Stoicism
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The Stoic Dichotomy of Control

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This is an except from Mind Macros 02.

“There are things that are within our power, and things that fall outside our power. Within our power are our own opinions, aims, desires, dislikes—in sum, our own thoughts and actions. Outside our power are our physical characteristics, the class into which we were born, our reputation in the eyes of others, and honors and offices that may be bestowed on us.

“Whenever distress or displeasure arises in your mind, remind yourself, ‘This is only my interpretation, not reality itself.’ Then ask whether it falls within or outside your sphere of power. And, if it is beyond your power to control, let it go.” – Epictetus’ words, translated by Sam Torde from his book The Manual.

Thinking about something we cannot control is, by definition, a waste of time. Even so, we are wired to worry and cannot turn it off. But when our minds run away with trepidation, Epictetus’ words provide the logic to help rein them in.

Lamenting over things we can’t control is a cornerstone of human suffering. Stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy, recognizes this fact and teaches that while we can influence many things in our lives, only our actions are completely within our control. Rather than worrying about everything we cannot control, we have only one role to fulfill: ensuring that our actions are the right ones.

I use this quote from Marcus Aurelius as my motto:

“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.”

Become wiser in four minutes.

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