“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.” – Epictetus
I find it strange to remember that my perception of the world has more influence on my opinions than the actual events I experience. After all, how I choose to react to my day is entirely within my power. It’s only when I sacrifice that control that I suffer needlessly.
Stuff happens. No matter how you try and frame it, at any given moment, there’s a chance something will go wrong. That doesn’t mean I have to become angry or upset. Maybe my alarm didn’t go off. I could be late for an appointment. At some point, something will go wrong, and I will have to accept and adapt to that reality.
What happens if I choose to accept that sometimes things won’t go according to my plans? What if I simply move on to the task at hand—changing my plans to accommodate the situation? Do I have to allow external events to create internal stress? Of course not. In the end, all I really control is how I respond to the world. The key is that I get to choose how I respond.
Every time a disaster lands on your lap, you could work on fixing the situation rather than complaining about it. I like to say I never have a bad day. That’s because no matter how messed up my day’s been, I’m in control of how I react. I get to choose how I frame my day.
There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. – Epictetus, Enchiridion
When we think about Nature, we tend to immediately recognize that some things are simply outside of our control. The weather can change unexpectedly and an earthquake can strike without warning. We may be upset at the outcome of such events, but we would never be upset with ourselves for failing to prevent Nature from disrupting our lives. Nature is just being Nature.
How strange it is that we are not nearly as kind with chance in our daily lives. I think that’s unfortunate. There are many things in our lives that we cannot control, and it would do us well to remember to treat ourselves and others kindly when we experience these setbacks.
Traffic, power blackouts and internet outages are just a few examples of modern inconveniences which remain outside of our control, and still we often allow these interruptions to our convenience disrupt our peace of mind.
What good does it do to stress and complain about the things you cannot change? Just as you cannot change the flow of traffic, you also can’t change the mindset of others. So, why bother being upset about these things?
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the best plans possible in our lives, but it does mean we shouldn’t be upset when things don’t go according to our plans. Nature is unpredictable, and our lives are clearly subject to change without notice.
So, try and remind yourself to be kind and patient. Make it a goal to endure wisely the situations you cannot change. Don’t become another angry voice. What can you do to be the voice of Reason instead?
How many things are superfluous we fail to realize until they begin to be wanting; we merely used them not because we needed them but because we had them. And how much do we acquire simply because our neighbours have acquired such things, or because most men possess them!Seneca
I think we fail to realize how many of our possessions are really pretty extraneous. Our parents and grandparents enjoyed their youth and middle years without many of the conveniences we enjoy today—cellphones, the internet, on demand streaming services, endless varieties of food, Amazon, Google, and now everything is available for delivery straight to your home—the list goes on for quite some time. The point is if we were born in a different era all of these things obviously wouldn’t have mattered. None of them were necessary for our parents to enjoy life and find their place in the world. So, why do you allow them to matter to you?
Have you ever noticed how at one moment we can be enjoying our latest purchase and telling our friends all about some new feature and two minutes later we can suddenly be overwhelmed when we discover something doesn’t go as we planned. Maybe our credit card won’t scan correctly at the checkout line or perhaps we find a ding in our new car’s door. The truth is that many of the things we let exasperate us don’t really matter on their own when we separate what happened from how it impacted our plans.
We’ve given these objects the power to upset us because we lost track of what’s really valuable. We stopped looking for value in ourselves and now we’re left with an unsatisfiable desire for something “more” that can’t be fulfilled by the material world. So, we ignore our feelings and go on buying “more stuff” and being disappointed when everything doesn’t turn out the way we wanted.
The truth is that there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the conveniences and luxuries of the modern world. I mean we all understand that an object can’t be good or bad. An object is just an object after all. It’s a collection of molecules arranged by nature and tempered by men to serve a purpose—nothing more. So we have to look at how we value and use those objects that determines if our decisions add value or inhibit our personal growth and development.
Is our sense of purpose and fulfillment really something we can measure and buy? Why do you work all day—every week—for decades? Is it to afford the latest fashions and gadgets or are you searching for your place in this world? We all have bills to pay, but are we working just to pay those bills or do we use our careers and salaries to help us fulfill a deeper human purpose? I think that’s the unspoken struggle we face. Objects and possessions are tools. How are you using yours? Are you using your resources to improve your mind or to distract it?