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You Don’t Control When, You Do Control How

Daily Stoic Emails

As we’ve discussed, one could look out at the world right now and see a lot of negative. Or you could grab the other handle, as Epictetus says, and see the positive. It’s an open question: Is this a great time to be alive or a terrible one? Are we blessed to have spent twenty years without any major wars, without any truly global crises, with sustained periods of economic prosperity and incredible technological advances? Or has it been twenty years with three major recessions, with the terror of terrorism, disruptive or disappointing tech, and now with a global pandemic?

Here’s the Stoic’s answer: It doesn’t matter. Because you don’t control when you live. What history will think of this period compared to other periods is meaningless. The only thing that counts is that you’re alive right now. 

We don’t choose when we live, we choose how we live. That’s it. You didn’t ask for this moment. Maybe you’d prefer things to be different. Well…they aren’t. And you’re going to have to make do. Understand this and you will be wise. Adhere to it and you will be successful. 

How can we make the most of right now? That’s the question. How can we live well within—or in spite—of what’s happening? That’s our job. You think Marcus wanted to live through the plague or Epictetus in a time where slavery existed or Seneca during Nero’s rule? Nope. But they figured it out. They made it work. 

And so can you.

P.S. This was originally sent on April 8, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.