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If something's out of your control, should you still worry about it? | Oliver Burkeman

Knowing what we can control

If we could manage never to fret about things we can’t control, then life would proceed calmly. However, the truth of this statement can't bring peace of mind by itself.

One of the many things we can't control is our emotions. If a global pandemic triggers anxiety about death or job security, anxieties formed over decades, it is almost impossible to think yourself into realizing they're insignificant.

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If something's out of your control, should you still worry about it? | Oliver Burkeman

If something's out of your control, should you still worry about it? | Oliver Burkeman

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/apr/10/if-somethings-out-of-your-control-should-you-still-worry-about-it-oliver-burkeman

theguardian.com

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Key Ideas

What we can control

In every situation, there are things we can control and things we can’t. We can control what we say or do, but trying to control what we can't is a recipe for anxiety and stress.

Knowing what we can control

If we could manage never to fret about things we can’t control, then life would proceed calmly. However, the truth of this statement can't bring peace of mind by itself.

One of the many things we can't control is our emotions. If a global pandemic triggers anxiety about death or job security, anxieties formed over decades, it is almost impossible to think yourself into realizing they're insignificant.

The dichotomy of control

A preliminary tool is to separate what you can control from what you can't. But you will only have peace of mind if you begin taking action in the realm of what you can control.

We often have far more control than we realize. You can't stop a worldwide spread of a disease, but you can do a lot to prevent it from spreading to you: you can choose to eat well and to move. You can't choose to get through today's to-do list, but you can choose to spend the next three hours diligently attacking it.

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Aristotle gave us an alternative conception of happiness

It cannot be acquired by pleasurable experiences but only by identifying and realizing our own potential, moral and creative, in our specific environments, with our particular family, friends and colleagues, and helping others to do so. 

A practical philosophical school

Stoicism became popular in the Roman Empire. Slaves like Epictetus, rich people like Seneca or emperors like Marcus Aurelius found guidance for life in it.

Events don’t upset you

Beliefs about events do. Bad feelings are caused by irrational beliefs, so if you’re feeling negative emotions, focus on the belief you hold about what happens. 

For stoics there is no good or bad, there’s only perception. And you control perception. 

Control what you can

Ignore the rest. We worry about things that we have no control over. But worrying never fixed anything

The stoics are saying that if you focus your energy on what you can change, you’re going to be a lot more productive and effective. 

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Self-Sufficiency

Stoicism is essentially about assigning things their proper, real value. It identifies what is in our control, and what is beyond us, in our lives.

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Our Sphere of Control

Contentment and being self-sufficient is about focussing your time and energy on things that you do something about.

You are responsible for the things you can impact; all the other things are beyond your control.

The Proper Value

Identify what's in your control, what's beyond, and what is in between.

Those things which are in your control should be a priority, and where you should put your time and energy.

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Inversion

Is the way of thinking in which you consider the opposite of what you want.

Inversion puts a spotlight on errors and roadblocks that are not obvious at first glance. What if the opposi...

The "kill the company" strategy

The idea is to identify challenges and points of failure so you can develop a plan to prevent them ahead of time.

Imagine the most important goal or project you are working on right now. Then fast forward 6 months and assume the project or goal has failed. Tell the story of how it happened and ask yourself, “What could cause this to go horribly wrong?”

Inversion and productivity

Applying inversion to productivity you could ask, “What if I wanted to decrease my focus? How do I end up distracted?” 

The answer to these question may help you discover interruptions you can eliminate to free up more time and energy each day.

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Stoic Philosophy

Stoicism acknowledges the challenges we face and teaches us practical lessons so that we may overcome whatever stands in our way. By taking a practical approach to happiness, we learn how to mainta...

Epictetus
Epictetus

Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well.

Suffering and Desire

Buddha taught that there is suffering in this world, it is inevitable, and the root cause of suffering is mainly the desires we feel.

We want something, always, and feel miserable when we don't get it.

Stoicism teaches us to live in accordance with nature and to accept that suffering will manifest in different ways in our lives.

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Stoicism
Stoicism

It is a school of philosophy founded in Athens around 300 B.C., and focuses on our psychological and emotional control we have on ourselves when faced with life’s different colours.

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Grit and Stoicism

Grit is a form of perseverance and resilience mixed together, and helps us move forward in times of adversity. Grit is essential to achieving big goals and to handle the seemingly never ending obstacles and tough terrains of life.

Combining Stoicism with Grit makes your mind invincible as you focus on the right thing no matter what happens, improving your performance and results in all aspects of life.

Count Your Grit

When an obstacle, a mental block, or a difficult situation presents itself, we need to pay attention to that moment and power through it with awareness, counting the grit as a +1 credit on your grit counter. This is a mini-success in itself.

It is easier when done slowly and steadily increasing your Grits daily.

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True practice and learning force you to deeply examine the chinks in your armor. You are only as strong as your weakest link. In a world that tells you to ignore your weaknesses, true practitioners do the opposite.

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Establish what you can control

Recognize that in most situations, all you can control is your effort and your attitude. 

When you put your energy into the things you can control, you'll be much more effective.

Your influence

You can influence people and circumstances, but you can't force things to go your way:

  • To have the most influence, focus on changing your behavior. Be a good role model and set healthy boundaries for yourself.
  • When you have concerns about someone else's choices, share your opinion, but only share it once. Don't try to fix people who don't want to be fixed.
Identify your fears

Think about what you could do when failure happens.

Usually, the worst-case scenario isn't as tragic as you might envision. Acknowledging that you can handle the worst-case scenario can help you put your energy into more productive exercises.

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Stoicism asserts that we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.

At the very root of Stoicism there is a very simple, though not easy, way of living: Take obstacles in your life and turn them into your advantage, control what you can and accept what yo...

At the very root of Stoicism there is a very simple, though not easy, way of living: Take obstacles in your life and turn them into your advantage, control what you can and accept what you can’t.

“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where wil...

“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.”  -  Epictetus:

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Epictetus

“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.”

Epictetus
Misery And The Mind

Misery can be influenced by your circumstances, but it is largely indifferent to them because it grows from within. Most of us have everything that we need to avoid it, but our untrained brains are prone to create it through anxiety.

This concept is easy to understand but it requires consistent effort and application. Keeping your brain in check demands that you understand and internalize it into day to day conduct.

Diversify Your Sources Of Joy

We only have so much time and energy, so it’s good to eliminate the meaningless things we do. And then spread your remaining time and energy across multiple sources.

Balance work with other hobbies or personal projects, increase the number of people you can rely on, etc. Over a long enough time, something will go wrong, and having multiple sources of fulfillment to rely on will save you from complete collapse.

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