I thought this was incredibly appropriate as I spent part of last evening looking at vacation homes on Zillow. Now in my current job I can barely take a Friday off, so even if I could afford a vacation home, I would rarely get a chance to enjoy it.
Time to take some advice from Seneca, and not want what I don’t have, and appreciate what I do have. We have been raised in a hyper consumer oriented society, where money and stuff rule. This is where philosophy is needed to do battle with what we call life. Of course all this consumption and destruction of the earth does not have to be a mandatory part of your life.
Don’t let advertisers tell you you need a new car, a nicer home, more shit that you never use, or any other material thing. Be happy with what you have and stop craving more stuff.
Reading this quote this morning from Marcus Aurelius reminded me that there are few limits on us, except for those we impose upon ourselves. It’s not that we can’t do something, in fact it’s often a matter of desire.
Look around you to those that you consider are doing great things and have become successful. Are they smarter, more driven, better educated, or luckier than you? Hell no, you are just as capable as they are. The only difference is they believed they could do it, and so can you. It is rarely the case that we can’t do something, but instead it is our belief that holds us back.
Stop sabotaging your life and start believing in yourself.
There is so much to do, and we only have so much energy or time. If you try to do it all, then you become discouraged and exhausted by it all. Recognize what can wait, and focus your efforts on high value tasks.
Remember you are not a machine, and it becomes impossible to do it all. It is not only impossible, but it drains you of the energy needed to do the truly important things.
Marcus Aurelius wrote the book Meditations for himself. These became reminders on how to be as a person, advice to himself on how to live. This practice often takes the form of journaling or blogging for us. We often need to remind ourselves of what is important, and how we want to act.
It’s not a one and done process. We must feed the mind good thoughts, much as we feed the body good food. What is your food for the mind today?
In our rush to do more or be more, there is often little introspection focused on ourselves. Oh sure we focus on ourselves, but not in knowing who we are, instead we try all kinds of things to improve who we are.
We spend most of our time creating a persona for the rest of the world. I am successful, wealthy, fit, smart, or whatever else supports this mirage created for public consumption. We want other people to admire us, to love us, so that we can be of value to our fellow man. Well at least that’s the story we tell ourselves, and then we die never really knowing ourself.
Take some time today and think about who you really are, and what you love to do. Do this without limiting yourself to your current situation or role. What would your life look like if it was an authentic representation of who you really are?
We spend most of our lives thinking things will get better in the future, once I achieve this or that. We defer happiness in the now on a hope. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have dreams or goals, but you can’t defer happiness for something in the future. No one is guaranteed a future, and that thing you want will just be another milestone in your goal driven existence.
As human beings we are never really satisfied, which is why it’s so crazy to think happiness can exist anywhere, but the present moment. Have you noticed that the momentary happiness for that new job, car, house, or whatever you want wears off pretty quickly, then it’s on to the next stupid goal. For Christ sake, this is just some endless carrot and stick game and you’re the donkey.
Stop fixating on some future thing or version of yourself you want to be. Is your current life, yes the one you are living right now so miserable?
Epictetus is saying if you can be happy now, you are not wanting anything else. Dammit if you can’t find something to be grateful for, then look a little harder. Stop wanting all that shit, it won’t make you happy anyway.
Marcus Aurelius is advising that what is good for everyone is good for you.
We all need to relax from time to time, but there are different ways of relaxing and they are not equal. If you go complete zombie and use alcohol or drugs to just vegitate for days on end, a couple things happen. One you wasted a colossal amount of time achieving absolutely nothing, but killing off some brain or liver cells. Secondly you don’t actually feel rested or any better about your life, in fact you only feel a bit guilty.
Replace this kind of leisure with reading, walking, yoga, meditation, or anything else that is both relaxing and leaves you feeling better. So many people feel they have to fly around the world to have fun and enjoy themselves; of course this is bullshit. Taking a nice long walk is free, and can be done almost anywhere. We all need to relax, but don’t become some pleasure seeking fool, that ends up destroyed by vices that were started as a form of leisure.
You think you have problems that challenge your ability to choose what you want in your life. You feel that you are compelled to go against your best instincts. I understand this and am empathetic to your plight, but consider the challenges of what John McCain or Viktor Frankl endured to preserve their freedom of choice.
John McCain was tortured by the North Vietnamese in prison, offered to be let go early and refused so he could stay with his men. Viktor Frankl endured life as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, and created a whole new branch of psychology based on human choice and the greatness inherent in us all. Are your problems really preventing you from exercising your freedom of choice?
For God’s sake, you are not living in a concentration camp or a prison in a foreign country, or maybe the prison is of your own making. Ask yourself who controls your choices? Are these choices dictated by some external force or situation? Take back control and let your freedom of choice guide you.