The Way to Avoid Obstacles is to Not Focus on Avoiding Them— My Stoic Musings 011

“For if a person shifts their caution to their own reasoned choices and the acts of those choices, they will at the same time gain the…

“For if a person shifts their caution to their own reasoned choices and the acts of those choices, they will at the same time gain the will to avoid, but if they shift their caution away from their own reasoned choices to things not under their control, seeking to avoid what is controlled by others, they will then be agitated, fearful, and unstable.” — Epictetus, Discourses, 2.1.12

The stoics remind us that we must not focus our energies on the external things that we cannot control, even if what we are focussing on is avoiding those external obstacles. If we focus all our energy on simply avoiding what we can’t control, we will forever be a slave to those same obstacles. Instead, what we should focus on are our own judgments and actions. I know this can sound confusing, considering I had to read the above quote about 5 times to really understand the difference. Instead of focussing on how we can avoid meetings, which are outside of your control and will always pop-up anytime, we should instead focus on how we will perceive these meetings and how we will act on them when they do pop up. Instead of spending all our time thinking about how we could avoid the traffic on one road, perhaps by taking another road which could also have a lot of traffic, we should think about how we can spend that time productively and positively. Perhaps we could play an audiobook or listen to a podcast or make a phone call to a loved one. We can’t choose how or when the time-wasters will hit us in our day and it is futile to spend hours strategizing avoidance plans for them. Instead, we must change our own mindset and choose to act positively so that we can transform that “dead time” into “alive time”.


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.