The Fastest Way To Regain Control
Life is stressful. You're going to go through tough times. Things won't always go your way. These are just the facts, and we need to accept them. But what are we to do when these tough times show themselves? How are we to deal with stress, and what can we do to regain a sense of control amidst the crisis?
I have found that the best advice on dealing with stressful situations has often come to me through the teachings of stoic philosophers, and particularly in this case, Epictetus. Here is what he says:
"Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can't control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible."
I believe that I will never find simpler and more effective approach to dealing with stress in life. This powerful idea of first considering what is actually within our power, and what is not, is the ultimate tool for throwing away our worries and finding the strength within to push forward with courage.
Take a closer look at what Epictetus says and you'll understand how powerful the effects of using this principle can be. He says that "It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can't control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible." Isn't this what we are always searching for? Inner tranquility, and outer effectiveness? How much better do you think your life could be if you were able to find inner tranquility and outer effectiveness? Well that is the promise of using this principle.
Think of a time in your own life when you were stuck in a hard situation. What were the things that you could control, and what were the things that you couldn't? Let's say, for example, that you've just lost your job. You cannot control that fact that you were just fired, and you can't control your boss. You can't control the fact that the money will stop flowing in just a few days, or that you now need to search for a new position. So what possible good could come from focusing on these things? But what can you control? You can control the number of new positions that you apply for today. You can control who you will spend time with in this stressful time. You can control how prepared you are in the interviews, and you can control the way that you utilize your contacts to search for a new opportunity. You can control the way you look at the situation. For example, maybe this is a great opportunity to start doing something new, or to go out on a limb and start your own business! Can you see how much power you can have when you stop focusing on what is no longer within your control, and start to look for things that you can control?
Epictetus goes on to say:
"Remember: The things within our power are naturally at our disposal, free from any restraint or hindrance; but those things outside our power are weak, dependent, or determined by the whims and actions of others. Remember, too, that if you think that you have free reign over things that are naturally beyond your control, or if you attempt to adopt the affairs of others as your own, your pursuits will be thwarted and you will become a frustrated, anxious, and fault-finding person."
Think of the times when you were most stressed or agitated in life. I would bet that these were times when you were trying to control things that were beyond your grasp. As Epictetus instructs, when we try to control these things it only leads to unhappiness and confusion, and you will become an extremely negative person.
There is a wonderful power and confidence that comes with letting go of what we cant control. When we decide to let go of controlling other people and events, we are opened to a whole new world of joy and inner-peace.
Let go of what the world thinks of you. This is something that you can't control. But how you think of yourself is within your control. Let go of being hurt by what other people say or do. You can't control their actions, but you can control your own. Let go of trying to stop bad things from happening. Bad things will happen, but all you can do is control how you view those events, and how you react.
If you will immediately begin to focus on what you do have the power to change in your life then you'll move from being a victim to now being a victor. Focusing on what you can control gives you all the power, and focusing on what you can't control takes all the power away. Remember that the great challenge of life is not to complain at what we have been given, but rather to take what we have been given and turn it into our ideal life. You cannot do this while you are focused on what is outside your influence. Inner tranquility and outer effectiveness is the ultimate goal. Change what you focus on; this is the fastest way to regain control.