Focus on what you control and get your stoic on – Georgios Ardavanis (Ph.D.)

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Some people view setbacks as opportunities to grow and succeed because they are inherently resilient. Adversity can even be seen by some as a chance to succeed. The essence of stoicism is this mindset; contrary to what the term “stoic” may imply, it does not imply that we suppress or ignore our feelings. Instead, our feelings come after we realize that it made more sense to concentrate on the things we could control rather than fretting over the components of our condition that are beyond our control. Thus, before our emotions take over us, we are going to take charge of them. I acknowledge that while I possess some of those abilities, I lack others.

The US Army has discovered that the cognitive abilities that result in resilience may be taught through several conflicts and Prisoner instances. Through the application of the same philosophical concepts and methods that the Athenians, Spartans, Macedonians, and Romans used to overcome their difficult campaigns at the dawn of Western civilization, the US Army has developed the “Comprehensive Soldier Fitness,” which aims to teach 1.1 million US Army soldiers those thinking skills that will upgrade their resilience and take control of their emotions. Stated differently, the US Army aims to develop a new breed of tough, philosophical fighters.

So, the question is, do your thoughts play a major role?

“I approached every problem I encountered, whether it was failing an exam or a disease or getting showdown and shot up the same way: I would fix what I could fix and I wouldn’t complain about what I couldn’t,” US flight surgeon Rhonda Cornum said to a group of troops in 2010. Although Rhonda Cornum does not consider herself a Stoic, the method she employs and teaches was most eloquently expressed in the second century by Epictetus, a Roman Stoic philosopher.

Epictetus lists several uncontrollables, including our bodies, our parents, our coworkers, the weather, the state of the economy, the past, the future, and the reality that we will all eventually die. Epictetus, however, compiles a different list of variables under our control, such as our beliefs. That’s it, too. This could appear to be a fairly constrained sphere of influence. Nevertheless, the foundation of human freedom, autonomy, and sovereignty is this tiny window. Epictetus argues that we must develop the ability to control Zone 1, or our ideas and beliefs. That is our exclusive territory. If we choose to use our sovereignty, we are the king in Zone 1. We are always free to choose our thoughts and beliefs. No one can ever force us to believe something against our choice, according to the Stoics. If we know how to fight brainwashing, no one can do it to us. “There is no rubber of your free will,” declared Epictetus. But we have to acknowledge that we are not totally in control of Zone 2—that is, of outside occurrences. The things that occur in the world are mostly beyond our control. If we don’t come to terms with this, we will spend most of our lives feeling scared, angry, and miserable.


Georgios Ardavanis – 02/11/2023

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