Chasing money and validation left me empty until one life-changing quote revealed the secret to lighting my own path to authentic joy, self-acceptance, and happiness.
“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.” – Epictetus.
Lighting My Own Path: Letting Go of External Validation
When I was young, I used to think that to be happy; I needed perfect teeth, perfect friendships, a beautiful home, an expensive car, vacations (my family never took a vacation), and possessions.
I constantly chased the next thing, believing it would finally bring me lasting fulfillment. I thought a better job, a fancy job title, and nice clothes would fulfill my life wishes.
But that satisfaction never came. There was always something else to strive for, some new thing I didn’t yet have. I realized that basing my happiness on external things and other people’s validation was an endless, exhausting cycle.
Discovering Inner Peace
Eventually, I came across a quote by the Greek philosopher Epictetus that really resonated with me: “The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.“
The Water Walk
I looked at people in other countries who had way less than I did. They had to walk miles for water and carry it back in jugs. All I did was walk to a faucet to have infinite water. Yet they looked happy and smiling.
I began to understand that I needed to look within to find true, lasting contentment rather than seeking it through material things or the opinions of others.
Answer The Hard Questions.
This requires knowing oneself deeply—understanding your core values, beliefs, passions, and purpose. Who are you? What do you stand for? What are your values and ethics?
So, I made an effort to disconnect my self-worth from any external measures of success. Things like my job title, income, clothing, or other material possessions do not determine my underlying value and dignity as a human being.
It’s Not All In The Name
I stopped putting a job title on my business cards. People knew me by my first name; if they pronounced it wrong, it did not matter. I have inherent worth regardless of those temporary, changing factors.
Being thin, young people often thought I was an office clerk and not the company’s Vice President. It did not matter to me; it was freeing not to have people prejudge me and reveal much about others. Wouldn’t living in a world without titles and labels be great? The fewer the labels, the happier we all will be; labels create division rather than unity.
Finding Small Joys Each Day
I also started finding happiness and beauty in the small, simple moments of everyday life—things that are always available to me regardless of my circumstances.
Free is Fun
A sunny walk in the park, quality time with loved ones, enjoying a good meal, reading an inspiring book, acts of kindness, moments of creativity or learning. On my honeymoon, I told my husband I didn’t need vacations; a chair out back would be fine; I could watch the birds, see the sky, and get my morning dose of sunshine all for free.
Simple Food is Simply Pleasurable.
I do not need to go to restaurants; I am happy with a fresh-grown tomato from my backyard. It tastes like the sun-ripened tomatoes I grew up with that were fresh farm-picked at Benekeys Farmstand.
Crazy, I know. Finding happiness in a homegrown sweet tomato. But by opening my eyes to the little joys around me each day, I filled my life with far more lightness, gratitude, and inner peace.
Letting Go of Control
Additionally, I practiced accepting that many things in life are outside of my control. I cannot control other people’s reactions, external events, the weather, traffic, the economy. But I have full control over my own thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
The More You Control Things the Less Control You Have
I learned to let go of the need to control everything around me. Ironically, this gave me a greater sense of command over my life experience. I gained much more freedom and tranquility by fully leaning into the things within my power.
The Puerto Rican Prize Goat Story
My Puerto Rican friend Ricardo once told me a story about a farmer who had a prize goat on his farm. He was so proud of his goat and did not want anything to happen to him.
The farmer decided that he needed to control the goat better so the goat would not get injured on the property and he could ensure he was eating and drinking well.
To do this, the farmer took his brand-new rope to tie up the goat. Thus limiting any trouble the goat could get into and allowing the farmer to control the goat better. The goat was very upset with this.
When the farmer went to sleep that night, the unhappy goat chewed through the rope and took off with the rope attached to his neck.
The Moral: You Lose The Goat And The Rope
By trying to control the goat, the farmer loses everything in the end. He lost his prize goat and the brand-new rope.
This story is one example of how the more you try to control things, the less control you really have, and you may end up losing that which you value the most.
Living by My Values
Finally, I committed to aligning my daily life with my core values—things like creativity, lifelong learning, serving others, honesty, and time in nature. Even when external circumstances are difficult, living according to my deepest values provides a sense of integrity, meaning, and moral purpose.
Happiness From Within
The wisdom of Epictetus has proven true for me. The more I have cultivated happiness and purpose from within, detached from ephemeral external things, the more lasting fulfillment and resilience I have found.
I Am Enough
My contentment is no longer so easily shaken by the ups and downs of life. It comes from sources that I can always carry with me.
Wish For You
I hope sharing my story inspires your journey toward inner peace and joy. By looking within, we have access to boundless happiness.
Are you ready to let go of control? Do you want to experience freedom?
Just say Yes!