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Day 1: Control and Choice

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”

EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.5.4–5

This is only of the most important philosophy of Stoicism: to understand and able to differentiate what are externals and hence not under over control and what are internals and are under our control. And once we identify this how drastically our life is changed. If you are stuck in traffic there is nothing you can do by getting anxious, if your flight got cancelled due to weather there isn’t any point yelling at airline people, and if you are stuck by misfortune then brooding over it is not going to help.

To implement this philosophy in our life, I stick to the below framework which I learnt and adapted as per my needs from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by  Stephen Covey. I hope you also find it useful in your life.

All the events happening in our life and around us can be categorized into one of the three concentric circles:

  1. The innermost circle is circle of most control. These are the events where we can change things by working on it. Liking getting early in case you have to reach somewhere important, looking for ways to turn your misfortune into something positive, working on our goals.
  2. The middle circle is the circle of influence. These are the events on which you don’t have direct control but can you can change a part of it by your influence. Example of it would be the behavior of other people towards us. We can’t change the people from what they are but we can influence them to be a better person by being an example.
  3. The outer circle is the circle of no control. These are the events which are totally outside our influence. There isn’t anything you can do to change things here, like you can’t change the weather, you can’t change your height, your family where you are born.

Now, once you understand this framework you need to learn to apply this in your life. Whenever you find yourself angry, anxious, sad, bored or with any negative emotion, take a moment to reflect that the circumstances that are causing this emotions falls under which of these circle. Once you identify it these are the action items for each circle:

  • If it is in inner circle, then work out on making a plan to solve this problem. Be action-oriented in this circle
  • If it is in middle circle, then see how much influence that you can have to change the situations here. Now this is the trickiest circle. Don’t get over attached to the result. You have to understand that you don’t have direct control over things, so be prepared to accept the failure
  • And last if it is in the outer circle then learn to let things go and redirect your energy in achieving the goals defined in inner circle

I would like to this post with a beautiful prayer that one can repeat to affirm this idea in our heart

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

Published inPhilosophy & IdeasStoicism

3 Comments

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