In part three of our series from Keith Seddon’s book Stoic Serenity, exploring the core theme in Stoicism of ‘what is in our power and what is not’, you can further reflect on the theme in further exercises as to how this applies to your life.
So click below to read more! If you can, take 15 minutes to go through the exercises and please post below your reflections on this key Stoic maxim!
What is in Our Power, Part Three
Part four will be uploaded on Thursday.
More about Keith Seddon & Stoic Serenity: Keith Seddon is director of the MA and PhD programmes in Ancient Philosophy at Warnborough College, Ireland. He is a freelance academic and writer, who started the ‘Stoic Foundation’ in 2000, an educational trust, offering advice, support and a correspondence course (on which his book Stoic Serenity, from which our extract is taken, is based) in practical Stoic philosophy to anyone interested in taking up Stoicism as a philosophy to live by. Our thanks go to Keith for allowing his work to be reproduced on this blog.
When Epictetus identifies “opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever affairs are our own”, he identifies the only true source of absolute freedom. We may or may not be able to change the circumstances of our lives, but we can always change our own aims, desires, aversion and opinions. If we first focus on having a aim which either benefits ourselves and doesn’t harm others, or even better, an aim which benefits ourselves and others at the same time, or even a reasonable personal sacrifice for the welfare of others in need, then the reality may change to a better possible solution given the circumstances. First, we need to clarify what is in our power. Once our aims, thoughts, feelings, and opinions are nearer a worthy goal; we can now properly try to influence externals. So, we must focus on what is properly in our power for good, and then see what our inners aims can realistically change needed externals if possible. First and foremost to have a happy and skillful life, we must focus on our absolute freedom–what is really in our power and not become slaves to externals.
So, let’s say someone is stuck in a job that they don’t like and, for some reason, cannot change; how does the external (uncontrollable) aspect interact with the internal (controllable)? Do they just think “well I can’t influence the situation it so I won’t worry about it. I will try not to be depressed”?