Niklaus Gerber

September 20, 2022

Good reasons to worry less about things you can't control

A fundamental lesson of Stoicism to reflect on.

Stoicism is a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, virtuous, and wiser. Practising Stoicism will help us become better humans, parents, and professionals.

Stoicism holds that the key to a good, happy life is cultivating an excellent mental state, which the Stoics identified with virtue and being rational. Moreover, the ideal life is in harmony with Nature, of which we are all part and an attitude of calm indifference towards external events.

A foundational principle is that some things are within our control and some are not, and that much of our unhappiness is caused by thinking that we can control things that we can't.

We can not control what happens to us, we do not control what the people around us say or do, and we can't even fully control our bodies, which get damaged and sick and ultimately die without regard for our preferences. So the only thing we control is how we think about things, the judgements we make and act.

Understanding this principle does not mean that your life can't be hard, loss can't be devastating, and there will be people that will upset you. All these things are part of life, and life is complicated, full of pain and messy. Things happen, none of which are inherently good or bad, and it's within our power to decide how we value them. When we can determine what is within our control, we can focus our time and energy on taking action in these areas and moving forward. This makes us much more efficient and effective.

There's a lot in life that's outside our control. Accepting this is probably the most significant stride someone can take to live a resilient life and reduce suffering.

About Niklaus Gerber

My thoughts on leadership, life, productivity, design, and innovation.