“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.5.4–5
The single most important practice in living a good life is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t. What we have influence over and what we do not. Traffic is heavy because of weather—no amount of yelling at other road users will make things better. No amount of wishing will make you taller or shorter or born in a different country. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make
someone like you. And on top of that, time spent hurling yourself at these immovable objects is time not spent on the things we can change.
The recovery community practices something called the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Addicts cannot change the abuse suffered in childhood. They cannot undo the choices they have made or the hurt they have caused. But they can change the future—through the power they have in
the present moment. As Epictetus said, they can control the choices they make right now.
The same is true for us today. If we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, we will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.
Achieving FINANCIAL FREEDOM requires that we focus on doing things we can actually control. You can control how you use your time and energy. You can control your spending habits. You can choose how to invest your money. You can choose your vocation. Forget everything else which you can’t change like the government, your family background, your gender, etc. Not only will you live a happier life, you will also become rich in the process.
***adapted from “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday***