The Daily Stoic for today, January the 13th. Circle of control.
“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will. What’s not under our control are the body and any of its parts, our possessions, parents, siblings, children, or country—anything with which we might associate.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.22.10
Some days ago, I read some shocking news. A young, 21 years old bodybuilder died from septic shock caused by a flu.
More concretely, he died due to an organ failure caused by training with a fever from the flu.
Being a bodybuilder myself, and getting closer to my forties, I was shocked by that news. Dying of a flu at 21, in 2018…
However, when you train regularly, are a persistent person, and take it seriously, it’s hard to miss a training day. I’ve been there. I confess I also have trained while I was ill (not with a fever, though).
Even today, I still have that urge sometimes. If I feel somewhat ill, going to the gym and sweating a little usually helps me feel better. Nevertheless, I have learned to listen to my body. If I feel really sick, I stay at home, even if I loathe it.
What’s In Your Circle Of Control
We all hate to be sick, especially when we are young. Suddenly, we realize we are not under control of our own body anymore.
We human beings are stubborn animals, though. We insist on considering under our control things that simply aren’t.
Those things Epictetus mentions -our possessions, family, country…- are actually part of the things that help us build our identity. Our role in the society and the tribe we belong to. When they escape our control or disappear, that provokes a strong, angry reaction on us.
We are rocked to our foundations.
However, we are not our possessions, our family, or our country. We have no control on that. We don’t even have control on our body.
The only thing we can completely rely on is who we really are. Our thoughts, feelings, our way of seeing the world around us.
Nobody can take that away from you.
Finding Who You Are
On January the 6th, I discussed how difficult it is for us to answer a simple question: “Who are you”.
Now it’s a good time to retake that question.
During my lifetime, I have used things that are external to me to define myself: my country, my family, my friends, even my possessions. I have been a proud Spaniard, a good son, an indie teenager, an Apple fanboy…
Now, I want to find out who I really am without all those things. The answer lies within ourselves, covered by a pile of tags, stereotypes and roles.
Let’s get rid of them and find the person that lies below them.
Bonus: Listen To Your Body
I’ve been lifting weights for more than 15 years now.
When I was younger, I made quite a number of atrocities at the gym. I got injured several times. Luckily, nothing important.
However, with time, I have learned to listen to my body. I think it’s something we all should do.
If you are sick, or feeling odd, stop. Have some rest. Business, work, your colleagues… Screw them all. The rest of the world will be waiting for you when you recover.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “Circle of control”, discusses how everything outside of our mind is out of our control. That includes our bodies. We realize this when we fall ill. However, many times, we refuse to listen to our body and deny ourselves time to have some rest.
Other things that are outside of our control, but we commonly use them to define ourselves are our country, friends, family, hobbies, religion… Those things are not really who we are, are not even under our control. Thus, we should stop relying on them and instead look inside to find out who we really are.