Almost everyone in modern life has some degree of stress and worry. In recent months, I’ve discovered the philosophy of ‘Stoicism’ and it offers an amazingly helpful technique for dealing with the troubles of modern life.
Stress is caused by thinking you can change things you have no control over
Most, if not all things one gets upset or worried about are a result of trying to control something one has no control over. For me, I often don’t even realize that I’m doing this until I notice myself getting tense.
A core Stoic technique that can help with this is what William Irvine calls the ‘Tricotomy of Control’.
The tricotomy of control
The Tricotomy of Control involves splitting the stressors in your life into three parts: things you have no control over, things you have partial control over, and things you have full control over.
The things you have partial control can themselves be dissected into two pieces – things you have full control over and things you have no control over.
Accept what you can’t control and change what you can
The next time you are stressed about something, analyze what’s bugging you by writing down what components of the situation are changeable and what aren’t. Then work on accepting the portion you have no control over and figure out how to change the portion can change.
Things external to you are only under your influence. they are rarely fully controllable
It’s important to remember that the vast majority of things external to us are actually only under our influence, not our complete control (other people, various happenings with random ‘bad luck’ events etc…)
The good news is that you can greatly increase the probability that external goals turn out for you if you focus on what’s fully under your control – your own actions.