Worry About Things In Your Control

Marcus Aurelius
is always good for some thoughtful quotations. I think this one is particularly

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you
will find strength.”

Victor Frankl also
has something to say:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to
change ourselves.”

Popular quotes to be sure. I make no claim of originality in regards to
them. I only want you to consider their meaning. Even separated by near to 1800
years they manage to express remarkably similar notions. What are they two
writers saying? First consider some brief history. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman
Emperor he ruled for almost 20 years. He oversaw numerous military campaign and
dealt with all manners of politics, legal disputes, and the administration of
running an empire. Victor Frankl was a neurologist, psychiatrist, and most
famously a holocaust survivor. What do these two have in common, aside from
being male?

They both experienced situations and events that they could not control.
That is not unique to them alone though. That is the situation we all find
ourselves in. Their experience however with lives so far out of their control
gave them great insight. Yes, it is true, we who live lives where everything
seems controllable also know this. We know, despite all our skill and power, we
can be found powerless. But we must internalize that lesson, make it part of
ourselves as Aurelius and Frankl have.

A personal example of how I have failed to learn their lesson. I am
controlling and by extension obsessed with the idea of staticity. The idea that
if I just work hard enough, try hard enough, act smart enough I can keep things
the same. That I can keep doing the same things, having the same friends, going
to the same places, experiencing the same moments. It is a tempting dream. Who
wants to give up what they have at my age. I have money and I have friends, I
have youth and I have time. Best of all though, I have the illusion that all
these things are mine to control. That applying the proper forces, using the
resources at my disposal I can have everything I want. And the absolute worst
part about this, the most depraved conclusion, is that so far this has been
mostly true. The exceptions though, the outliers, the systems and events that
resist my control are nothing short of rage inducing. You can see the flaw
here, childish in its simplicity, that this fantasy cannot be maintained and
the more I try to do so the worse it gets. I cannot control everything. The
more I realize this the more frustrated I become at the notion.

For me I have to learn what these two philosophers have to say. It is the
only chance I have left at sanity. I bet you do too. I wager you worry about
about something beyond your control. Health of friend? Politics? Sports? Stop
deluding yourself into thinking you can control everything. You can control one
thing: yourself. You can only influence everything else. Remember this the next
time you become agitated or upset. Most likely what has happened is beyond your
control. It is not your fault you only have control over yourself.

Let us close with Aurelius again:

“Is it not better to use what is in thy power like a free man than to desire
in a slavish and abject way what is not in thy power?”

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