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  • Writer's pictureDavid Stamation


Letting go. Sounds simple, right? We've seen it on yoga t-shirts or heard a friend say it, "Let go. Surrender." Here's my current perspective on this phenomenon: it's about control and the art of relinquishing it, or at least some of it. Simply saying, "Let go," isn't enough, so let's apply the control test.

I'm a fan of simplifying complex ideas into two buckets. Let's break down control. Bucket 1 consists of what you can control, while Bucket 2 holds what you can’t control.


What You Can Control

In Bucket 1, we find our own actions and reactions, our desires, our character, and how we treat others. These are aspects firmly within our control.


What You Can’t Control

In Bucket 2, we place things like our bodies (serious illness or aging), the actions of others, our reputations, and our fortunes, both personal and financial. These aspects are beyond our control.

Reflecting on my life, I realize that some of the most challenging times occurred when I attempted to exert control over things that were beyond my influence. I mistakenly believed that sheer force and persistence were the keys to progress. In hindsight, I wish I had been introduced to the concept of the control test at an earlier age. This understanding would have allowed me to approach situations with greater tranquility, create more harmony in my relationships and secure inner peace.


This philosophy comes from an ancient handbook—dating back to 125 AD by the Roman stoic Epictetus. These are Stoic Principles, known as the control test. In Epictetus's words:

Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing. Not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.

These principles can be applied universally, from navigating the news cycle and career advancements to confronting mortality.

The Stretch

Take moments in the week ahead to consider applying the control test. Observe yourself. Are you getting worked up trying to control another person's actions? Perhaps pressuring your college-aged kid to "get it together"? Getting worried by the evening news. Or a package that was stolen off your front porch.  Conduct a control test. Observe.

When I incorporated it into my routine, I found myself shedding unnecessary concerns that were consuming me needlessly such as politics or friends who wouldn’t call back. The control test became a valuable tool to limit my emotional investment in matters beyond my control while improving my energy levels. I was also more likely to take action in matters where I did have control.

Experiment with it and take note of your emotional state and energy levels. See if it is a key for you and if it contributes to a more balanced and focused approach to life.

Starting Out

Want to explore tools like this in a guided setting with an experienced coach to speed up your learning, then visit my website and fill out the Contact me form.

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