Thursday, August 1, 2019

Trichotomy of Control

Most people have heard of dichotomy of control:

1) Things we have full control over. (This is usually things closest to ourselves like setting our own goals and values)

2) Things we don't have full control over. (External events. We find more as we move farther from the self)

In this case the wisdom is to focus on your locus of control; the things you do have control over.

But think Trichotomy of control helps us go one step further because really there are things where we have some control over. Now we have:

1) Things we have full control over.

Focus on the things we have complete control over like goals and values. Marcus Aurelius and the stoics believed that by doing this alone, we were in compete control of living the good life. Because having great character was the metric as opposed to external events.

2) Things we have no control over.

Ignoring these is pretty straightforward. It would be a waste of time and energy to worry about these things.

3) Things we have partial control over.

What do we do here? One option would be to ignore these things as well. But that would limit our sphere of influence. Instead what is suggested is to think back to our dichotomy again. Focus on the things we do have full control over. This might be mean reframing the problem. We don't have control over if we will win the match, but we do have control over giving our best effort. This starts to sound a lot like Scott Adam's system vs. goals.

Again, simple concept but invaluable. If you are interested in more stoic philosophy I learned about this via A Guide To the Good Life. I thought it was interesting how thinking about the Trichotomy of control help us map our thinking back to the Dichotomy of control.