control

Modern problems, Self development

Are You In Control?


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“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ” 
Epictetus

OK, as a Stoic, you know that you have control over your will, over your dispositions and also over your attitude. That’s within you immediate control and no one can take it from you. 

But is that it? Don’t you have a moderate amount of control over your bank account as well, for example?

Absolutely, although it can happen that the bank goes bankrupt or maybe you could live in Venezuela and see how all the value of your Venezuelan bolivars sinks to the floor, hey, anything can happen. But, right now, if you want to go to the store and buy something, you have control over your money, you can buy a coke, a snack or cigarettes. Just like this, you have power and influence over a lot of stuff in your life, the thing is, do you really know the difference between what is and what isn’t, and also, to what extent? Knowing this, would certainly save you a lot of time, wouldn’t it? Here’s why.

For a really, really strange reason, you find yourself in a room filled with sandwiches and rocks. Don’t ask me why. You are the one stuck in the room. After a while, naturally, you begin to feel hungry, so you eat a sandwich. Why didn’t you ate a rock instead? Dumb question, rocks are not meant to be eaten. So, if there were only rocks, would you get mad at the rocks for not being able to satisfy your hunger? Well of course not, they’re just rocks.

This dumb scenario plays just the same in so many aspects of our lives. For example with people. Just as you have a personality and a way of being, everyone else does as well. Some people like football, others hate it, some like to chat and have a drink, others like to read a book and sleep early. But quite often, we get really mad at people for not behaving in the way we want them to behave. Why would you get mad at a rock for not being able to satisfy your hunger? Dumb right? But then, why would you get mad with the early sleeper for not wanting to go out with you? Still dumb?

People just as rocks are different, it doesn’t do to get angry about a rock not being able to satisfy hunger, rather, it’s better to look for a sandwich.

So, you do have control, a lot. But you have to know where that control lies as well. It will depend a lot on your objectives and what you want to achieve. You might not be able to use a rock to feed yourself, but you can use it to build a house or to have fun with it and throw it to a pond. Just the same with everything else, realize where your control is and realize the nature of everything around you so you can act accordingly.

You have control, a lot, but you have to know how to properly use it!

a  great complement to this read: Where are you putting your attention?

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Business advice, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

Separation of tasks


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“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ” 
― Epictetus

I’m pretty sure you know by now that no, it is not that bloody simple. The difficulty arises precisely in making the distinction of what’s in our power and what not.

Alfred Adler, one of the founding members of the Vienna’s Psychoanalytic Society as long with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, claimed in his all too controversial at the time “individual psychology” that all problems are really just interpersonal problems.

But, really? Can you really go so far as to claim that every problem is an interpersonal problem?

Example. Let’s say that X person is working for a huge company and just two days ago, he messed up really, really bad. He made the company lose half a million dollars due to a stupid decision he took. He has a huge, huge problem and apparently, on the surface level, the problem is that the company will lose money but deep down, his worries are quite different. When he goes to bed he cannot stop thinking about arriving the next day and having to look everyone in the face, especially his boss, who will be furious. In reality, his problems spring from interpersonal relationships.

Interesting isn’t it? Something to think about. My point here, coming back to the distinction between things that are under our control and things that are not is too clarify it a little more, using Adler’s concept of separation of tasks.

The reason we are often unhappy as Epictetus cleverly claim is that we cannot make this distinction and so we worry about things that shouldn’t even concern us. The separation of tasks is another way of thinking about what you can control and cannot.

In a love relationship, for example, your task is to love, you cannot make the other person love you, or, well, you can, by being lovable yourself first. But the imposition, saying: “she should do this or he should do that”, is wanting to take the other person task.

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

By separating tasks you can make the distinction of up to which point you can act and up to which point you should concern yourself with. Careful not to use this as an excuse not to do anything, because more than an excuse to not acting and leaving things be, on the contrary, you realize how much more it really is that you can actually do instead of waiting for other people to do whatever. If you are clever enough, you can always find a way in which you can act to come about anything you want, but knowing the distinction of up to which point you can do so is what will give you peace because you’ll know you’ve done your part.

Coming back to all problems being interpersonal problems, this Adlerian methodology comes very useful, because problems stop being problems, the only problem you are left with is with whether you do or you do not do your task and my friend, that’s always under your complete control.

Want to read some more: On life Navigation

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