In his book Considerations Colin Wright borrows from Marcus Aurelius and the philosophy of stoicism when he writes about the way we respond to the world and the events that occur in our life on a daily basis. “You can’t change the world around you. Not easily, at least. And as a result, it’s far better to have control over how you respond to the outside world, rather than trying to adjust and manipulate and manage every other person (and thing) on the planet.” Wright’s statement is very similar to the idea of stoicism that Marcus Aurelius lays out in his book Meditations where he constantly explains that our opinions shape our reactions and emotions to given situations. He urges the reader to better control their thoughts so that they can chose their response in a given situation, and choose their ideas and beliefs about people and situations around them. By increasing self awareness we can better understand our feelings and reactions, allowing us to be the best version of ourselves.
Wright’s quote provides a dose of reality in addition to self awareness. We like to think that we control the world around us and influence the people we interact with on a daily basis, but in many ways we have little impact on what happens around us. As we enter a presidential election year we will likely forget this at many points as we think of the value of our vote and the impact that national policy may have on our lives. If we start to think more deeply we may notice that national policy will not have the great impact on our lives that we imagine, and our vote may not be as consequential as we wish. We should not be filled with despair at these realizations, but rather, we should recognize that we can choose our response and and find a way to react more positively and more aligned with reality.
Writing about our responses to the world around us, Wright argues that we should build our awareness of our thoughts and reactions so we can recognize how we think about the world so that we can act in a way that better serves ourselves and others. Rather than believing we can control and manipulate others, we should allow ourselves to understand our lack of control so that we see more value in cooperation. Reacting positively to our lack of control will give us more control in the long run since we will not be locked into a system of micromanagement. Wright’s quote does not change the world, but it shows that we can change how we see and react to the world.