“These things don’t go together. You must be a unified human being, either good or bad. You must diligently work either on your own reasoning or on things out of your control — take great care with the inside and not what’s outside, which is to say, stand with the philosopher, or else with the mob!”EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 3.15.13
You’re going to have to make a decision. You’re either going to take care of yourself… or you’re going to let yourself go to pieces. You can’t serve two masters — so, what’s it going to be?
In the same way that you can’t simultaneously be a good person and a bad person, you likewise are going to have to determine whether you want to work on the ‘inner you’ and how to improve your reasoning and your emotional control, or whether you want to focus on the external world and things that you can’t control.
I think it’s pretty clear which choice The Daily Stoic is leading toward, but it’s important to realize that you do always have a choice. Plenty of people have chosen to focus on the external world, and they try to control things which they can’t actually control. Sometimes they even give the appearance that they’ve been somewhat successful! You and I know better, of course. But the façade can be held up, for a while at least, if that’s the direction you want to head.
Or you can choose to “stand with the philosopher”, instead of “with the mob”. You can choose to focus on the only thing you have full control over, which is your reasoned choice. You can practice daily to train your mind on how to stay calm and focus on the right things. This is the only sustainable choice — the only area of focus which yields real and long-term results.
The only thing you can’t do is serve two masters. Either you are going to be the master, or the world is (inevitably) going to be master over you.
If you try to focus on the inner self while simultaneously trying to control external factors, you’re going to eventually fall apart. You’ll tear yourself to pieces trying to resolve two polar opposites, and it won’t be pretty. So like I said at the beginning of this post, you’re going to have to decide. Which one will you pick?