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It’s Not As Unfortunate As It Seems

Daily Stoic Emails

Things we didn’t want to happen happen to all of us. A business deal falls through. A grade comes back that we didn’t expect. A person we care about leaves us. Our instinct is to call these events unfortunate.

Which makes sense. It’s fortunate when you get what you want, it’s unfortunate when, for whatever reason, you don’t. Right?

Marcus Aurelius proposed a different way of looking at things. Instead of telling ourselves that we’re unfortunate because our expectations were disappointed, we should do the opposite:

“No it’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it — not shattered by the present or frightened of the future. It could have happened to anyone. But not everyone could have remained unharmed by it.”

To a Stoic, we’re only harmed when our character is affected. We’re only harmed when we let go of what we believe in or when we drop our own standards. It might not be desirable to lose money or a friend, to fail at something or to be criticized, but how does that make us unfortunate? We haven’t been deprived of our ability to respond. Our character remains intact.

There’s no rule that says you have to freak out about this or shattered by it or that you have to start getting anxious about the future. No, you’re still in control. You’re still you.

That’s very fortunate.

P.S. This was originally sent on May 24th, 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism. 

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