How To Ignore the Uncontrollable


Week 398 (brendan@brendanbarca.com)

Here's your weekly dose of Fuel Your Mind Friday where I share business building ideas, lifestyle design hacks, and inspirational content to help you thrive in your work and find purpose in your life.

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PSA: My wife, Pema Sherpa, and I have another blog called The Mindful Minute! Check it out.

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HOW TO IGNORE THE UNCONTROLLABLE

“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 with myself to the choices that are my own...”
– Epictetus

When I was 29 years old, I was let go from my job. I turned in my laptop and was sent down the elevator with a cold handshake. As the elevator closed, I felt a mix of emotions shoot through me. Confusion, frustration, and shame to name a few.

I emerged from my building at 26 Broadway onto the streets of Manhattan, numb to the bustling scene around me. In a trance, I crossed the street and collapsed onto a patch of grass in Battery Park. As I looked up at the puffy late summer clouds, a swirl of thoughts raced through my mind.

How could they let me go? Didn’t I give this job everything I had? I don’t deserve this...

But after a minute I caught myself. There was no point in dwelling on something that was already decided. There was no sense in letting an external event affect my internal state.

I could no longer influence their decision. It was out of my control. But I did have agency over my own emotions and attitude. And I could control my actions moving forward.

This change in thinking saved me that day. The frustration that I had felt on my way down the elevator had slowly dissipated. And as I laid back in the grass, I began to accept my circumstances and feel at ease.

As stoic philosopher Epictetus said, we must focus on the “choices that (we) actually control” rather than the “uncontrollable externals.” Whenever you feel yourself slipping into an externally focused view, remind yourself of Epictetus’ wise words.

Whether you’re looked over for a promotion, ghosted by a potential client, or let go from your job... remember these are all “uncontrollable externals.” Instead of dwelling on them, take the sane approach, and focus on what you can control — the choices that are your own.

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- Brendan

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p.s. If you're a longtime subscriber you may have noticed this is a repost from a few years back. As a new father juggling a lot sometimes I need to repurpose old content.Thanks for your support!

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