Jan. 6 – Your actions matter.

“This is the kernel of my advice: treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters.” – Seneca

There are a thousand different versions of this same golden rule, but the message is always clear. We should treat others as we wish to be treated.

There are good reasons to adopt this practice in your life. It’s important to remember that people are social and tribal creatures. This means that our actions toward others matter in the community.

As social animals we can’t help judging ourselves and our peers based on how we interact, adopt and follow the cultural rules of the communities and tribes we belong to in this world.

We should not only treat others well because it’s the right thing to do, but it also has positive impacts on your reputation in the community.

If others think well of you, they will be more willing to do business with you and even assist you in your time of need should it arise. However, there are no benefits to treating others poorly. In fact, treating others rudely or cruelly can only create obstacles by creating an enemy who will have no motivation to cooperate or assist you in the future.

Jan. 5 – Some things are simply outside of your control.

There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. – Epictetus, Enchiridion

When we think about Nature we tend to immediately recognize that some things are simply outside of our control. The weather can turn, an earthquake can strike and a volcano could erupt and we would never be upset at ourselves for failing to prevent a storm from occurring. I mean, Nature is just being Nature after all.

How strange, that we are not nearly as kind with chance in our daily lives. I think that’s a shame. There are many things in our lives that we cannot control and it would do us well to remember to treat ourselves and others kindly when we experience them.

Traffic, electrical grid blackouts and internet/cable outages are just a few examples of modern inconveniences which both remain outside of our control, and that we often allow to disrupt and disturb our peace of mind.

What good does it do to stress and complain about the things you cannot change? Just as you cannot change the traffic, you also cannot change the opinions of others, so why bother being upset about these things?

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the best plans possible in our lives, but it does mean we shouldn’t be upset when things don’t go according to that plan. Nature is unpredictable after all, and therefore our lives are just as subject to change without notice.

So, be kind and patient. Make it your goal to always endure wisely the situations you cannot change. Don’t become another misanthrope or an angry zealot. Nobody needs another annoyance added to their lives so take care you never become one.

Jan. 4 – Results require hard work.

“If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures”-Musonius Rufus

When we challenge ourselves to grow and become better versions of ourselves, we engage in a labor of love. It’s not easy work, but our appreciation of ourselves and the vision we see of ourselves in that not-so-distant future is what inspires us to overcome the great obstacles we encounter.

When we succeed in our labors and fulfill our goals we create something lasting through our hard work. We will find that time has quickly passed and that the pain of all that labor for a worthy cause is soon forgotten.

In the end, all that remains to us is this new person in the mirror. He is the result of our labor and all the hard work and pain of the journey to get here will soon be forgotten.

Jan. 3 – Don’t give up. All you have for certain are the promises you make to yourself.

“Consider at what price you sell your integrity; but please, for God’s sake, don’t sell it cheap.”-Epictetus, Discourses I

When the new year came you made commitments to yourself. How sad would it be if you cannot keep your promises to yourself?

When you follow through on your commitments something amazing happens. You begin to build resilience, and that resilience translates into more productive and empowering days.

These days will quickly add together, and before you know it, you will have either built a future from powerful life-changing habits or you will have lost all your willpower and be left alone and disappointed, mostly in yourself, for failing to take a stand to be something else.

So, be strong. Take a stand, and invest in your future today by always keeping the promises you make to yourself. It’s really a type of self-fulfilling magic available to anyone with the wisdom to use it.

When you keep the promises you make to yourself, you also increase your faith in your ability to succeed in the presence of hardship. You will begin to have the courage to seek greater challenges, and you will find that fewer things in life intimidate you as they did before.

You will have built a reservoir of trust, and you will now know that when you make a decision in life you will always follow through and accomplish it. Faith in that belief is an important source of personal strength. You can now choose to build or tear down that faith every day based on whether you are willing to keep a promise made to yourself.

Jan. 2 – is the day we realized we bit off more than we could chew.

“Always stand as it were on guard, and mark the attacks and charges of Fortune long before she delivers them; she is only terrible to those whom she catches unawares; he who is always looking out for her assault, easily sustains it.” -Seneca

So, today is the day we often realize that the one thousand good habits we resolved to uphold on New Year’s Eve can become quite unsustainable without some careful planning.

On that last night of glee and vice you pledged to make yourself a better, stronger, healthier (fill in the blank) person. It doesn’t really matter what your resolution was that night. Today is often the day we will realize that what we hoped to achieve is far more difficult than we realized.

In this way Fortune—that strange and coincidental luck that spontaneously assists and hinders us—appears to slowly sneak up on us and steal our zeal for change until we give up the struggle to become something new and settle on remaining broken, unfulfilled or indifferent.

The truth is that Fortune isn’t involved in your success or failure. You alone hold that power. Careful preparation, resolve, patience and endurance are some of the virtues you can choose to embrace to overcome the obstacles in your path.

Yes, life at times will give you some unexpected grief and pain—if it hasn’t yet, it will—so we need to accept that truth. Pain and discomfort are part of our lives and are not to be avoided, but accepted as natural and right. Making plans to reduce that pain is all we can really do. The amazing truth is that by making those plans and by sticking to our goals, we actually can force ourselves to become more aware and better connected to our surroundings.

This means we not only become more aware of the dangers slowly approaching on the horizon, but we equally begin to notice the unseen opportunities in the chaos.

Remember, those who fail to plan tend blame their misfortunes on luck. That’s a shame. If you fail to take responsibility for holding yourself accountable to achieving greatness, you’re missing out on the real secret of success.

No one becomes great without planning, practice and pain.

Jan. 1 – is just an arbitrary date, yet we choose it to start anew.

This bridge flooded on New Year’s Day. So it’s an apt reminder that’s there’s always more than one path to where you’re going if you’re willing to look.

“…self awareness is so key to initial success. You have to know who you are, what you value, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and where you want to go.” -B. Burchard, High Performance Habits

When it comes to fulfilling our goals in this life we can actually rely on a single indicator to keep us informed on our progress or derailment.

What’s truly amazing is that we tend to never pay attention to the obvious cues around us and instead focus on the “dream” rather than the journey and the thousand steps we must take to make it to our destination successfully.

Clarity is the key indicator we can use to distinguish the ephemeral “dream” from a well-planned goal. Dreams, after all, are a quickly fading image of a final destination in an unknown land. You may know what you want, but often all the other details are left unanswered. In this way, you’re left not knowing how you’re going to make it to that far off dreamland.

Just having a image of what you’re longing for isn’t enough to help you accomplish it.

You could keep a photo of a mansion in your pocket every day, but the image does not help you buy that mansion. An image alone doesn’t even tell you where the property is located so you can call an inquire on its price.

Images are not enough, and that’s why dreams alone will not bring you the success or fulfillment you seek.

Clarity is about being open, honest and clear with yourself and others about who you are, what you want to accomplish or achieve, and most importantly how you are going to take the steps necessary to make it to your goal.

You better reflect and figure out what steps, sacrifices and pain you’re going to have to endure in order to win. You can’t leave a gap in any of your plans and just hope that a door will open or that someone will help you along the way.

You must have a thorough plan with the detailed steps that you’re going to take each day to get you where you want to go. If fortune favors you and an opportunity arises that allows you to skip ahead on your journey—congratulations! Go right ahead and take the help extended. Regardless, plan to do it all on your own.

Fortune favors few.

Your duty is to plan several paths to your goal. In this way, when a door closes you’ll still have more than one option to follow without giving up. Don’t count count on anything but the certainty that all things change in this life and everything is therefore unknowable in most ways.

Be clear on what you want and clearer still on how you will achieve it.

“It is impossible for a man to begin to learn that which he thinks that he knows.” – The Discourses (Book II) by Epictetus, Chapter XVII

There’s no surer way to set yourself up for failure than to begin any task with the mindset that you have all the answers.

Yes, it’s hard to hold your tongue when you see something being done inefficiently, and it’s even more difficult to keep the peace when you hear someone speak something untrue.

No matter the challenge, be steadfast, and hold your opinion. Ask questions and try to understand how the people around you have come to their positions.

When you remain silent, those around will continue to speak. The more they share, the better you will understand them and the task at hand.

You can’t learn a skill by talking to your teacher. Remember your primary school days. The student is silent. He observes how the teacher handles the situation in front of her. He listens to the words spoken and asks questions when clarity is needed.

Why is it then, in our adult lives, that we stop listening? How do we expect to learn unless we’re willing to be quiet and ask questions? Did you ever tell your history professor he was wrong when he lectured on the civilizations of the past?

Likely not, you trusted he knew something you didn’t. You listened in order to learn. You asked questions in order to understand.

There’s a great motto a mentor shared with me, and her message has helped me a great deal in my life.

“Trust, but verify.”

Even though we should seek to understand the people and their unique opinions when we encounter them, it doesn’t mean we don’t verify the information they share.

Treat knowledge like a loaded gun. Just because the person to your left said he removed the bullets, doesn’t mean I’m not going to check. If we don’t verify information in life, at some point disaster will strike, and that’s pain that could have been avoided.