What is Dichotomy of Control in Stoicism?

What is Dichotomy of Control in Stoicism?

Table of contents


The Dichotomy of Control is a central tenet of Stoicism, a philosophy pioneered by Epictetus in his Discourses. It proposes that understanding and distinguishing between what we can and cannot control is fundamental to achieving tranquility and wisdom. This post will explore this concept in detail, first explaining its basic principles, then delving into a deeper analytical exploration, and concluding with practical, actionable insights.

Part 1: Explanation of Dichotomy of Control

In Stoicism, the Dichotomy of Control teaches us to categorize things into two distinct spheres: those within our control and those outside it. Our judgments, desires, and actions are within our control, while external events, other people’s opinions, and outcomes are not. Understanding this distinction allows us to focus our energy where it matters most, reducing unnecessary stress and frustration.

Part 2: Deeper Analytical Exploration

The Dichotomy of Control isn't merely a practical guide but a philosophical discourse that has its roots in the teachings of Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher. He professed that our happiness and suffering are contingent on how we relate to the things within our sphere of control. By surrendering our desire to control the uncontrollable, we make room for a more harmonious existence, aligning our will with the natural order of the world.

Philosophical Context:

In philosophical terms, this concept challenges us to scrutinize our perceptions and judgments, to discern reality from our interpretations of it. It invites a deeper reflection on the essence of control and the inherent nature of the universe, pushing us to acknowledge the transient and unpredictable nature of life.

Part 3: Practical, Actionable Insights

To implement the Dichotomy of Control in your life, consider the following steps:

  1. Identify and List: Start by identifying and listing things causing you stress or discomfort.
    Categorize them into things you can control and those you cannot.
  2. Reflect: Reflect on the items you can’t control.
    Acknowledge them and consciously decide to relinquish your hold over them, focusing instead on your reactions to them.
  3. Act: For the things within your control, create an action plan.
    Prioritize them based on their impact on your well-being and start addressing them systematically.
  4. Adjust Your Perspective: Shift your focus from the outcome to the process, and embrace a growth mindset.
    Recognize that the journey is as important as the destination and that learning and adaptation are continual.
  5. Practice Mindfulness: Cultivate mindfulness to stay present.
    Avoid unnecessary worries about the uncontrollable future or unchangeable past.


The Dichotomy of Control in Stoicism is the principle that peace of mind is achieved by learning to focus and act upon what is within our control—our own beliefs, judgments, and actions—while accepting and letting go of things that are not, such as the actions and opinions of others.

You can dive deeper into Dichotomy of Control and more in Discourses – an expansive collection of Epictetus's teachings.


The Dichotomy of Control in Stoicism provides a robust framework for understanding our relationship with the world around us. It invites us to a life of reflection, acceptance, and focus, enabling us to navigate life’s uncertainties with grace and wisdom. By exploring this concept both philosophically and practically, we can enrich our lives, finding serenity in the midst of chaos.

If you’re looking to explore more Stoic concepts and their practical applications, consider exploring our app, offering resources and tools to delve deeper into Stoicism and integrate its teachings into your daily life.

Remember, Stoicism is not just a philosophical viewpoint but a way of life, aiming to guide us to lead more meaningful and content lives amidst the external noise and turbulence. Keep exploring, keep learning, and let the journey to wisdom unfold!

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