Become Stoic

Let Worries Go

Marcus Aurelius
AD 121 - 180

Hi, Marcus Aurelius is here again.

When we talked about judgment, it was about things that are up to us. This lesson is about things that are not up to us.

Those things we don't fully control are called indifferents.

But I should say that they are not called 'indifferents', because we - as human beings - don't care about them.

Quite the contrary, we are naturally being pulled to things, such as health, wealth, pleasure, beauty, good reputation. We are naturally averse, such as death, disease, pain, weakness, poverty, loneliness.

However, we, as Stoics, highly encourage you to treat indifferents without attachment.

But what does it mean to live without attachments to indifferents? Does it mean you should completely disregard them?

No, but your happiness shouldn't ultimately depend on you getting or avoiding indifferents, such as others' opinions.

So what is the right way to regard indifferents, If we shouldn't be attached to them?

Let me introduce the term 'preferences' in contrast to 'attachment' here.

When you prefer something, you aren't obsessed with getting the desired outcome, thus not too upset when things don't go your way.

It's pleasing when our desires are fulfilled, and when they are not, you feel disappointed, but it's no threat to your peace of mind.

On the other hand, an attachment is different because it makes your happiness depend on the object of attachment.

So you ask, how can I diminish my attachment to indifferents?

Imagine you are aiming with an arrow at some mark. Your desired goal is to hit the target. You can aim as good as you can, but you only control the arrow until it leaves your hand.

However, when the arrow is already in the air, you can't control the wind that might blow and change the direction. So what you should desire is to aim straight but not be bothered with hitting the target.

The mark's actual hitting would be "preferred" but not "desired" in the sense of us being attached to it.

Ferenzy Karoly
Archers, 1911

So whenever you undertake a specific action, you calmly accept that the outcome might not go as expected because it isn't in your control.

To reach this kind of acceptance, we Stoics came up with a "reserve clause" technique.

It's called "reserve clause", because our expectations are reserved for what is within our control.

To make use of this technique, we add the reservation 'if nothing outside of my power prevents me' to desires or goals which are not entirely under our control.

Write down one of the goals you have in mind using the reserve clause

What can be that thing that is outside your power?

Think about potential obstacles in your upcoming day regarding daily tasks, goals?

There is only one road to happiness – let this rule be at hand morning, noon, and night: stay detached from things that are not up to you. We should pay less attention to what is external, as we don't really control it.

Marcus Aurelius
AD 121 - 180

Roman Emperor (161–180), best known for his Meditations on Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius has symbolized for many generations in the West the Golden Age of the Roman Empire.

Source: Britannica

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