There was once a monk who would carry a mirror wherever he went. A priest noticed this one day and thought to himself, “This monk must be so preoccupied with the way he looks that he has to carry that mirror all the time. He should not worry about the way he looks on the outside. It’s what’s inside that counts.” So, the priest went up to the monk and asked, “Why do you always carry that mirror?”
Thinking for sure this would prove his guilt. The monk pulled the mirror from his bag and pointed it at the priest. Then he said,
“I use it in times of trouble. I look into it and it shows me the source of my problems as well as the solution to my problems.
As the Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus put it,
The chief task in life is simply this:
“To identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”Epictetus, Discourses.
The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t. What we have influence over and what we do not.
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other.Serenity Prayer
You are responsible for maintaining a great attitude, expending your best effort and showing strong character in the battle ground called life. Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are accountable for who we become. As Epictetus said, you can control the choices you make right now.
The same is true for us today. If we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, but we will also have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.
Question for the day
Am I seeing clearly? Acting generously? Accepting what I can’t change?