Dichotomy of Control

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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 are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.

To achieve freedom and happiness, you need to grasp this basic truth: some things in life are under your control, and others are not.

What things are under your total control?

What you believe, what you desire or hate, and what you are attracted to or avoid. You have complete control over these, so they are free, not subject to restraint or hindrance. They concern you because they are under your control.

What things are not under your total control?

Your body, property, reputation, status, and the like. Because they are not under your total control they are weak, slavish, subject to restraint, and in the power of others. They do not concern you because they are outside your control.

Of existing things, God has placed some within our power, and others not within our power.

Within our power he has placed the most important thing, that through which he himself is happy, the power to deal with impressions. For when that capacity is rightly exercised, there is freedom, serenity, cheerfulness, constancy, and there is justice, too, and law, and self-control, and virtue in its entirety. But as to everything else, God hasn’t placed that within our power.

It is thus necessary that we, too, should be of one mind with God, and by drawing this distinction, we should seek to obtain by every means those things that lie within our power, but entrust those that don’t lie within our power to the universe, and if it should have need of our children, our country, our body, or anything whatever, be glad to yield it up.

The term "indifferent" has two meanings: in the first it denotes the things which do not contribute either to happiness or to misery, as wealth, fame, health, strength, and the like; for it is possible to be happy without having these, although, if they are used in a certain way, such use of them tends to happiness or misery.

In quite another sense those things are said to be indifferent which are without the power of stirring inclination or aversion; e.g. the fact that the number of hairs on one's head is odd or even or whether you hold out your finger straight or bent.

But it was not in this sense that the things mentioned above were termed indifferent, they being quite capable of exciting inclination or aversion. Hence of these latter some are taken by preference, others are rejected, whereas indifference in the other sense affords no ground for either choosing or avoiding.


  1. Chuck Chakrapani, The Good Life Handbook, 2016.
  2. Robin Hard, Discourses, Fragments, Handbook, 2014.