Jan. 17 – Perception makes the difference.

“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.” – Epictetus

I find it important to remember that my perception of the world is more influential than the actual events I experience. What I am referencing here is that how I react to my day is entirely within my control. It’s only when I sacrifice that control that I suffer needlessly.

Stuff happens. No matter how you frame it, at any given moment there’s a chance everything will go wrong. That doesn’t mean I have to become angry, sad or stressed just because my alarm didn’t go off, I’m running late, there’s a traffic jam on the road today, and I just got a flat tire and will now miss work.

I can choose to simply accept that “sometimes stuff happens” and move on to the task at hand—changing the tire. I do not have to allow external events beyond my control create internal stress for me. All I really control is how I react to the world.

There’s no point in sacrificing that control and allowing external events to upset you. We can easily become stuck in toxic patterns of reaction. Instead, try crafting the days into something productive. Every time a disaster lands on your lap—work on fixing it rather than yelling at it. I like to say I never have a bad day. That’s because no matter how messed up my day’s been, I’m in control of how I react. I get to choose how I frame my day.

I choose to only have great days. There are definitely challenges more often than not in my life, but I control my own narrative. I choose to not allow “stuff” to disrupt my peace of mind. We only have this one lifetime—that’s only about 75-90 years to get our lives in order. So, why not try putting off waiting for better days to magically arrive and instead try to create them?

Jan. 13 – Which do you desire position or freedom?

“Do not desire to be a general, or a senator, or a consul, but to be free; and the only way to this is a disregard of things which lie not within our own power.” – Epictetus, Enchiridion

A major liability of position is its reliance on others for power. In order to achieve higher positions of authority we end up sacrificing our personal power to the opinions and whims of others. Would it not be better to be free than to become both entwined and enslaved to the will of others?

I think we sometimes have dreams of position as something to be envied and desired. In reality these positions are rarely what they seem. We may have gained some power but we also lose our freedom to the thousand influences upon which we will rely to remain in our position.

So, be wary of sacrificing your freedom or power. It’s alway more difficult to regain than it is to surrender.

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. 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.

“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.

“Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.”

– The Enchiridion by Epictetus, VIII

Stop wasting your precious time just waiting and expecting life to magically meet your every want and need. Nature works to ensure the best results for the whole and not the individual. This is an important observation too many forget.

Rather, be content that the world works on a foundation of natural and social laws. This makes life predictable. Remember, with careful planning you can better prepare yourself for the unknowable storms brought on by chance.

Key Points:

You’re unlikely to win the lottery. So, where else could you invest that dollar?

You’re not going to become stronger without exercise. So, what muscles have you strengthened today?

You’re not going to feel accomplished until you struggle to overcome difficult obstacles. So, what does your mind desire and how are you overcoming the obstacles necessary to obtain it today?