I think I am going to start receiving free books, because some people will start thinking I was just handed over a book from Epictetus and that’s the only book I ever read. 🙂 Nonetheless, yes, today again, we will spark our day with some wise words for the old man, who can be qualified as such, since he lived 80 years, a very respectable age in the second century of our era.
Anyway, why this quote today? I have been going through a really, really big transition in my life over the last few weeks. And at times, I get disturbed. At times disturbed seems like the biggest of the understatement. And then I think; and then I breathe, rather, and I realize that this change is not an end. It is a beginning. And it is a beginning I have looked forward to for so long. And then I think, for real this time, and I remember that a lot of my clients, people and organizations alike, go through the same.
Things happen. New regulations fall onto our organizations. In the financial services world, there are new regulations for further transparency of assets. In manufacturing, there are more stringent regulations for further sustainability and environment consciousness. In pharmaceuticals, there are lengthier and more comprehensive trials procedures prior to drugs or biomedical instruments being released. These pressures are happening to others, to all the players in an industry. These pressures are levelling the playing field.
And invariably, I see, and you will see too, two different attitudes towards these new regulations or external pressures. Some will just complain about how much more stringent, and difficult, and lengthy things will get. And some think about the opportunity it will give them to be better than their competition. And guess who will take over the market? So, embrace change. Do not be disturbed what happens to you, by letting thoughts about these things happening to you to creep up and sabotage your enthusiasm, your energy, and your performance. What happens to you is happening. It is a phenomenon. That is all. Now you have a total freedom to choose how you interpret these events. And you have a total freedom to choose your reaction to these events.
We are disturbed not by what happens to us,
but by our thoughts about what happens.
Note for the curious: Since we’re starting to become friends, let say that Epictetus was a Greek sage and philosopher. His thought was aligned with the stoicians, which also includes the late emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca, tutor to another (crazy) emperor, Nero. Like Socrates, he did not write anything himself, but was teaching philosophy orally. Arrian, one of his pupils compiled his thoughts in an 8-volume Discourses and a digest Handbook. Epictetus was originally born a slave in Phrygia, a region of what is now Turkey. He lived in Rome, where he was authorized by his owner to study philosophy. After being granted his freedom, he started teaching philosophy himself, until he was banished with a lot of other philosophers by another crazy emporor, Domitian. He then went back to Greece, where he stayed for the rest of his life.