The Dichotomy of Control: what we can, and what we cannot.
Welcome to Self-Mastery — a place of timeless ideas to help you become the architect of your mind and create yourself, starting from the inside.
Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: some things are within our control, and some things are not.
The core to stoicism is one we can adopt to help understand ourselves, our vision, mission, and spend more time moving, thinking and living peacefully.
It starts with The Dichotomy of Control.
Quite simply, it explains that there are some things we have complete power over; moments you can control from start to finish, and there are many things we have no power, control, or say over. No matter what you think.
I’ve found there are double, even quadruple the number of situations we have which are entirely out of our control. But it’s a good thing: this is where you and I learn to master acceptance.
This idea first leads us to the serenity prayer;
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
We may tout it as wishy-washy, and yet the most peaceful, happy, and skilled people I know directly and indirectly embody this passage.
In my life, I’ve countlessly faced the challenge of overcoming interpersonal problems, like being easily frustrated and sensitive. But learning this way has redefined me. I wouldn’t recognise myself from just a few years ago because I understood that I define what’s good or bad. And if I don’t, it just is. I don’t need to think any further.
There are recent moments where I’ve even shocked myself a little. Most things to me now are good, or nothing at all.
During disagreements, I treat what people say at me as new opportunities to discover more perspectives and develop greater empathy. I learnt to shift what I say to myself just a touch, to transform my worldview completely. From “it’s a terrible, rainy day” to “I love working while it rains, and I love the fresh smell during a rainy walk.” They’re small things, but small things compound over time.
I think unhappiness is when we focus on the elements we have no control over. We can’t control what people say to us or what the weather is like or how quick our laptop loads. And this tends to make us angry, frustrated, regretable, confused. But this is only when we try to live in the past. We can only be at peace when we remain in the present, and we can only be in the present when there’s acceptance.
“It’s happened. Let’s move forward.”
And this is also the problem with goal setting. I heavily advocated for goals, yet I never got anywhere. Putting pressure on yourself for such an externality is more harmful than anyone needs. Because when, and if we reach our goal, we usually become stuck with what to do next. And if we do not reach it, we beat ourselves up.
Our goals are malleable to what we can’t control. When we worry about that, it reduces our chance of success even further. But if we focus on creating the excellent systems, habits, actions and behaviours we can control, we’ll focus on the now, and that’s how we become happier, peaceful, and avoid disrupting our tranquillity.
What’s on My Mind
A question for you:
Have a think about a time where you reacted to something out of your control. How did you feel? Why? Do you think you could have reacted differently?
Asking these questions often will help us see where we could improve and bring ourselves closer to excellence.
One final thingAs I’ve wanted to touch more on the body/fitness side of my work, I spent the past week creating a small ebook on the practice of core training. Back and knee pain is something I’ve struggled with for years, and I wanted to help anyone else who has, and is unable to get help for it easily.
I can’t wait to share it with you soon.
Move well, think well, live well.
Are any of your friends interested in thinking, moving and living better?
If so, please invite them to read or subscribe.