Controlling control

In recent years I’ve taken on the Stoic philosophy espoused excellently in this book. It’s safe to say that this book had an enormously positive impact on my life, as in the past few years I’ve been through a lot, today is actually exactly 3 years after my father died, but this book has allowed me to look past the troubling things in my life and to look for the positive in every situation. What I love about the philosophy in this book was the idea behind what to do with the things in our life that we can control, and those we cannot.

In essence, if you have no control over something, all effort used in worrying about it is useless. The other important lesson I got from the book was, which I believe was added by the author as a modern twist on the ancient stoic philosophy, was that there are times where you do have some control over the things that you cannot control. The example given was a game of tennis. We may not have any control over how the ball flies through the air, or the actions of the opponent, but what we can control is the amount of effort we put into training, or our reactions to things if they do not go the way we want them to.

Last year I was late for a teaching appointment because my previous engagement started late due to the late arrival of one of our guests. When I got to the lesson, I tried to put the blame on that guest, but I was met with ‘you think you’re not to blame’. Well, I guess I could have predicted that this person would be late, and for me to ask for a different start time, or even date to meet, but in some respects I was responsible. I could have made boundaries clear, that I had to leave by a certain time and no matter how respected a guest, I would have liked my time respected also.

Either way, I didn’t feel much guilt about this, and what guilt I did feel was quickly gone due to the philosophies given above. Again, if something isn’t in your control, it’s a waste of time to worry about it.

The problem is, this philosophy can greatly affect the other people who are impacted by this decision. If you said ‘don’t worry about it’, or ‘forget about’ to someone who has just gone through a tough time it can make you look cold, almost machine-like, or otherwise like someone who is unwilling to understand the feelings of others, when this is far from the case. So, this philosophy does come with a caveat, which is that you still have to be weary of the feelings of those around you, and you have to make the effort to let them know that you truly are sorry for what your actions may have caused.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan

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