Simple Stoic Advice
The beautiful thing about Stoic philosophy is the advice contained within it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first written all those many years ago. We can learn a great deal from interpreting the advice provided and using it to our advantage as we go throughout our own lives.
Today’s quote comes to us courtesy of Epictetus, Enchiridion, entry 37:
“If you undertake a role which is beyond your powers, you both disgrace yourself in that one, and at the same time neglect the role which you might have filled with success.”
Held within Stoic philosophy is the belief that there are some things up to us and others that are not. According to Epictetus:
“Some things in the world are up to us, while others are not. Up to us are our faculties of judgment — motivation, desire, and aversion — in short, everything that is our own doing. Not up to us are our body and property, our reputations, and our official positions — in short, everything that is not our own doing.”
The Stoics in general believed that while some things were outside of our control, others were outside of our control, but could in some regards be influenced by ourselves.
Modern science too backs up this idea with Robert Cialdini, writing in his most recent book, Pre-Suasion:
“The process of persuasion is governed by psychological laws, which means that similar procedures can produce similar results over a wide range of situations.”
But in order to influence individuals, we need to occasional act differently in some situations. To persuade or influence people in a business setting is going to be different than persuading or influencing some in your social circle.
And if we become good as influencing outcomes, it usually helps us to feel like we do in fact hold more control than we actually do. But this is the trap Epictetus encourages us to avoid. It is very easy to begin buying into our own stories and powers, that we in fact can control other people’s actions. But this myth must be avoided, we cannot lose sight of the Dichotomy of Control which dictates we only have full control over ourselves.
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