The stoics’ foremost goal was to preserve their sense of joy and mental well-being. An effective way to do so is to only pay attention to things within our sphere of influence.
The stoics made a sharp distinction between factors within their control and the ones outside their control. They then paid disciplined attention only to the former, while completely neglecting the latter.
When something doesn’t turn out well within our sphere of influence, we have the power to rectify it. Suppose our performance in a test wasn’t good enough, we can revisit our testing strategy. Suppose a guitar solo we played on stage wasn’t tight enough, we can work on mastering the scale behind that solo.
Alternatively, if we are mentally invested in events outside our sphere of influence, we have no way of changing their course. For ardent football fans, few things feel as crushing as seeing your team lose a game they were destined to win. But there isn’t a thing we can do to change the way those players play on the pitch. While we have no control on these events, they have a large bearing on the state of our mind.
The globalized world gives us plenty of outcomes outside our sphere of control – from live telecasts of the English Premier League to 24/7 breaking news on US politics. Following any of those things makes us emotionally invested in them, but as individuals, we have no influence on the course of their outcomes.
There are several good reasons for entertaining ourselves with affairs that do not concern us. But if our peace of mind is paramount, we are better off listening to the stoics and giving them a wide berth.