Don’t Unnecessarily Change Things When You Have No Control Over Them Why To Bother Things On Which We Have No Control Life’s Great Realization – We Have Power Over Our Internal World, Not Outside Events.
Our life’s journey is often complex and an unpredictable one with many twists and turns. It’s how you navigate through these tricky twists and turns that determines how we will finish our lives. Some whine away, while others face the challenges head on and conquer the adversities. In a way, our life swing like a pendulum between two extremes of pain and acute suffering on one side and moments of intense joy and happiness on other side. Most of the time, we do stay in the centre of pendulum. But in all circumstances, we should be fully capable to handle them. Suffering is inevitable in life journey. Suffering, pain or unhappiness is an important concept in Hinduism and Buddhism. It’s universal in nature.
Precisely, for the purpose of life’s suffering and adversities, through ‘philosophy of life’, we can understand life better. No other science and discipline can throw light on finer and intricate aspects of life. Thinkers and philosophers have been analysing and imparting their philosophy about various complex issues governing our life and how to deal with it.
But the question arises, what is philosophy? What do spiritual gurus, motivational life coaches, etc preach and how do they reach to a particular conclusion? Philosophy simply, can be defined as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. In a sense, we seek, through philosophy, to understand fundamental truths about ourselves, the world in which we live, and our relationships to the world and with each other. It teaches us, how to live a more satisfying life.
There is a branch of philosophy which is known as Stoicism which is unique and respectable in many ways. This philosophy touches many aspects of our real life, the life we lead. It’s not theoretical, it’s highly practical and can be followed by common men. It’s a philosophy designed to make us virtuous, happier, more contended and resilient. More importantly, this is the philosophy, that’s specially prescribed for handling adversities we come across during our life journey. It can help us in overcoming difficult and bad times. The philosophy of Stoicism teaches us about self-control, mental toughness and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions like anger, hatred, fear, etc.
Some of the philosophical ideas are very revolutionary in nature. Like for example, the thought of committing suicide if we find the life very difficult. The option of ending our life is always available with us. Isn’t it the idea radical? But how true it is. Seneca, another highly respected and popular Stoic philosopher explain the rationale of ending one’s life, “Must I await the cruelty either of disease or of man, when I can depart through the midst of torture, and shake off my troubles? This is the one reason why we cannot complain about life; it keeps no one against his will.” He further argues that we didn’t choose to come into this world but we have a choice to exist whenever we want.
Why to bother about things on which we have no control: We must realize a basic truth that we can’t control everything despite our best efforts. Things go in their own way. There are ‘laws of nature’ and everything in the world go on its own speed and nature. We often have a tendency to control others and many other things of the surrounding world on which we have little or no control. Though we all know this very simple truth but ironically, we miss or ignore it. Fighting, arguing and worrying over things that are completely independent of our control is a pure waste of time and energy. However, the fact is we all tend to go beyond what’s under our control.
Roman emperor Epictetus very famously remarked, “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquillity and outer effectiveness become possible. We must accept our limitations in controlling the external surroundings. The things which are beyond our control must not be the source of our worry or reaction. He further explained, “For good or for ill, life and nature are governed by laws that we can’t change. The quicker we accept this, the more tranquil we can be”.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own”
Undoubtedly, we have all the power and ability to manage our own way. Even if someone is confined under solitary imprisonment in a room with no window, no one can take his freedom to think. No one has any right and ability to take away the right to think from anyone. Though there can be restrictions, imposed by oneself or others on actions, behaviour, choices etc but no his thoughts. “Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.” — Epictetus.
Epictetus’s Dichotomy of Control states that some things are within our control; others aren’t. Our internal world, that is, the mind is within our control. What kind of thoughts we generate, emotions and feelings we create, desires we have, craving or aversion we experience, it’s all in within our control? The internal is within our control; the external isn’t. This choice we always have whether we want to exercise this control over our mind or not. However, we all have an innate tendency to not exercise this control over mind.
We let our mind to govern us, rather than the other way. “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius. Our mind can be our best servant or the worst master, depending upon the control we have over our mind. Most of the mental illnesses arise when they fail to manage our thought process. When distressing and toxic thoughts continue to invade our mind, mental health issues are created.
Before we start worrying on anything or reacting on any situation, we must ask ourselves, whether we have control over them. Can I do anything about it now? Will I able to change anything that has already happened? If answer is not negative, only then we should move ahead. If that’s so then is wiser to accept, what has happened. We should remember a very relevant line of wisdom – “whatever has happened, has happened, and things would have happened in any other way”.
Stoics propose a resignation to those events which are outside the self since they can’t be controlled. Whenever any mishappening, accident, calamity, traumatic incident or adversity arises, we must remember these words. The people, their behaviour and actions, the political and social scenario in the country, and likewise, there is nothing we can control. Many of us, unnecessarily and wastefully, try to change others. If it’s so, then we should not bother about those things in life.