannot change that.

The Past

This is a big one. The past is forever lost and there is no way we can recover it. All of us have made mistakes and the wisest thing we can do is to learn from them. But we cannot undo what is done. Dwelling on the past is one of the main causes of the regret that many people feel. We only have the present moment so we should accept the past and move on. We will never get the past back.

Getting Old

Every single day of our lives, we get older and one day closer to death. It is inevitable. We cannot change this, even though some people fight this phenomenon. Aging is a way to remind ourselves that time is precious.

Our Family

We do not choose our family members. We had no choice in being born and who our father, mother, siblings, and extended family members are. Like it or not, we will be forever linked that way. If we want to be happy, we need to accept who our family is. This does not mean that we must put up with an abusive father or family member. It merely means that we cannot change who our family is.

Where We Came From

Just as we cannot change our past, we also cannot change our origin, where we came from, our background, etc. Where we came from does not limit what we can become or achieve, but our background is something we have no control over.

Pleasing Everyone

This is another big one. We absolutely cannot please everyone. It is impossible. While we may be able to please some people some of the time, that is the best we can do. Many people waste their whole lives trying to please everyone, often at the expense of their own happiness. The sooner we stop trying to please everyone in our lives, the sooner we can be liberated and focus on our own happiness.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

In today’s overly materialistic world, a lot of people focus on keeping up with their neighbours, friends, and society at large. They want to be better than everyone, or at least on par. That leads them to constantly want a nicer car, a bigger house, a better neighbourhood to live in, a bigger diamond ring, a more exclusive credit card, etc. Accept it: there will always be someone richer, taller, more famous, etc. Each of us is unique and we should love ourselves for who we are rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses.

People Who Have Wronged Us

All of us have been hurt by someone or something in our lives. These wounds often hurt years after they were inflicted and many people carry heavy grudges as a result. We cannot change what has happened. Even if we get revenge (which never heals our wounds), it is impossible to reverse the clock and undo the situation. Hate and the need for retribution only weigh us down and impede on our happiness. We should accept what has transpired, learn from our past, and move on.

Lost Time

“I should have…”, “If only I had done this…”. These are common phrases that express sadness and regret over lost time. Lost time is gone forever and we will never regain it. Ironically, many people waste the only time they have (the present) thinking about the time they have lost.

Making Someone Love Us

I have been heartbroken before just as most people have. Sometimes we love others who do not love us in return. This can also pertain to non-romantic love. Real love does not demand that we are loved in return, even if that is what we hope for. Genuine love is unconditional. It is impossible to change someone and make them love us. We can buy them roses, give them gifts, try to please them in every way, but we cannot make them love us. In spite of this, some people spend all their time and energy trying to earn the love of others.

Our Looks, Height, Skin Color

We can dress more stylishly and exercise to lose weight and get bigger muscles, but we cannot change the basic way we look. Our height, skin color, body type, and looks are features that we should learn to accept and love. We have all heard about people who are obsessed with plastic surgery, hair implants and the like. These people are never satisfied with the way they look. The more we accept ourselves the way we are, the happier we will be. Ironically, this self-acceptance and confidence also make us more attractive to others.

Natural Disasters

Just like the weather, we have no control over natural disasters. We can prepare for them as best as possible, but we cannot control when or how they will occur. I have experienced large earthquakes and two major hurricanes in my life and there was nothing I could have done to prevent them. I experienced some upheaval, power outages, and other inconveniences, but I had no choice other than to accept them. Worrying about natural disasters, as some people do, is pointless.


Traffic is a fact of life, especially in metropolitan areas. When we make the choice to reside in an area because of its benefits, we also have to accept that we will experience traffic. When I drive during rush hour and get stuck in traffic, I play my music, listen to an audiobook, enjoy the conversation with a friend, make a phone call, or just pay attention to my surroundings and enjoy it. It is a part of life that we have to accept. The alternative is to get frustrated, impatient, and angry. Nothing good ever emerges from those feelings.

The Economy

While we all are a part of the economy, most of us cannot significantly control its current state (maybe unless we are George Soros, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or the head of the federal bank). Yet, rather than accept and adapt, some people complain about the economy constantly.


Each of us will no doubt experience pain in our lives. This could be in the form of emotional, physical, or psychological pain. We fall down and hurt ourselves, our feelings get hurt, we face disappointments, disease, etc. It is part of life.This pain is unavoidable, but the suffering associated with it is optional. Why? Because if we accept the fact that each and every single one of us will experience pain at some point in our lives, we do not have the expectation to be pain-free. We also do not spend countless hours focusing on that pain and making the situation worse. That causes needless suffering.

Life Is Not Always Fair

Sometimes in life, we might be glanced over for the coveted job promotion, have to wait in line while others are shown to the red carpet, get unfairly judged, get rear-ended in traffic even if we were driving safely, etc. We have no control over a lot of it. We are best served by focusing on what we can change instead. Life is not always fair, but it is still wonderful anyway.

Change Itself

Lastly, we cannot change the fact that change itself is inevitable. Much of the depression, sadness and anxiety that people feel today is because they do not accept change. Many of them are terrified of change so they cling to what they want to preserve. Whether it is health, materialism, loved ones, wealth, etc, the one thing we can be certain of is that it will not last. Change is inevitable and there is nothing we can do about it. The sooner we accept the fact that everything changes at some point, the less we cling and the happier we become.

To conclude, if we want to be truly happy and at peace, it is essential that we accept the things that we cannot change and have no control over. Instead, we should focus on the aspects of our lives that we want to and actually can change.

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