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Thought for Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable,

or from neglecting what is within our power.


The notion that suffering emerges from our attempts to control the uncontrollable, or from neglecting what's within our control, is a wisdom deeply rooted in philosophies like Stoicism. At its core, this idea challenges us to critically assess our actions and thoughts. How much energy are we expending on things over which we have no influence? Whether it's obsessing over the opinions of others, worrying about economic conditions, or getting lost in 'what-if' scenarios about the future, we often invest our emotional capital in areas where the return is virtually zero. This not only drains us but also creates a cycle of perpetual suffering, because we're essentially trying to hold onto smoke—ephemeral, elusive, and impossible to grasp.

Contrastingly, when we overlook what we can control—our reactions, our mindset, our effort—we abandon the steering wheel of our own life. This form of neglect is like a slow leak in a tire. It might not be immediately noticeable, but over time, the journey becomes increasingly difficult. By focusing on aspects within our control, we have the opportunity to influence our trajectory actively. This is where our real power lies—in acknowledging that while we can't control the wind, we can adjust our sails. Recognizing and acting on this empowers us to break free from unnecessary suffering. It's akin to planting seeds in a garden we can tend, rather than yearning for flowers to bloom in a barren land.

Both scenarios—trying to control the uncontrollable and neglecting what's in our power—stem from a misallocation of our mental and emotional resources. Understanding this allows us to regain a sense of balance and peace. By learning to let go of the uncontrollable, we free up energy and emotional bandwidth. Simultaneously, by dedicating attention to areas where we can make a difference, we become active participants in shaping our destiny. Striking this balance might not eliminate suffering altogether, but it can significantly reduce its intensity and frequency, leading us toward a life of greater purpose and happiness.


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