Jan. 19 – Perception is everything.

“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Perception is everything. Marcus clearly calls our attention to this fact by guiding us to the acknowledgment that we hold in our power the ability to discern between what is our merely our own judgment and what is simply an event in our lives.

Don’t underestimate the power of your own judgement on not only your personal performance but also on the people around you. When we make mental judgments we are effectively framing our situations and that can be limiting to how we and others interact with the situations we encounter.

Think about how we react when we receive unexpected and potentially damaging news at work. If we react to that news with a judgement call—a negative mindset—we risk framing the situation and limiting our ability to see anything other than the negative repercussions we expect.

It may be true that the news you received could have immediate negative impacts to your organization. However, it’s also possible that there are just as many unseen opportunities for innovation that could create additional value from the same news. If we approach unexpected news in general as negative, we risk limiting our ability to perceive anything but the disasters we anticipate.

Don’t let this happen to you. Bad news is just news. Use it. Review it. See it for what it is—just a change in your environment and an opportunity to take a different path.

Jan. 18 – Happiness can’t be forced.

“Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

It’s helpful to remember that we can’t force happiness into our lives. Happiness isn’t a goal that we can mark on journals and then one day celebrate our great achievement.

When we look back in our lives there’s never going to be a moment where we can say “Ah-ha! There it is! There was the day I finally achieved the happiness I was looking for.” Happiness is a feeling and as such it’s fleeting—never staying in one place for long but always around the next corner if you know where to look.

It’s okay to not be happy as well. In order for us to appreciate that feeling of spontaneous joy, love and community, we also need to feel what it’s also like to live without those benefits. There’s no better way to appreciate something than to recognize its absence in our life.

That’s a good thing because it gives us a starting place for change. We can use these other moments of difficulty and trial in our life to focus our attention on what matters—like finding love and community. Find these things and you’ll find your moments of happiness.

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. 16 – Nothing that happens to us is unnatural.

“…Nothing will happen to me which is not conformable to the nature of the universe…” -Marcus Aurelius

I find it comforting to remember that no matter what the universe throws at me it’s nothing new. All things conform to the laws of nature and my experiences are no different than anyone else’s. In this way, it’s unreasonable for me to fear uncertainty in this life. Everything is to be expected.

So, rather than rage against hardship and misfortune, we can choose to embrace our paths and accept the difficulties placed in front of us for what they are—natural occurrences—just a thunderstorm in our lives.

All storms pass. All colors fade. All we have to do is learn to accept it’s just another day.

Jan. 15 – Just because we have it doesn’t mean we need it.

“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.” -Seneca

We live in a world based on consumerism. This means that our entire model of society is based on the economics behind someone selling “something” to everyone at any given moment. There are so many objects of convenience and distraction in existence today that did not exist 10 years ago that we truly are being overwhelmed.

How do we come to terms with acknowledging what’s possible while abstaining from spending our time in non-productive ways?

The danger of convenience is that it too easily distracts us from the labor necessary to grow, expand and create more complex solutions to life’s difficulties. In a nutshell, instead of taking the time to explore and develop solutions to problems, like ending homelessness in our communities, we find ourselves spending our time playing Candy Crush, watching the latest season of Game of Thrones, or scrolling our Facebook feeds.

Just because we have the option to spend our days in idle leisure doesn’t mean we should. We have to start critically asking ourselves how are we benefiting ourselves with the million distractions that are now available to us. How else could we be spending our time? What are we accomplishing by spending our time in such unproductive ways?

Jan. 14 – An offer to help can be just easily withdrawn.

“The boon that could be given can be withdrawn.” – Seneca

Don’t forget that an offer to help can be just as easily taken away. This means we must learn to be self-sufficient and not rely on others for success. Help in any form whether it be advice, labor or a physical gift should be treated the same. Any gift can be a blessing. Just don’t come to rely on the goodwill of others or luck to pave your path for you.

Seneca’s quote is just another reminder of the timeless message that “All things change.” We must remember that at any moment our circumstances can be altered without notice. The best we can do is plan our decisions, as best we can with the information available, and prepare for those plans to at some point fail us. Accept that unfortunate truth and plan for those failures. Preparing the right backup plan can make all the difference when your world comes crashing down.

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.