What is in Our Control

In his commonplace book, where he recorded his thoughts, ideas, and lessons about the world, Marcus Aurelius wrote that we can approach the world and choose to interpret the world in ways that will either open new doors for us and improve our perspectives, or we can interpret the world in ways that limit our power to influence and shape our lives.  For Aurelius, being able to control your actions and thoughts about the world was paramount as it determined what your experience during your life would be.  He adopted the philosophy of stoicism and his writings show us how he was able to think about the world in more productive manners.  When it comes to thinking about what we control and have direct choices and influence over in our lives he writes,


“Show those qualities then which are altogether in thy power: sincerity, gravity, endurance of labor, aversion to pleasure, contentment with thy portion and with few things, benevolence, frankness, no love of superfluity, freedom from trifling magnanimity. Dost though not see how many qualities though art immediately able to exhibit, in which there is no excuse of natural incapacity and unfitness, and yet though still remainest voluntarily below the mark?”


It is easy to become caught up in the world or the routines of our daily lives and forget how many choices and decision we have the ability to make in a day. What Aurelius is explaining in the quote above is that we will always be sovereign over our own minds, and we can always choose how we wish to behave and react in certain situations. When we fail to think about how we are interpreting the world, how we are reacting to what others say, and the ways in which we think about our position in the world, then we are forfeiting control of a major part of our selves. We give up the power to shape the direction of our lives.  What Aurelius advocates for is greater acceptance of the power of our minds, and the useful practice of empowering ourselves over the influences that are easy to allow to control our minds.

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