Stoicism

I wanted to share this post with you because it hit me so strongly as I sit on vacation. What follows is not my writing but that of Ryan Holiday who published the “Daily Stoic.”

This writing hit me especially hard. I recall finding the belief that I have control over nothing. I was raised with the belief that if I worked hard enough I could control just about anything. That is until I learned that control is a fantasy. As a noun control is defined as the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events. I don’t have such power. if I did I’m not sure I would want it. As a therapist my goal is to help others understand their lack of control especially as it relates to things external to their life. Many of my clients struggle with this concept and either drop out of therapy or successfully move forward with their identified goals. I remind myself frequently that not everyone will “get it.”

A Stoic is determined, but not obstinate. A Stoic controls what they can, recognizes they cannot change that which is out of their control, but that they can change their mind. Not because it’s convenient, but because they are open to learning they were wrong or misinformed.

“If anyone can refute me,” Marcus Aurelius wrote, “I’ll gladly change.” He wanted to be told when he had made a mistake or seen things from the wrong perspective. Because it was truth that mattered to him. Truth, he said, “never hurt anyone.” Persisting on a course or holding steadfast to a belief only because you’re afraid of losing face? That’s where the real damage comes from. 

Yet we actually fear the former more than the latter! Politicians pretend to still agree with positions in public that they disparage in private…because they don’t want to be branded a flip flopper. It’s madness. Changing your mind is a good thing. Holding different beliefs today than you did ten years ago? That’s called growth, maturity, evolution. Being won over by someone else’s argument is not a sign of a weak mind…it’s proof of an open mind. The best kind to have! The only kind to have if you are at all concerned with fortifying your inner citadel against the vagaries of Fate and Fortune. 

The Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter once said that “Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.” Well put. 

Don’t reject refutation today. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong. Gladly change. It looks good on you—on everyone.

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