Stoicism & Epictetus in times of distress


I recently read an article on Stoïcism which made a lot of sense to me. The basic idea of Stoïcism is don’t freak out about what you can’t control. To the Stoic, life isn’t a juggling act between a thousand competing concerns. We only have one concern and that is to tend to the things we can control. And if we tend to get caught up looking at the things we can’t control, the Stoic tell us to use the following refrain “that is none of my concern”.

Epictetus tells us to continually divide our concerns into two bins: the things we can control and the things we can’t control, for example how others act, the weather, the stock market. Whatever comes up for us, we need to look at the situation in terms of those two bins. The first bin, the things we can control and we are responsible for, is much smaller than the bin with issues we cannot control. According to Epictetus the first bin represents our actions and choices, the second bin is the responsibility of the gods.

Let’s fast-forward to our time and age. We often feel stuck or powerless in a given situation and don’t know what to do or how to get out of that situation. We focus on others (whom we cannot change anyway) instead of working with ourselves. I see it with clients and of course also with myself. Asking them: what CAN you control, often gives them a sense of power and the way forward is much easier to design.

So next time when you feel stuck or powerless, ask yourself “what CAN I control”? See what happens…


* Source: David Cain: the only thing you need to get good at.