In this life, there is much that is out of our control. Weather, people, health, our children are only a few examples. We like to think that we are in control of some of these things, but we are not. So, what are we in control of? Its only one thing.
From the Stoic Philosopher Epictetus:
“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…”
The One Thing
“There is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else to God and Fortune.” —Epictetus
The one thing to do that can make you a happier person is to remind yourself that you are truly in control of one thing and one thing only, your decisions. You do not have to carry the burden of trying to control that which you cannot.
We cannot control other people which includes our children. We like to think that we do, but we don’t. The poem On Children by Kahlil Gibran words this fact perfectly.
The following is part of that poem:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
Although they are our children, we cannot control them for they have their own thoughts and will make their own decisions.
We cannot control the weather, but we can make the decision to prepare for stormy weather to protect ourselves from it. We can look at apps on our phones that tell us what the weather is expected to be like and make the decision to dress accordingly.
We cannot control our health for if we could, what need would there be of medicine and doctors?
We cannot control the attitudes of other men and women, friends and coworkers.
All we truly control is our decisions. Take comfort in that for you control the decision to be a good parent. You control the decision to exercise and quit eating junk all the time. You control the decision on wearing a coat when its cold out. You control the decision to find a different job, limit contact with a negative friend, or leave a toxic relationship.
You decide how you will react to the external factors in your life. Will you react in anger or attention-grabbing outbursts or as they say, will you be the bigger man/woman and walk away?
Are any of those decisions easy? Will they always lead to something better? Not always because nothing in this life is guaranteed except death. So, do not frustrate yourself with the decisions of others for they are theirs and theirs alone. There is no need to carry that type of burden. Keep your focus on what you control. This is why the Serenity Prayer is so powerful.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference
You cannot control the external factors in your life. Total control lies within your decisions. How you decide to react to life’s never-ending external factors is up to you.