Maybe Our Freedom to Choose is the Real Happiness — My Stoic Musings 012

“Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night — there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up…

“Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night — there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else to God and Fortune.” — Epictetus, Discourses, 4.4.39

Happiness is the one thing we all are searching for throughout our lives. We search for it in our work and call it passion. We search for it in our partners and call it love. We search for it in our friends and call it trust. We search for it in the mountains and in the desert. We go over and under, left and right, looking for it under every stone and rock. We watch hundreds of YouTube videos and read an equal amount of books and articles on the subject and yet it feels like happiness is an ever-evading butterfly that we simply can’t catch. There must be a reason that we have been asking questions about happiness for as long as we have existed and yet we feel like we still don’t have any answers. But the stoics have an answer for it. Or at least a practical strategy to turn happiness from a mirage to something concrete that we might actually be able to hold and feel. And the strategy that they proposed hundreds of years ago is simple: let go of everything outside of our control. At first, this sounds quite wishy-washy and like just another platitude that feels good to read but doesn’t really help in real life. But on the contrary, what stoics have to say is the complete opposite of a platitude. Stoicism is about practical philosophy, perhaps why it has stood the test of time and even though the world has changed so much, stoicism is still applicable in our ever-connected super fast world. The stoics suggest that the only strategy that we can truly apply in our life to attain happiness is to forget about the things we can’t control and leave all those things up to God, or destiny, or the universe, whatever you believe in. And instead, simply focus on the few things that we can control — our perception, our choices, and our actions. And we must remind ourselves of this truth every morning and every night so that we can truly apply it in our lives every day. Perhaps, real happiness is simply the realization of our freedom: the freedom to make our choices.

This article is a part of my Stoic Musings challenge, inspired by the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, where I take a quote from the book and reflect on it, every day.