Do I have control?

Only voluntary actions (1 & 2) are within your control, even if you have only a small chance of accomplishing them.

Items which occurred in the past (3 & 4) are beyond your control. You can not change the past, but you can change the future.

You have control over how you remember the past; avoid remembering it better or worse than it really was else you will dilute the value of the present.

Avoid committing the fallacy of wishful thinking when answering this question.

Ignore the gray area between results obtained by actions and results obtained by luck.

When you know you do have control (1 & 2), it's easier to find motivation if you care (1).
When you know you don't have control (3 & 4), it's easier to let go; this is important when you care (3).

Sometimes you only have a 'passive influence' such as persuading a friend. Other times you have direct control, such as choosing to exercise. However, the effort required to persuade a friend may be less than the effort required to get yourself to exercise; do not mistake control for effort.

Being upset about things you haven't yet realized you don't have control over (3) is worse than being upset about things you know you do have control over (1 & 2). Therefore the goal is to decide upon the category before allowing emotion to take hold, this may not be achievable but the effort is important, continue to put forth the effort as long as you practice this philosophy. We have more control over our emotions than we realize.

There are times when we don't have control, but could gain control if necessary. This should be contemplated for things you do care about (1). This is a black & white question, do not allow yourself to provide a gray answer. First decide upon the category, then contemplate the scenarios of gaining control; they are different items which themselves are to be categorized.

Your choice of environment influences what situations you will face.

Oftentimes in life we do have control but are simply unaware of it. Other times we fail to recognize we have less control than we thought. 



The greek philosopher Epictetus taught that suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable or from neglecting what is within our control. I mostly agree. He also taught that you can not achieve happiness until you accept some things are within your control and others are not within your control. I agree. However I disagree where he draws the line separating control. For example, he states things such as what kind of body we have, how we are regarded by others, and our status in society are beyond our control and therefore not our concern.

I believe I do have control over those items and they are a concern. Thus they belong in my category 1.

I do have control over the fitness of my body, and much control over my reputation and status in society. I don't have complete control of those items, of course, but I don't need complete control to answer the question with a yes. I do care about other things more than my status in society, but I still care enough to answer yes.

Should I encounter disease, then perhaps the fitness of my body will be re-categorized (from 1 to 3). Until then, I continue to exercise, eat correctly, stay insured, and get regular medical checkups. These are my actions which keep me in control.

Should my reputation or status be irreparably damaged, then perhaps it will be re-categorized (from 1 to 3), or I'll move and build a new reputation. Until then I will give those items the proper attention they deserve because they are in my control and I care about them.

Absolute control is not necessary. Relying upon others you trust is not something outside your control, it's a gamble that usually has odds in your favor, enough so that you may likely answer the question with a yes. 

Re-categorizing an item after new information has become available is acceptable. As is taking risks, having faith, being optimistic, and their opposites.


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