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Handle What You Control First

Daily Stoic Emails

Life is frustrating. You’re waiting for people to get back to you. You’re waiting for approval on stuff. You’re waiting for things to ship. You’re dealing with bureaucracy. You’re depending on teammates. You’re dealing with the fallout of decisions that weren’t your call, rules you don’t agree with.

It’s interesting though how often we complain or chafe against these constraints…yet when the ball actually is in our court, we’re slow. We’re indecisive. We don’t do our best.

More than strange, it’s wasteful madness.

The Stoics say over and over again that there is stuff in our control and stuff outside our control. But this delineation is about more than just putting things into categories…or learning how to practice the so-called ‘art of acquiescence.’ It’s also a statement of priorities.

The things in your control? You have to get them under control. You’re never going to be able to speed others up…but you can use the time they take up to decide what you’re going to do when it’s time to respond. No amount of yelling is going to make that container ship in the Atlantic go faster, but you can handle everything else you need to handle before it comes in. You can’t eliminate the red tape in the DMV, but you can trim the inefficiencies in your own office (and that will still save you time).

Stop beating your head against the wall where it makes no difference.

Focus on what you control.

Handle that first. Actually not even ‘first,’ because that implies it’s possible to somehow get to the bottom of all of it. It’s a lifelong task, getting your own house in order, improving your own processes and decisions, dealing with what’s up to you.