“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all”— Marcus Aurelius
The above quote is taken from the book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Yep, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius never wrote this or any of the other nuggets of wisdom found in the book with the intent of having it available for public consumption. Aurelius didn’t even set out to write a book. The book is made up of personal writings that he had completed during different periods of his life. Basically we’re reading the great and powerful man’s journal. The book Meditations now serves as a roadmap for something called Stoic philosophy. Stoicism, as it’s called, is something that we’ll be talking about more and more going forward. I’ve been reading about it quite a bit, it’s early philosophers, thoughts, and impacts on how I live today. In short Stoicism helps put the Serenity prayer to use. Understand and take action on those things that are within your control, and let go and don’t waste your energy or emotional capital on those things that are out of your control. It’s a very logical and straight forward mindset. I think that’s what is most appealing about it to me.
Now to this quote specifically. Don’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger. Think about that for a second. I know that at least for myself I’d probably need both hands and both feet to count the times during the last week when I got at least more than mildly irritated by some circumstance. Perfect example, just the other day I’m on my way to pick the kids up from school. There’s construction on a main road, and traffic needs to go from 2 lanes down to one. There are plenty of cones and flashing arrows to tell all the drivers this is happening. I work my way toward the spot where the lanes merge and everybody is in the proper lane. You can guess what happens here. A car comes speeding up on the right, cuts in front of all these people that have been waiting their turn and gets ahead of all of us. I hate this! What makes this person think their time is so much more valuable than anybody else’s? Where does this person get off thinking they are more important than any of us? I allowed this circumstance or event to get me really mad! Mad to the point where I had visions of following this car and saying something so profound that they’d see the error of their ways, and vow to never do anything like that again! Of course that’s a foolish thought, confronting them with words or more anger surely wouldn’t solve anything, but in the moment it would have made me feel oh so much better! I mean that person needed to know that their little stunt cost me a precious 20 to 25 seconds!! The outrage! Anyway, this event happens, I get mad, and I start thinking about the quote at the top. That person definitely didn’t care about what they did, and maybe they had a valid need to get a few seconds ahead. The rest of the world didn’t care about what happened, hell the only other people that know are you guys reading this, and much to my surprise the Sun indeed did rise the next morning without so much as an ounce of concern for what had happened yesterday. The more I think about this, the only person affected by this was me, and that’s because I let my emotions drag me around by the nose. I didn’t need to allow that to happen. The only reason that did happen is because I allowed it. I could have just as easily felt that anger come up, noticed it, and dismissed it as being foolish and not worth my time, as there was nothing to be done to change the circumstance. I’d have been much better off. Reviewing pretty much every other circumstance where I was annoyed, irritated or generally angered over the last week, I was able to pretty much come to the same type solution. It turns out I didn’t need to get pissed off. Getting pissed off helped me absolutely zero percent. There were definitely scenarios where there was action available for me to take, and when I take that action, suddenly circumstances aren’t so bad. Then there were others where I could be mad as I wanted to be, and nothing was to be changed. No sense in wasting perfectly good frustration there right?
Next time you get mad/angry/frustrated, sit with that feeling for a minute. Ask yourself if the circumstance actually warrants it, or if you’re just getting pissed because that’s the default and easy thing to do. Hopefully you find yourself with a lot more calm and peace.