“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou
Everything that happens changes you.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus
Life is like the river. After something happens you are not the same person.
That doesn’t mean what happens to you should bring you down, but it should change you.
You should learn from it.
“A rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 8.35
Setbacks should be used as fuel, fuel to get better, fuel to achieve your goal.
Giving up is not an option.
Life will never get easier. It will keep dragging you down if you let it.
However, if you focus on what you can control, you can move forward.
Even in the most horrifying circumstances, if you focus on what is in your control, it doesn’t make it easier, but it makes it tolerable.
Epictetus was a slave for most of his life. He had is leg permanently destroyed by a cruel owner, but he didn’t let that circumstance reduce him.
“They (the gods) made you responsible only for what is in your power – the proper use of impressions. So why take on the burden of matters which you cannot answer for? You are only making unnecessary problems for yourself.” – Epictetus, Discourses, Book 1:12:34-35
Now that is easier said than done considering the evil that human beings can do to one another.
Two prime examples are the horrific conditions that Viktor Frankl and Admiral James Stockdale had to endure.
Viktor Frankl was imprisoned in Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz. He lost his whole family to the horror. He however did not let it reduce him.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl
James Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam and spent seven years as a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton prison camp.
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” — Admiral James Stockdale.
Very few of us will have to suffer the horror that these men endured. Could you?
Many of us melt when we are hit with the slightest setback.
How do we soldier on?
We take it one day at at time. If it’s bad we focus on ten minutes at a time. If it’s really bad focus on the next minute.
Focus on what you control. We do not control what happens to us. We only control how we react.