“For if a person shifts their caution to their own reasoned choices and the acts of those choices, they will at the same time gain the will to avoid, but if they shift their caution away from their own reasoned choices to things not under their control, seeking to avoid what is controlled by others, they will then be agitated, fearful, and unstable.”EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.1.12
After yesterday’s post about how to be steady, you could say this is sort of a part 2, a continuation. This post is about how to screw it all up — in case you were interested in learning how to do that.
So, how does a person get unsteady in their daily choices, and how they navigate life? Spoiler alert: it’s about control! Shocker, right?
Becoming unsteady results from losing sight of the difference between what’s in your control, and what’s not. It means shifting your attention to the acts of other people, and the random events of life, and hoping that you can influence those outcomes somehow. Unsurprisingly, this just leads to agitation and fear.
It’s not the environment, Ryan Holiday reminds us in today’s entry in The Daily Stoic. You need to be able to be steady anywhere, even in a situation with lots of distraction or activity. Life happens, and sometimes it’s chaotic, and sometimes it’s shitty. You need to be able to use your reasoned choice and your rational mind to guide your judgments anyway.
It’s very easy to be unsteady, you simply have to judge things poorly, and especially those things which are controlled by others. It’s harder to be steady — that requires avoiding judgment where possible, and always employing your reasoned choice on that which is within your control.