Within Our Control…

motivation, self help, philosophy, stoic philosophy, modern stoicism, Nietzsche, existentialism

Most of us are all-too familiar with negative feedback loops. We adopt a negative, pessimistic outlook, and suddenly we find confirmation and justification for our negativity everywhere. The confirmation we find reaffirms our commitment to negativity, and our outlook only darkens.  

Nietzsche calls the decision “to find the world ugly and bad” a dangerous decision because it makes “the world ugly and bad.” His point is simple: Our attitude, our evaluation of existence, of the world, stems from an interpretation, a perspective. It is a choice to view the world a certain way, it is a choice to maintain certain values.

A dangerous decision. – The…decision to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.”

Nietzsche

Nietzsche, like many philosophers before and after him, thought that we are meaning makers, that we create the world we experience. We interpret things a certain way, we apply values, and we construct meaning. This ability to adopt a perspective, an attitude or mindset, is the source of our freedom. We are free to create meaning, to see the world as we choose to.

Epictetus makes a similar point in the Enchiridion (the dichotomy of control): “Some things are within our power, while others are not.”

“Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power…whatever is not of our own doing.”

Epictetus

Epictetus, like Nietzsche, recognizes that we are unique from other living things because we are conscious and self-aware. We have control over our mind, over how we look at, interpret, and respond to the world. We don’t have control over external forces, over the facts of the world, but we do exercise control when it comes to how we choose to interact with them and view them.

We can choose to value something a certain way or make it meaningful. We can, for instance, choose to focus on and fuel our anger. We can choose to act on it and harm others. In contrast, we can also choose to forgive, to take a step back, to calm ourselves.

We can choose to be a victim, and thus find others in the world or circumstances to blame for our struggles. Just as we can choose to view ourselves as the author of our own life, as having control over the person we become and the way we think.

Choose Happiness

self help, motivation, stoic philosophy, existentialism, freedom, choose, happiness

Philosophers like Epictetus and Nietzsche identified the importance of our attitude because it influences everything else and determines how we interpret the world. We can decide that the world is ugly and bad, or we can decide that the world is beautiful and good. Why not choose the latter?

Our power to interpret the world, to make it meaningful, also has implications for our happiness. Happiness, it would seem, is also within our power because it involves seeing the world and ourselves a certain way, cultivating a certain mindset and attitude towards existence. When we decide this life is beautiful, is valuable, we are motivated to make it better. A positive outlook energizes us not only to see the good, but to be good ourselves.

“‘I conclude that all is well,’ … and that remark is sacred. It echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. It teaches that all is not, has not been, exhausted.”

Camus

Camus agrees that we are meaning making beings. He reminds us that all is well. Even though the universe is limited, all is not exhausted. We can interpret things innumerable ways.

In the end, this is our life, and we must choose our own happiness, we must choose to value this world, this life, and make the most of it. Only when we do so, when we make such a choice, will we find ourselves in a world that is beautiful and good, because it will be a world in which we are in possession of ourselves, where we exercise our freedom and control the narrative of our life.

Thanks for reading.

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Want to discover more? Please check out my related articles: Meditation & Balance, The Only Proof of Strength, Lessons Learned from Ancient Cultures, A Formula for Happiness, The Habit of Thinking, Death & Meaning, and Comparisons & Mistakes We Make.

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