Control Freak

Using Modern Stoicism to reduce stress

I’ve always been fascinated by philosophy. Ths alternative views on life and differing theories behind our raison d’etre.

Stoicism is my most recently discovered philosophical theory, and probably the one which I identify with most. I love its simplistic, logical qualities and how it mirrors my natural approach to life.

One of the main teachings of Stoicism is how to categorise life into things which we can, and things which we cannot control.

The Trichotomy of Control

Modern Stoicism

Modern Stoicism takes this further.

  1. There are things which we have full control over
  2. There things which we have no control over
  3. There are things that we have some control over

Examples of each are:

Full Control:

  • Our own actions
  • Values
  • Goals
  • Ambitions
  • Belief Systems
  • Character
  • Willpower
  • Self-Control
  • Emotions

No Control:

  • Others’ Opinions
  • Others’ Actions
  • Insults
  • Luck

Some Control:

We have some control over how the day will pan out. We can approach the day with a plan, which can be set off course by things we don’t control such as traffic or weather.

So applying the above principles to a tennis match, an example of the three areas of Stoic Control would be:

  1. I have full control over how hard I work during the match. I have full control over how I prepare for the match and the tactics I plan to use during the match .
  2. I have no control over how the opponent approaches the match, their skill level or their preparation.
  3. I have some control over the outcome of a tennis match. As in I can train hard and play to the maximum of my ability but the outcome is still dependant on how the other person plays.

(examples taken from this book)

When you place every life situation into one of these categories, you soon learn to save the stress for things you actually have total or some control over. And learn to not stress about the things you can’t control.

So that’s my interpretation of modern Stoicism, and its usefulness in stress reduction.

Don’t stress about things you can’t control.



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