There are some things that no amount of positivity or mindfulness or stoic calm can give us control over.
They are every day and everywhere.
Some of these things are mental, some are physical, and many have to do with the world around us. We all have limitations and strengths that are beyond our control, but we rarely complain about the strengths we are given that have nothing to do with us.
I hear people deny this, and they often impose their ideas on vulnerable people.
“You wouldn’t have this mental illness if you just had more faith!”
“Oh man, your leg will grow back if you can just gather positive vibrations around you and just soak in them.”
If you are lucky, you can pay them for their prayers or premium good thoughts.
So there are things we can control and things we cannot control.
These things are different for all of us.
For some people, the things we talked about yesterday are within their control, for others they are not. Genetics, disabilities, societal factors and plain dumb luck determine many things for every one of us, sometimes for our benefit, other times not so much.
So what do we do with the things that are beyond our control, especially the things that we don’t like?
Going back to Epictetus, who spent much of his life as a slave, before being banished for being a philosopher:
“Authentic happiness is always independent of external conditions. Vigilantly practice indifference to external conditions. Your happiness can only be found within… Stop aspiring to be anyone other than your own best self: for that does fall within our control.”
When it comes to things we truly have no control over, nothing apart from indifference or acceptance (or, fully embracing them as they are if that appeals to you) makes any sense.
It’s raining but I want it to be sunny. What is the purpose in anger or frustration or thinking about how nice it would be if it were the way I wanted it? Can my dissatisfaction shift global weather patterns?
I’m watching a documentary about this guy who is trying to be the World’s Strongest Man and I wish I was 6’4” and 324 pounds, but I have already topped out at 6’1” and don’t ever see myself getting much above 200 with my frame. How will resisting this serve me? Can my force of will warp genetic and physiological realities?
Indifference and acceptance and embracing our fate. These are the keys to peace and contentment in the face of things we wish were different.
Look at the things you are unhappy with today. Ask yourself if you have control over them.
If you don’t, move on.
P.S.- Other people always fall into the “beyond our control” category. Always. Accept this now and make this all much easier for yourself. This even includes our spouses, children, close friends and co-workers.
Have a great day.
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I write, podcast and make videos about living in freedom through mindfulness, intentionality, compassion, and equanimity.
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