The Stoics are very clear that the stories we tell ourselves about why things are the way they are has an enormous impact on how we feel about them. If we decide that something is unfair, we’ll feel wronged. If we tell ourselves that we deserve something, we’ll be disappointed or upset if we don’t get it. If we tell ourselves that having this or that makes us successful, we’ll be puffed up and self-satisfied as long as we have them.
Our own Steve Hanselman writes that this is all a big distraction:
“The problem with this way of spending our time is that it distracts us from the present—the tasks we could be doing now, the choices that we alone have to make, the decisions to act that are the essence of participating in the good life. We can never be happy when we abandon our responsibility to our choices in the here-and-now. Our choices govern our responses, and our responses are the entire leverage that we have in each moment. Most of what happens or will happen in life is beyond our control, as the Stoics like to remind us:
“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 within myself to the choices that are my own . . .” — Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5
When we free ourselves from the illusion of control over events, stop complaining about the outcomes of our lives, and cast off our fears of what might happen in the future, we can focus on the present moment and the powerful choices that we have to change our thinking and our behavior.”
For more on responsibility and response, see the whole article here.