“… the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”
(From The War of Art by Steven Pressfield)
If you want to lead a peaceful life, here is the rule of thumb: Never care about things you can’t control, and take complete responsibility over things you can control.
Things you can’t control: the past, the unseen future, and the way others behave.
Things you can control: what you think, what you speak, what you do in the present moment.
In short, you only need to care about what you are, here and now.
Isn’t this self-centeredness? Of course, we are not preaching selfishness here. We don’t say that you should live only for yourself, or that you shouldn’t help others. Take care of how you help others, take full responsibility of your actions in the present and do your best to help others, but you don’t have the right to worry about the outcome or how the helped will respond to you.
Check out this video where Eckhart Tolle says, “Your primary responsibility is to take care of your state of consciousness which determines the kind of world you create.”
If you think about it, you’ll know that this is the only practical way of living. More than anything else, what you are in the present determines your future. When you take complete responsibility over what you are, what you think, speak and do, everything else takes care of itself.
Isn’t this what is meant in this shloka from the Bhagavad Gita?
You have the right to perform action, but not the fruits thereof at any time; let not the fruits of your actions be your motive, and let there not be attachment to inaction.
— Bhagavad Gita 2.47