Caring too Much

Written by
Michael Wells

Caring too Much

The Lessons of Philosophy

Written by
Michael Wells

Caring too Much

The Lessons of Philosophy

Written by
Michael Wells
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QUESTION
"How can someone care less [ about life ], and still enjoy his/her self?"

Here is a completely different perspective to consider.

What if it’s the caring, the struggle with the way-things-are, that is causing your unhappiness?

Many philosophies have noted that finding happiness requires the ability to stop struggling against life, and simply accept the things that come your way.

Those who master this enjoy life a lot more, and end up accomplishing just as much.

Learning to Float

If you’ve ever taken a water-safety class, you’ve probably learned to float.

The lesson is this...

If your your boat sinks and you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the ocean, you will survive longest if you simply relax, arch your back, and let your body float on the surface naturally.

People who struggle, fight, and tire themselves out trying to push the water away will drown quickly.

This brings up an interesting philosophical point.

The water was never your enemy. It will help you get the air you need, if you let it. But if you fight it and treat it like an enemy, it will become one.

The Philosophy of Life

Life works similarly.

  • Buddhists observe that attachment to things and outcomes is central to suffering. If you have no expectations of how things are “supposed” to be, you’re never disappointed / afraid / frustrated. You’re just content and happy.
  • Stoics observe this with emotion. If you fight emotion, it amplifies, and you’re always struggling with anger, or frustration, or depression. If you simply observe those emotions, and let them pass, the weather will change and soon your world will by warm and sunny again.

The Circles of Control

Both of these relate to a concept known as the “circles of control.”

In the Circles of Control, you mentally organize the things in your world into a kind of bullseye target.

In the center, the small red dot, are the things that you largely control. These include what decisions you make right now, whether you take a breath, and what you eat or say or do.

Immediately outside that circle is things you “influence”. You have no direct control, but your choices in the center “control” circle affect those things pretty directly. I may not be able to guarantee I have a job next week. But can influence that by showing up to work, and doing my job well.

The third circle is called the circle of “concern”. It’s things you care about, but you have virtually no control over at all. We spend a lot of time worrying about these things-

  • How long will you live?
  • Will your relationship go the distance?
  • Will your kids be healthy?
  • Will your stock and property investments go well?
  • What will happen to my country? Things seem crazy.
  • What will happen with COVID?

Who knows?

All of the things that happened in your past, and most of the things that will happen in the future, are in the Circle of Concern.

We worry about them, but we cannot control the future, and that energy is largely wasted.

Applying this Wisdom

People who understand these circles give most of their attention where it can make a difference- in the central Circle of Control.

Their mindset is...

"I can't control the future, but I can make the best choices now to prepare for whatever future I predict."

The things outside of that circle, that they cannot reach- they simply allow those to float by.

The interesting thing is- not only are these happier, less stressed people, but they seem to get a lot more done in life.

Perhaps it's because they’re not flailing around, drowning themselves, like the rest of us.

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First published on 
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November 7, 2021

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