“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What’s not under our control are the body and any of its parts, our possessions, parents, siblings, children, or country — anything with which we might associate.”EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.22.10
A few days ago, we talked about how important it is to discern the difference between what’s in our control and what’s not. In today’s page from The Daily Stoic, we have Epictetus explicitly breaking it down for us, so there can be no confusion on what is actually within your sphere of control.
What’s in your control? Everything that comes from you — and more specifically, from your mind. You can control what you think about, how you pass judgment, and how you react. You can control your will, your responses, and your emotions. That’s pretty much it!
What’s not in your control? Everything else. That includes your body — things could happen to it, like accidents or illness, and inevitably old age.
Also not in your control, according to Epictetus: your parents, siblings, your children. How great does it feel to read that? You’ve now been officially released from that obligation, because your family members are literally beyond your control. Even further, it is imperative that you not try to control them, or control their situations, at all. Enjoy your newfound gift of freedom! You’re welcome.
One more thing not in your control: your country. It’s not wrong to feel patriotic, or proud of your country. It’s good to participate in democracy if your country allows it, to join in the process of citizen government. But you can’t outright control the politics, and you can’t control the politicians. You definitely can’t decide the laws. It’s better to let all that go, it’s not even close to your sphere of control.
What’s left? Very little! Just your decisions, your reactions, your mind. Simple and liberating, it’s it?