The Curse of Having an Opinion About Everything

The Stoics saw opinion as the source of most misery. It’s what takes objective situations and makes them good, bad, wrong, unfair, essential, deserved or outrageous. It’s also what takes things that have nothing to do with us and makes them problems for us. Not liking what some other person is doing, not believing something outside of our control should be done the way that’s it’s being done, and on and on.

In fact, if you were to think of the worst punishment you could inflict on a person it would be to cast a spell on them that says, “You will now have a strong opinion on everything you see and hear.” Why? Because inevitably they find that much of what happens to them is disagreeable to that opinion, and worse, they will find themselves in many pointless disagreements with other people about those opinions.

Assuming everyone reading this is an adult and can take what follows as a mostly non-political statement, the presidency of Donald Trump (and indeed the life) has been a cautionary tale in this regard. Unsolicited and unnecessary opinions on other celebrities, on what athletes are doing on the field, on the war records of members of his own party, on the current financial health of various media outlets, on the marriage dynamic of a Gold Star family, on how football is being refereed, on how so-and-so is treating him, on the crowd size of his inauguration, on the ratings of television shows, and so many other things. What have these opinions—right or wrong—led to for him? Conflict, distraction, anger, frustration that he’s being treated unfairly—and all of this unnecessary and little upside. All of it making an incredibly hard job much harder.

The point is: One of the most powerful things we can do in life is to limit the amount of opinions we have. To say: “I don’t have an opinion on that.” (Even if deep down we do!) To focus on the things in front of us that matter, or more importantly, that are in our control. There is plenty there for us. Plenty to keep us busy, and not miserable.

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