The Illusion of Control

Hello everyone! It’s been a while😅, but it’s good to be back. School reopened a few weeks ago, and if you’re in school, I don’t know how your semester is going, but I can absolutely guarantee that mine had a more interesting start. You see, on the day of reopening, I arrived at school, signed in at my hostel, unpacked… all the standard things you’d expect on a boring first day. But here’s the fun part: That evening, I went out for about 15 minutes to buy a few things, and when I got  back…my laptop and phone were gone💔.  Suffice it to say, I did not take it well. I thought my new roommates were playing some kind of prank at first, but reality sank in eventually and in the days that followed, I gained a lot of insight on how boring life can be without technology. How did they survive in the past?😂 But seriously though, this event reminded me of something called the illusion of control. You see, before coming to school, I’d made all these plans for how I wanted my semester to go, so I arrived full of fun ideas and the expectation that everything would go great. As you may have guessed, getting robbed was not part of the plan; In fact, it kinda knocked my plans off-course for a while, and in that moment, I realized that maybe I’d made a mistake. I had drawn all these elaborate plans and forgotten that anything could happen out of nowhere, and derail me. I’d erroneously assumed that I alone could decide how certain events went. I was under the illusion of control.

Sometimes it’s very easy to get so caught up in the things happening around us, that we don’t stop to think about just how little influence we have in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes all we do is think about how wonderful things will be once we achieve this or accomplish that, and oftentimes deep down we know that it won’t be that easy, but we cling to the ideas with our characteristic stubborn optimism – that isn’t always bad, but we should learn to draw the clear distinction between the things we can control, and the things we can’t. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know that I’m a big proponent of Stoic philosophy, which preaches the dichotomy of control. Today I’m going to expand on that a little more.

The Dichotomy of Control is basically this:

 “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens”

That sounds simple, but it really isn’t. Recent events have taught me that it requires a certain level of self restraint, and an insistence on perceiving life in a certain way. It requires that I learn to forget the past and focus more on the present; that I recognize how temporary everything else really is, and acknowledge that no matter how difficult things seem right now, I’m going to be okay.

Don’t get too attached

Nothing lasts forever. We already know that, we’ve heard it a hundred times already. So why is it so difficult to let this fact guide the way we live? In 2021, everyone is so emotionally attached to the stuff they own, especially technology and social media personas, and that’s understandable, even relatable, because those things literally run the modern world. And it’s even worse for millennials and gen-Zs, because technology is all we’ve known. Our phones are extensions of ourselves, and when they’re taken away, it feels like a complete violation. Trust me, I know. But let me share a similar experience from someone with more…experience, that helped me process the loss of my prized possessions. A leading stoic pioneer called Epictetus had an iron lamp, which got stolen one night. Epictetus thought about it for a while, assumed that the thief had his own reasons for robbing him, and decided to buy a cheaper earthenware lamp. He said,

 “I lost my lamp because in the matter of vigilance, the thief was a stronger man than I. But he bought this lamp for this price: for a lamp he became a thief, for a lamp he broke his faith, for a lamp he became a brute.”

If you think about it this way, the person to pity is the thief. In my case, he’d gained an old laptop with a faulty screen and keyboard and lost his honour and integrity in the process – things that aren’t so easily replaced, and thought he’d made a good deal.

Focus on the here and now:

Most of the time, we wish we could go back in time to fix the mistakes we made. When I was in junior high school, I read a really good book that mentioned a place called the land of if only, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember the title😂. We tell ourselves, ‘if only I’d done this or that, then I’d  be better off now.’, and that just might be true, but it also stands to reason that if you try your hardest and make your best effort right now, you’ll be better off in the future. The land of if only is a false world that promises nothing but fantasy. But we have something even better than that: We have the present, waiting to be moulded by our actions to forge the future we desire. If we are able to forgive ourselves for our past mistakes and learn from our experiences, we can give our very best knowing with conviction that our actions today are informed, and thus, justified. And no matter what happens in the end we can rest assured that we made the right decisions given the circumstances, and no one can tell us otherwise. The past is done, we can’t change it, we can only look ahead and move into a more promising future. That’s it.

At the end of the day, we have to be grateful for all the things we have and everything we’ve been through. Just know that no matter how bad things seem, it could have been a whole lot worse. Very often, the illusion of control makes us feel strongly that things are supposed to go this way or that, and when they don’t, it feels like our world is coming apart. It’s not. Every day brings new gifts and opportunities for us to enjoy and learn from, and we can’t spot the good things if we always focus on making things go exactly as we want. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we are able to find the wonder in life if we take it one day at a time, going through each day grateful for the people in our lives and the experiences (good or bad) we share. That’s what makes life interesting, just sit back and enjoy the ride 😉

Thanks for stopping by😄. If you enjoyed this piece, follow me for more. I like to analyze and write about whatever stirs my curiosity. Be sure to hit the like button and respond with your thoughts in the comment section as well. Till next time, Byeeee👋

Published by niiakueteh

About me... where to even begin. I'm an introvert, above all else, who basically likes to write about the stuff that happens around me. I'm an avid reader, scrabble player and software developer... Oh and I dabble in a bit of crochet.

20 thoughts on “The Illusion of Control

  1. You nailed it again bro. I like how you use simple english and simple sentences. I really enjoyed this.

    And sorry for the theft case. Don’t worry, the thief is to be pitied 😅😅😅

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved every bit.In very simple language and relatable.
    You know it’s not that easy. It’s inherent.Because we are limited in our knowledge of the future, we tend to take steps back into our past..
    It’s like hearing motivational speakers.You feel very inspired cause they way they put the message across makes it look easy. Oh live in the moment, you’re like yeeeeessss from today that’s what I’m going to do only to find your self wandering in the past.
    I remember in 2019 My phone was stolen I was so sad ,like really sad I didn’t want to do anything or speak to anyone cause I was so attached to it…happens unconsciously …….But this a great piece !.We’ll try our best😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a friend who’s really into stoicism. He mentioned it once, I was interested, did some research.
      I realized that I agreed with a lot of stoic ideas, in fact, I’d been practicing some of them (like the dichotomy of control) without even knowing it was stoicism😂. I got more and more invested, and the rest is history😄

      Thanks for stopping by Emmanuella😄❤️

      Like

  3. Well said General🙌🏾🤝
    Dwelling in the past brings nothing buh hate and discontent.
    As Sammy rightly said, it’s very thoughtful of you to always share with us what you have read and experienced in a simple language 😂💕.
    My take home,;
    “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens”
    Have great semester experience bro💙

    Like

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