“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.
If we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, we will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.
“How many have laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements—how little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!”
Even harder is saying no to certain time-consuming emotions: anger, excitement, distraction, obsession, lust.
Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control.
Have you taken the time to get clarity about who you are and what you stand for? Or are you too busy chasing unimportant things, mimicking the wrong influences, and following disappointing or unfulfilling or nonexistent paths?
If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility—other people, external events, stress—you will never be successful. Your problems will follow you wherever you run and hide. But if you seek to avoid the harmful and disruptive judgments that cause those problems, then you will be stable and steady wherever you happen to be.
Philosophy is simply asking us to pay careful attention and to strive to be more than a pawn.
tranquility and peace are found in identifying our path and in sticking to it: staying the course—making adjustments here and there, naturally—but ignoring the distracting sirens who beckon us to turn toward the rocks.
“A podium and a prison is each a place, one high and the other low, but in either place your freedom of choice can be maintained if you so wish.” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.6.25
“If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters—don’t wish to seem knowledgeable. And if some regard you as important, distrust yourself.” —EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 13a
when you find yourself getting anxious, ask yourself: Why are my insides twisted into knots? Am I in control here or is my anxiety? And most important: Is my anxiety doing me any good?
“Keep constant guard over your perceptions, for it is no small thing you are protecting, but your respect, trustworthiness and steadiness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word your freedom. For what would you sell these things?”