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The Power of Unreactivity

“Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own.” – Marcus Aurelius

A central tenant of Stoic philosophy is the development of unreactivity in stressful or anxiety-producing situations. A common technique to prepare for uncertain circumstances is negative visualization, in which all undesirable outcomes are realized and assessed. If care has been taken to prepare for these moments, it does no good to lose sleep over it. A powerful phrase ought to be repeated: “Focus on the things I can control.”

At its extreme, there are two types of men – the ones who fall to the ground upon hearing devastating news and the ones who hold steady, all the while bearing the heavy load. It is preferable, in all situations and at all times, to be the second man. Marcus Aurelius says, “External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.”

This is not to say that one shouldn’t avoid the expression of emotion – it is perfectly natural and healthy. Emotions can be messengers of a deeper wisdom or intuition. However, it is necessary to understand that you are not your emotions. You have the capability to take hold of your feelings; you do not have to act out every impulse.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll


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