You are in control... Kind of
Hello fellow Protagonists.
Today we are going old-school. 300 B.C.E kind of old-school. When Elves and Centaurs roamed the wilds (loose evidence), and “Adventurer” was an actual occupation.
This happened to be around the time Stoicism popped out of thin air. Starting in Greece and eventually travelling over to ancient Rome, Stoicism is essentially a school of philosophy that focuses on how each of us can learn to think and act in a clear and moral way.
Marcus Aurelius - Former Emperor of Rome, Stoic legend, Buff
Marcus Aurelius was one of a handful of key characters in the world of Stoicism. His journal Meditations is a great source of wisdom and advice. I would highly recommend people give it a read.
Depending on where you get your usual information from there are many ideas of what Stoicism, or being stoic, actually means. This can range from being able to think more rationally in the heat of a situation (sounds Buff to me), to becoming or being seen as almost emotionless (can see uses but also potential Nerfing with this one). I like to take the general approach to Stoicism as I do with most things in life, to try aspects individually that seem useful and find out if they helped me or not.
I want to share with you one great stoic skill that you can start implementing from today; A core stoic principle that I have found personally useful and which will hopefully help you Buff your way of thinking.
All things fit into one of two categories, things you can control, and things you cannot control
That is it. Two categories. The left box or the right box. Nice and simple.
So taking a standard commute to work as an example most of us will face.
Checking to see if there is already an accident or delay on your route – In your control.
Being stuck in traffic due to an accident that has only just occurred – Not in your control.
Staying calm and searching for any alternative routes – In your control.
It is the only way to get to where you want to go – Not in your control.
Making sure that you had a fully charged phone with your 90's classic playlist ready to slay the next hour in your car - Definitely in your control.
So therefore focusing your energy on things in your control and that you can change sounds like a plan. Focusing your energy on something that you have no control over however, is like the Pause/Break key on your keyboard (please take the time to find it), or an unused pencil. Pointless (not sorry).
To make things even simpler still, there are really only two things that are even in our control.
The way we view something and the way we choose to respond to something
Everything else can go into the other box. One box is going to be used a lot more than the other. This would also mean that what is outside of our control is also far wider than we may initially realise. This will include:
The way other people behave and respond to us
Economic markets dropping like crazy - like it is right now
Your boiler bursting 2 months after a service
Falling ill - Yes there are actions to help reduce the likelihood of falling ill but ultimately it is out of our control.
It is certainly in our control to help reduce the spread of an illness. Something which is very relevant right now with COVID-19.
This may start to sound depressing, but if used in the right way it is not. So let's adapt this information to help Buff ourselves.
To return to our humble nerdy references. In our world, in our game, on our own adventure. For anybody who has ever played a Role Playing Game (RPG), Protagonists usually require a journal or quest book, so that they can review what tasks they need to complete.
Every time you come across a situation and you believe you are in control of it, you add it to this quest book
If you walk around writing down every situation you come across into your quest book, because you believe you are in control of every situation, you will soon find a book so full that you will have no idea what to do with yourself. Even deeper Nerfing still, is that a quest added that is actually out of your control, can never be truly completed because it does not rely on you to reach completion.
A clear quest book will only have the previously highlighted two tasks when a situation arises. How am I personally going to view this situation, and what am I personally going to do about it. A clearer quest book keeps us focused and will enable us to achieve those tasks we write in them.
This is not to say that we should avoid tasks that are on a huge, cultural, or worldwide scale. Great positive changes can occur when momentum builds behind a positive cause. We can actually use this tool to ask ourselves those two key questions to implement actions we can control, rather than expecting the change from others, which is unfortunately out of our control. Just because you cannot control somebody's behaviour, does not mean you cannot help influence them. A great way to influence change in others is by implementing that change yourself.
Let's end with a quote from Marcus himself. Sums up this 4 minute post into one simple sentence.
You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength