The single most important practice..
Mumbling under you breath as your blood pressure rises because the car in front of you is driving 15mph below the speed limit.
Aggressively confronting your waiter or waitress when you realize your meal is not 100% correct.
Yelling back at someone who is being mean, angry, aggressive, or rude.
You probably not only experienced one of these situations in your life, you most likely experienced something similar within the past month, or even week.
The important aspect of each example is there is something in each situation that you can change, and something that you can’t.
In his book the Daily Stoic Ryan Holiday shares a great sentence which I borrowed below.
“The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating what we can change, and what we can’t”.
You can’t change getting fired, but you do have 100% control over how you react to it.
You have no control over what anyone says or does to you in the past, but you have control over your response.. or no response.
A great example, which Ryan points to in his book is someone who is an addict. An addict of anything.
No matter what kind of addict you may be, people seem to forget that it is your choice to become an addict.
It was never your choice to experience the trauma or abuse which may have lead you to seek comfort in ways that lead to addiction.
And you can’t change such trauma or abuse.. nor can you change how you responded to it in the past. But you can change how you respond in the future.
You can realize that your response isn’t working for you anymore. And take control of the choices you make right now.
Maybe your not an addict so that example doesn’t resonate with you, but the lesson still holds true for everyone.
Addicts are simply the most clear examples of this lesson at work. But we all face situation we can’t change which bother us every single day. When you start to realize what happens to you is not always your choice, but how you respond is… you inevitably start to realize you would rather not be stressed, frustrated, or upset. It’s much nicer to be… nicer.
You don’t have to make some drastic change to who you are. But if you want to live a better life you do have to practice identifying what you can change and what you can’t. When you do this you are able to put down all the stress, frustration, and anxiety that you’re choosing to carry around. You begin realizing you’re not actually stressed, you just feel that way because you’re trying to change something around you. You’re not frustrated either, you are just facing the reality that you can’t change someone around you. You can’t make them like you, or make them take a job you think is best, or make them do anything they don’t want to. And you’re not anxious, you are just focusing on possibilities that you can’t control instead of focusing on improving yourself and building confidence. Anxiety falls away when you’re confident in yourself and your ability to handle any circumstances you may face. And you can change yourself, and your confidence at any time.
You won’t be prefect, no one is.
But clarifying what you can change and what you can’t, will change your life for the better.
The single most important practice in your life is differentiating what you can change, and what you can’t.