“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
To my friends who may be worried about the future. You have more power than you know. The incoming orange president has only the power you are willing to give him. Be not afraid but rather draw your tribe closer around you and remember that whatever happens you are the only one in charge of your mind. Donald J. Trump once said that “what separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate.” He’s exactly right, even if he isn’t approaching life from a stoic point of view.
You are in charge of yourself and that’s enough to make of life exactly what you want to make of it. No one but you is in control of your own operating system.
The world you inhabit isn’t about anyone you don’t choose to include in it. This may sound complicated, but it is only as complicated as you make it. Even if you’re incarcerated, you are in control of your mind, and that’s the part of you where reality happens.
The ancient Greeks who came up with the philosophy of Stoicism didn’t know as much as we do about the nature of the universe. They might have known more than we 21st century denizens know about living the good life. They believed in understanding and then facing the obstacles life threw at them. Epictetus, one of the most prominent Stoics, was born a slave. He believed that everything good in our lives starts within ourselves. In his way of seeing the world, nothing external can make us feel anything, and it is only what we tell ourselves about the world around us that results in our emotional reactions.
For my readers, many of whom are also my friends, I give you these principles to contemplate:
- Acknowledge that all emotions come from within
- Find someone you respect, and use them to stay honest
- Understand that failure is the path to growth and later triumphs
- Read with purpose
- Learn to be brutally honest, starting with yourself
- Understand what you spend most of your time doing, and understand what value is returned
- Use that knowledge to avoid procrastination
- Be present in the present
- Remember that time is the most valuable finite resource you have
In 2017, I intend to write weekly on this website about the Stoic philosophy, and what I’m learning from exploring it. I hope you will join me. Let’s grow together as we explore the wisdom of the past to exert the self-control that is fundamental to growth and success in life.
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