Embracing the Dichotomy of Control

Brad Bartlett
5 min readSep 7

If you’re going to make it in freelance, you need to separate what you can — and can’t — control.

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.” — Epictetus

Imagine this: It’s a sunny Friday afternoon, and you’re sipping your coffee, marveling at how smoothly your freelance project is going.

The muse has been generous, your design flows seamlessly, or the code practically writes itself — life is good.

Then, ding — an email notification pops up. Your heart sinks as you read through a mile-long list of revisions from your client, punctuated by phrases like “not what we were looking for” or “needs a complete overhaul.”

It’s easy to feel that the universe is conspiring against you in moments like these.

Even on good days, you may question your skills, your career choice — even your sanity.

But what if I told you there’s an age-old philosophy that can help you navigate through these challenging times and regain your peace of mind? (And what if it wasn’t a new-agey, crystal-laced concept?)

The Dichotomy of Control

The Dichotomy of Control sounds like a sophisticated term, but it’s actually quite simple.

The philosophy posits that in life, there are things you can control — mainly your thoughts and actions — and things you can’t — pretty much everything else.

Stoic philosophers like Epictetus would argue that understanding this simple principle is the key to a tranquil life. It’s the difference between focusing on what we can control and stressing ourselves out over the things we can’t.

For example, let’s think of a reality that freelancers and entrepreneurs know all too well: client work.

You can control the way you present a project to them, how much time and effort you put into it, or if you want to go above and beyond. You can even control when you start and finish it, depending on the extent of your self-discipline.

Brad Bartlett

Professional Freelance Copywriter. (www.bradleebartlett.co) Musings on #freelancing, #productivity, #self-development, and more!