“Know what you can control and what you cannot” Epictetus
What are you in control of?
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
The next key to success is in this prayer adopted by 12 Step and other recovery groups for years. It could also be called the Prayer of the Small Business Owner. There is power and strength in knowing what you do not have control over. Does that sound strange?
Epictetus taught we have no control over external things, which for the business owner include:
- What people think or say about us or our business
- Who our competitors are or what they will do or say
- The global or even local economy and its affect on business
- Geo-politics especially as influenced by other countries
He also taught we have control over those things that are internal which for the small business owner include:
- The quality of work or service we provide
- The people we hire
- The people we associate with
- How we treat others be they employees, vendors, competitors, family or friends
- The mission and purpose of our company
- Our inner self-talk
The way we respond to others and events around us
So, another key to success is to know what we have control over and then exercise that control. Likewise, to know what we don’t have control over and to accept “it is what it is” and “roll with the punches”. This belief or attitude opens the way for turning obstacles into opportunities. Instead of getting upset by what a competitor does or the shift in the economy, those forces merely become impetus to find new ways to improve business processes or new products or services to provide. It all depends upon the way we choose to look at life and life’s happenings.
Norman Vincent Peale taught that we are not to allow negative thoughts to invade our consciousness. And when / if they do to immediately ask “how can I make the best of this?” I’ve heard it said, “If we would choose to not worry about the things we have no control over, we would have all the time money and energy to handle the things we do have control over.” Does it profit any of us to spend time money or energy on things we cannot control?
Stephen Covey in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” taught the same concept using what he called circles of influence. He taught that only as we gain control over the most inner circle (our self talk or inner dialogue) will we begin to have influence in any of the outer circles. I’ve seen this in action, most often in reverse, where people try desperately to control others because they have little or no control over their own inner lives. Something to consider the next time a “control freak” confronts you.
All this is to say that another key to success is to know what you legitimately have control over (yourself and your inner talk being foremost) and what you have no control over (external circumstances) so you can spend your time, money, and energy wisely.
FYI: Epictetus, AD 50 – 135, was a Greek philosopher, born first a slave to the secretary of Nero, he was set free and a school was established for him that he might teach other young men his philosophy. He was later banished from Rome and set up school in Greece where he died, a free man and beloved teacher.