Like many of you, I’ve been very stressed during COVID-19. This pandemic has been a very tough time for all of us, worrying about our families and livelihoods. There are far too many things to worry about it can quickly become overwhelming! During quarantine, in addition to establishing my morning routine, I started reading philosophy. I was instantly attracted to the Stoic way of using logic to process issues.
After reading “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, “Discourses” by Epictetus and “Letters from a Stoic” by Seneca, I started to understand some of the fundamentals of stoic philosophy. Now, I’ve only read three books. I’m not going to sit here and claim to be an expert, I am merely a student. Just like all previous blog posts, YouTube videos and Instagram posts, I’m merely passing along what I’ve learned in the hope that it will help another. However, there is a key lesson that I’m very excited to share with you today.
In all three books, the authors discuss the stoic concept of externals. These are aspects of life that are totally independent from us. Basically, they are things for which we have no control. Examples would be our status, the weather, the economy and many others. The Stoics argue that there is no point wasting time and energy worrying about that with which we have no control over. What is the point? You can do nothing to change these factors, why even worry about them to begin with? While this can initially seem depressing as there are so many of these “externals” in life, I find this to be extremely liberating.
There are very few things that you have complete control over. I would argue that they are your will, thoughts and actions. Think about it for a moment. One would argue that they feel powerless because there’s little they can do, but they are tragically missing the point. You can control your will, thoughts and actions. No matter what is going on, you still have control over your own faculties. Whenever something happens, you have the ability to step back and analyze the situation before making a judgment. It’s much easier to make a knee-jerk snap judgment leading to an outburst. The angry honk on the road serves as a great example of this. It takes discipline to refrain from this, I won’t argue that. Anything that lies outside of your thoughts, will and actions don’t deserve your time and energy.
The concept of externals is one of many wise lessons passed down from the legendary stoics. My challenge to you is this. The next time you’re confronted with a challenge, step back. Analyze the situation, use logic to determine what is in your control and take appropriate action. I think you’ll find that focusing on the few things you can control will amplify your ability to overcome challenges and become your strongest self.
To your lifelong health and success,