Controlling the Uncontrollable


Throughout his incredible life as the most powerful man in the world, Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121 - A.D. 180) endured war, a plague, a revolt, and the deaths of friends and family. His reputation rests on his Meditations, a series of reflections, written by Marcus Aurelius, for Marcus Aurelius, that are especially relevant during these times of global hardship (aka Year 2 of the COVID pandemic). 

In this episode of the #ChosenInsightSeries, Chōsen Co-founder John Stanton sheds some light on Meditations - one of John’s favorite books - as the Chōsen book recommendation of the month and in particular, why Marcus Aurelius’s reflections are so relevant today. 

At Chōsen, we believe that one of the pathways to growth and resilience is through experiential learning. We have an Experience, we Reflect on what we learned and felt, we Iterate on the skills we want to take forward into daily life, and eventually Practice our new skills to overcome future challenges. Marcus Aurelius utilized this, thousands of years before Victor Frankl coined the phrase “control the controllable,” as a way to live his best life and maximize his resilience, despite the hardships he endured. 

Let’s talk about context: conflict, turmoil, a deadly pandemic, and deadly political maneuvering by everyone around him affected much of Marcus Aurelius’s life. “All life experiences, especially the most arduous ones, have purpose and we can derive meaning and grow from them.” says John.

Here are the top four lessons, with quotes, that John distilled from Meditations:


    • Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

    • Your happiness doesn’t depend on external events. We can choose what to tell ourselves about what’s happening: this is the foundation of a growth mindset, with our brain's plasticity to support this practice!


    • Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.”

    • Taking inspiration from our Alumni who are living in accordance with their ikigai, we invite you to embrace your purpose! 


    • Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each one of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see.

    • There is nothing more important than the now, not the past or the future. While Marcus Aurelius used musings on his own mortality to drive his “presence,” we can take lessons from this trying time to focus on what we can control: our mindset, here and now. 


    • A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briars in the road. Turn aside from them. This is enough. Do not add, ‘And why were such things made in the world?’”

    • Don't spend time complaining about our obstacles - use that energy to overcome them! We are not in control of what happens, but we are in control of how we respond

Marcus Aurelius’s insights on coping with adversity remind us to take stock of the tools we currently have and how we can use them to solve problems in the present rather than catastrophizing the unknowns of the future. 

For more information on how we can help you increase your resilience and drive growth, join us on our 5-week online journey designed by our team of global performance experts composed of Gold Medal Olympians, Wellness Doctors, Nutritionists, Neuroscientists and Business Leaders. You will learn the science behind resilience and set up new daily practices to bulletproof your wellbeing. CLICK HERE to enroll today.

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