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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Gibbons

I Can’t Change the World

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.—Epictetus


Much of what’s written in the name of self-help focuses on bringing about all kinds of changes—in our finances, emotions, personal relationships, and careers. The idea is that if we make all the right changes, then our lives can become models of perfection—the kind of adult lives that we imagined we’d have when we were innocent little children, blissfully unaware of the harsh realities of the world. Much of this advice fails to consider or acknowledge the extent to which that recommended change is actually possible. It doesn’t take into account the very real limitations that we’ll encounter in ourselves, other people, and the circumstances of our lives.

If we take an honest look at our ability to change things, we may be forced to acknowledge that our efforts will sometimes be in vain. We’ll be trying to change things that can’t be changed—at least by us—so it might be more appropriate to focus a little more on what can be changed. And to become more accepting of our limitations.

So we might take a minute to think about all those aspects of life that we have no hope of changing.


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