December 14

“Be deaf to those who love you most of all; they pray for bad things with good intentions.” – Seneca

The people who love us the most are also the people in the best position to do us the most harm. These are the people who, while having the best of intentions, will encourage us to be lazy with our goals.

They are the ones who will tell us that we deserve some reward, that we can take it easy because we have worked so hard already, or that it is alright if we break our own rules.

These are the people who will tell us that it is alright if we have just one beer, or if we sleep in just one day, or if we lose our tempers just one time. Because nobody is perfect.

Better than depending on them for guidance, we should live as if we are constantly being judged by those who would see us fail. What would that one coworker say to us if they saw us open that beer? How about that family member who gave us a hard time about getting up so early, wouldn’t they love to see us hit snooze right now?

We aren’t competing with those people but it is perfectly acceptable to use their judgement as motivation to stay on the path when our discipline starts to flag a little. Especially when we are being encouraged to flag by those who are trying to be supportive.

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December 13

“Follow up the impulse which prompted you to make for all that is best, treading under your feet that which is approved by the crowd.” – Seneca

There will be times along the way where we just don’t see the point. We will see everyone around us ‘living in the moment’ and getting tugged around by their emotions, giving in to the easy path, enjoying the distractions of life but man, it sure looks like they are having a good time. We will wonder why we are depriving ourselves, disciplining ourselves, and going without those distractions everyone seems to enjoy.

It is during these times that it is important to remember why we are on this path, that there is a goal here and that while it is difficult, it also makes life better.

We are better for not allowing our emotions to dictate our responses to situations. We are better for remaining in control of our thoughts, words, and actions. We are better for not trying to control the things that are outside of our control.

But it is important to stop and recognize that we are not better than those around us, we are not better than the crowds, we are not better than our peers. We are better than we used to be and that is the only comparison that matter. It is the only one we should be making.

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December 12

“If we are willing to examine critically the various causes of our fear, we shall find that some exist, and others only seem to be.” – Seneca

There are things that should keep us from doing things, we should not try to overcome obstacles that actually pose a threat to out health and well being without proper training and most importantly, a very good reason for taking these obstacles on.

But most of the time, the things that hold us back, the things that keep us from completing the tasks we have on our bucket list are not real fears. They are fears like the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, and the fear f the unknown keep us firmly on our current path.

But in order to become our best selves we are going to have to sort out the fears that matter and should be listened to and the ones that don;t matter and are better ignored.

Two thought exercises may help make that distinction for us, the first is simple. If we play out as many variations of the scenario as possible, what are the negative realistic outcomes? If none of them are a threat to our health and well being, we should ignore them.

The other thought exercise requires more, well, thought. If we were going to explain a situation we find ourselves to a friend or our future selves, would the story be one of regret of opportunity lost or one of relief for not having experienced an unnecessary hardship?

We all know which story we would rather tell.

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December 11

“Before now men have gone to meet death in a fit of rage; but when death comes to meet him, no one welcomes it cheerfully, except the man who has long since composed himself for death.” – Seneca

The sooner we make peace with the fact that the life we currently get to enjoy is going to end, the sooner we can focus on other things. Without any regard to the end result. We can work towards being kinder even if it keeps us from advancing in some aspect of our lives, because what difference does it make? We’re going to die anyway and does taking advantage of someone now really make our lives any better? No. It doesn’t. Better to be kind.

Sure we could turn it around and claim that taking advantage doesn’t matter for the same reasons. But we’d have to live with being that person for whatever the remainder of our time is. And when it all fell away and if we are fortunate to make that slow decline into old age and eventually succumb to the ravages of age; we will always know we were that person, the person who couldn’t be completely trusted.

How much sweeter is it to know that we missed some opportunities, maybe we even found ourselves taken advantage of once or twice, but when someone else’s fate was in our hands, they could always trust us to do what was right.

Because that is who we are.

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December 10

“If it falls to the lot of anyone to be set gently adrift by old age, – not suddenly torn from life, but withdrawn bit by bit, oh, verily they should thank the gods, one and all, because, after they have lived their fill, they are sent to a rest that is scheduled for everyone.”          – Seneca

We live in a culture obsessed with youth. In our world the elderly are all but forgotten, in many ways segregated out from the rest of society and dealt with as a burden we have to endure until they shrug this mortal coil. The same will likely be true for us should we be lucky enough to arrive there.

And it is lucky. Right now, we are on a path that will take the remainder of our lives to complete, and we aren’t even going to get to finish the path. We don’t get to see what is at the end. But we should want to see as much of it as we can. We should want to continue down as far as we can so long as we are still progressing and capable of progressing.

And we should continue to work towards progress. Even if that progress involves learning to thrive and enjoy our time in a society that has relegated us into the role of being a chore for others.

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December 9

“He who does not wish to die cannot have wished to live. For life is granted to us with the reservation that we shall die; to this end our path leads.” – Seneca

It’s going to happen. We can not escape it. But it also comes for everyone else. We all are going to face this fate, we are all eventually going to cease to be a part of this world. It is simply the price we all have to pay to be a part of this. We can think of it as the cost of admission.

If the cost seems steep to us, it might be that we are forgetting just how amazingly fortunate we are to be here in the state we are in.

We know considerably more about genetics now than we did just one hundred years ago and to compare the knowledge we have of things now to that held during Seneca’s time makes the philosopher seem like a barbarian. It would be wise of us to consider however, just how we might seem two thousand years from now.

If we turn back to how fortunate we are to be here, in the state we are in, with the faculties, and individual traits we currently possess we will see that the odds of us existing at all are remote.

There are twenty three chromosomes in the human genome that live in pairs, giving us a total of forty six. When males generate sperm and females generate eggs, those pairs are halved, mixed, and then turned into different variations of those twenty three chromosomes. This process leaves us with eight million possibilities in each egg, and another eight million possibilities in each sperm which equates out to sixty four trillion combination possibilities. And yet here we stand. The number of people who could have existed instead of us is greater than the number of people that have ever existed. By a large factor. That is almost sixty four trillion people who will never see a sunset, never hear the ocean, never feel a crisp breeze, and never smell the warm air after a summer shower.

Yes we have to die. But that is only because we got to live.

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December 8

“For death, when it stands near us, gives even to the inexperienced men the courage not to seek to avoid the inevitable.” – Seneca

At some point, all of us are going to reach a point where we accept our fate. If we struggle with a terminal disease long enough, if we live long enough to see that there is no escaping the inevitable end of our days, we will eventually come to accept that we are going to die.

How much better is it for us to get that out of the way now? We don’t know when we are going to die, but then again even if we were diagnosed with stage four lung cancer tomorrow, we still wouldn’t know when we were going to die. We would just have a better idea about how we were going to die. Even then, nothing is certain.

And so, we could choose now to live as if we do have a diagnosis hanging over our heads, as if we do have some sort of sense that our time line is not going to be as long as we want it to. Because, if we are honest, no matter how long our time line might be, it will never be long enough.

So instead, let’s not waste the time we have on things that don’t matter, let’s not try to control things we can’t control, let’s not allow petty things to interrupt our relationships, and let’s become the best versions of ourselves we can become in whatever time we have available to us.

And let’s live the only way anyone really can, not knowing when a moment will be our last.

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December 7

“This is a great accomplishment, and one which needs long practice to learn, to depart calmly when the inevitable hour arrives.” – Seneca

Some day, almost all of us have no idea when, we are going to die. It’s coming for us whether we are going to be ready or not. And whether we like it or not, with the way that technology, medicine, and science are constantly improving on themselves, we are all likely going to know what is going to kill us when it finally arrives.

It’s as if we are waiting for a guest to arrive but we have no idea when to expect them. And what is worse, while we aren’t exactly excited for them to come visit, we can’t stop them from visiting either.

Just as it is with guests we don’t care for but can’t keep from visiting, we should look at death as something that we are going to have to take part in, whether we like it or not, that is the cost for being a part of this world.

Anything that has to be done, anything that must be dealt with whether we like it or not should be approached with an open mind, and a calm demeanor. It doesn’t help us any to dread eating food, going to bed, or making our living in the world, it also doesn’t help us to treat death any differently.

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December 6

“A great pilot can sail even when his canvas is rent; if his ship is dismantled, he can yet put in trim what remains of her hull and hold her to course.” – Seneca

Life isn’t really out to get us, it isn’t out to ruin our day, life isn’t plotting about how to make us miserable but there are going to be days where we will not believe a single one of those words. There will be days where it will seem as though even the weather is out to destroy our mood.

The sad truth is, life isn’t out to get us because life is indifferent to our existence. We don’t matter enough for the universe to raise a figurative eyebrow.

But that can be hard to see sometimes. Sometimes, we are going to have to get by with what we have in situations where what we have doesn’t seem like it’s going to be enough.

And we are more likely to find ourselves in these situations when things are already not going well for us. For example, a flat tire is less likely to seem like a huge burden when we have the time and money to deal with it. But flat tires don’t happen in those situations. Flat tires happen on the first day of a new job we really need because we’ve depleted our savings.

How we choose to sail the ship in these moments is going to be what makes us who we are.

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December 5

“Now wisdom is an art; it should have a definite aim. Choosing only that which will make progress, but withdrawing from that which it has come to regard as hopeless.” – Seneca

One of the secrets to a happy life. Quite possibly the key ingredient to enjoying the experience of living is this: we shouldn’t worry about the things we can not control. Another way to look at the things we can not control is to see them as things that do not matter. They may seem important, and they may very well have a huge effect on the outcome of certain situations but if it lies outside our control, it does not matter.

The way that we sort out the things that matter against the things that don’t is to determine two things. The first is going to be how much control we actually have over the issue or situation in question. The second is more important, how much does it matter to the end result?

If it isn’t going to help us become better people, if it isn’t essential to the task at hand, if it isn’t going to make things better, it doesn’t matter. We can leave most things, even the things we might have control over right where we found them.

The trick to being able to determine whether or not these two questions apply to anything is to detach, to step back, not allow our emotions or thoughts to interfere and to look at the situation as objectively as possible. This ability gets better the more we practice. And we should practice everyday.

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December 4

“Therefore, as far as possible, prove yourself guilty, hunt up charges against yourself; play the part, first of accuser, then of judge, last of intercessor. At times be harsh with yourself.” – Seneca

We have a limited amount of time to do this. A limited resource that we can neither make nor purchase more of. It would make sense then, to be certain that we have an end goal in mind and that we prioritize the steps that are going to help us move towards that end goal fastest.

Where this becomes difficult is that getting better at things, becoming more disciplined, controlling our emotions, our actions, and our words takes practice. If we try to tackle the big important things right out of the gate, we are likely to fail, a lot.

But unlike travel along an actual path, we are trying to make ourselves into better people. This only takes assigning an end goal and then getting started. If we are on the wrong path we will make adjustments as we move along. If we picked the right path from the beginning, we are not being honest with ourselves and likely haven’t really made it anywhere. In other words, any movement we make is beneficial movement.

More important than getting started is being honest, brutally honest with ourselves. We have to be able to catch ourselves when we are not holding our own standard and at times, we need to be harsh – even ruthless – with our judgment.

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December 3

“For he who does not know he has sinned does not desire correction; you must discover yourself in the wrong before you can reform yourself.” – Seneca

When we set out to improve ourselves, we have to have some idea of what we are improving and we also have to have a plan on how we are going to make those changes.

Just as we wouldn’t start trying to repair a leaking pipe without actually knowing where the pipe was leaking from and having a solid plan about how to fix the problem, we should approach making ourselves into the best versions of us that we can with the same attitude.

We have to be comfortable with our short comings, familiar with our weaknesses. We might be afraid that being open about the areas we are falling short will make us appear weak, and to some that might be the case but in reality, being open about our weaknesses allows us to work on them better and we appear more secure. Even if we’re not.

Bringing the things we want to work on into the foreground makes them an area of focus. As we improve in one area we can re-evaluate and find new weaknesses to focus on.

We can do this for the rest of our lives.

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December 2

“It helps little to cast out one’s own faults if you must quarrel with those of others.”            – Seneca

There is a temptation – especially in the early part of taking up the path – to impose the standards and ideals that we are building for ourselves onto others.

When we see others losing their temper we will recognize their inability to have emotional discipline but we will fail to see that we are failing to discipline our own thoughts in allowing ourselves to judge others.

If we are really new to the path, if we believe in what we are doing but fail to constrain our emotions, if we allow ourselves to become zealots, we may even confront others with our newfound beliefs.

This leads only to difficulties we are not likely prepared to endure.

Because we are not emotionally disciplined enough to properly deal with the positions we place ourselves in, we get that rush of adrenaline where we should remain calm and steady. We become emotional and may even raise our voices when we should be detached and trying to understand the others’ point of view. And worse of all, we turn people off to our ideas when we should be attracting them by setting a better example.

We do this and then we think to ourselves that it happened because our argument wasn’t well formulated enough, or we didn’t have all the facts right, or we didn’t articulate well enough.

In truth, we shouldn’t be having arguments in the first place. We are still working on ourselves, we have no business trying to work on others. And when we are finished working on ourselves, we will see that we have no reason to be working on others.

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December 1

“The person you are matters more than the place to which you go.” – Seneca

If we travel anywhere on Earth, anywhere that other people inhabit and live out their lives that is, if we travel to those places, inevitably we will find someone living in these places who is content likely even happy living in the conditions we find them in. We could find this person in every city, every village, even some of the most remote places on earth.

The question we should find ourselves asking when we find these people – or even when we acknowledge their existence – is what it is that allows them to be happy in the situation they find themselves in.

Undoubtedly, we will find that these are people who have two things firmly in their grasp. The first is that they have control over themselves, they have a significant level of self control. This means emotions, actions, words, and even thoughts. The second thing they have a grasp on is the ability to let go of the things that are not in their control. They were born where they were born and they had access to the resources they had and they made the most of that.

in doing these things it is very likely that additional resources and opportunities will make themselves available to such people but they will be content even if these resources and opportunities never come along.

Because they have self control and the ability to let go. All at the same time.

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November 30

“You must lat aside the burdens of your mind, until you do this,no place can satisfy you.” – Seneca

We could choose any location, we could choose any occupation, we could look into any living situation, and almost any type of relationship and we could find people who were perfectly content and even, happy. We might ask ourselves how this could be but if we are being honest with ourselves we already know the answers to these questions.

People who have the ability to be content in any situation are the same people that we choose to admire for their ability to control themselves and maintain a level of discipline necessary to keep themselves from trying to control things that they can not.

For example, we do not control where we are born or the situation we are born into but we have to find a way to operate in the situation we are handed. And we have to be able to recognize the things we can control if we want to do well in the situation we find ourselves in.

But until we learn to recognize the things we can have control over – mostly we can have self control – and we learn to control those things to the best of our ability at all times, we will never be satisfied. We could have the most luxurious lives and still be miserable because we will be focused on controlling things we have no control over.

And that will always lead to misery.

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November 29

“You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate.” – Seneca

There is a commonly used saying that breaks down to basically encouraging us to build lives we don’t feel the need to take vacations to get away from. There is something to be said for that. As we are typically the source of almost all of our problems – mostly because we fail to control the things we can control because we are focused on trying to control things we actually have no control over – we fail to see that when we try to escape from the troubles of our lives, we take the source of the problem with us.

Because everywhere we travel to, we are forced to take ourselves along. We’d be better off not taking vacations, not finding new jobs, not moving away at all, until we can look at ourselves and tell ourselves honestly that we are doing a decent job controlling the things we can control and letting go of the things we can not control.

We are likely to find that if we spend just a little time everyday taking a mental inventory and assessing how we are doing at controlling the things we can and letting of of the things we can not, we won’t feel as though we need a break from our lives. Instead we may find ourselves feeling invigorated to get out there and trying to get just a little better at doing what we can to improve our own situation in the ways that we can. At the very least, we will recognize that we control our perspective and therefore our own happiness. And if we can control our own happiness, we have nothing to escape from and nowhere to escape to.

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November 28

“No man is able to borrow or buy a sound mind.” – Seneca

There are a few things in life that money absolutely can not buy us. Yes, money will make a lot of things, probably almost everything, a little easier. But for example, money is not going to give us the discipline to eat the right foods in the right amount and to exercise consistently enough to be in the best possible shape we can be in.

Money might be able to afford us an education but it is not going to give us the strength of mind to keep pushing ourselves, to keep learning, to keep seeking wisdom. That takes a sense of self control, it takes an amount of discipline that takes time to develop and effort to maintain.

Money makes us more attractive to potential love interests but money does not allow us the sef control and the self realization to see how much we get out of a relationship by putting another person’s well being ahead of our own. Money does not automatically lead to us realizing that we need to put work into a relationship in order to get the most out of it.

We can not buy many of the things that we value most in life, but through discipline, self control, and self awareness we can develop them over time.

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November 27

“But there can be no such good except as the soul discovers for itself within itself.”              – Seneca

The pursuit of happiness. Something so intrinsic to personal success and human achievement that the minds that crafted the constitution of the United States put it into the document that governs the ideas that fostered the greatest amount of human achievement in recorded human history.

The pursuit of happiness is an interesting way to view happiness, as something we have the right to pursue but not necessarily the right to possess.

What is interesting here, is that the framers of that constitution would have known about the writings of the Stoics, and in that light should have known that each individual has within themselves the keys to their own happiness.

We might not have any control over our own health, our own wealth, even our relationships but we do have control over how we view those things. We have control over how we choose to react to things that happen to us, we have control over how we choose to view the situations we find ourselves in.

And we can choose to view the world in ways that make us happy.

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November 26

“Just as crimes, even if they have not been detected when they were committed, do not allow anxiety to end with them; so with guilty pleasures, regret remains even after the pleasure is over.” – Seneca

Guilty pleasures. The things we know we shouldn’t do but we do it anyway. Sometimes we treat ourselves to the things we consider guilty pleasures as a reward for an accomplishment, sometimes as a reward for going through a difficult ordeal, but mostly we allow ourselves guilty pleasures because we can’t help ourselves. in this way, our guilty pleasures are a weakness.

We shouldn’t be doing things we feel guilty about, even a little bit, as this implies that we actually knew better and did something regardless of that knowledge.

We need to remember that who we are is simply an amalgamation of the things we do consistently. The little things we often take for granted are the things that make us who we are. The little things we do every single day. If we make the decision to indulge that weakness, even just a few times weekly, we are the person who indulges our weaknesses.

It might be that we are satisfied with being the person who indulges their weaknesses but more likely we would rather be the person who is disciplined and exhibits self control.

Self control starts with our guilty pleasures.

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November 25

“There is only one chain that binds us to life, and that is love of life. The chain may not be cast off, but it may be rubbed away, so that, when necessity shall demand, nothing may retard or hinder us from being ready to do at once that which some time we are all bound to do.” – Seneca

We are all going to die. There is nothing any of us can do to remove that fact. While we do not know the day or the time that we are going to have to shrug off this life and enter into whatever – if anything – comes after, we can live our lives prepared to leave at any time.

The simplest and likely the first step in doing this is to compare the lives we have experienced to the lives experienced by other people on Earth across space and even time.

Our lives aren’t only more comfortable than most of the other people who live on the planet at this very moment, they are also full of experience and wonder that we take for granted. If we just think through a list of the experiences we have already had, and compare them to the life experience of the average person on Earth at this point in time, we will recognize that we have already lived very full lives.

If we compare our own lives to the lives lived by anyone one hundred years ago, we will recognize that our lives are so full of experience that they have been quite full for quite awhile.

When we recognize that, we should be able to understand that leaving this life at any time doesn’t rob it of its fullness.

Our lives are already full.

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November 24

“He who has learned to die has unlearned slavery; he is above any external power, or, at any rate, he is beyond it.” – Seneca

Learning to die. Understanding that while it is possible to have control over when we leave this planet and how much time we have left, the only way to do that is to choose to leave this life right now.

For those of us that are left behind, we have no control over how much time we have left. We have no control over how much health we have left, we have no control over how much wealth we will have in the near or distant future.

But rather than allowing that to be a source of stress for us, we can recognize that no matter how much time or energy we spend on trying to control these things, we just can’t do it.

Once we recognize that, and we realize that the most important things, our health, our wealth, and even our longevity are outside of our control, we can be free to make choices about our actions without considering those things.

Even more than that, we can remain unaffected by the actions of others that appear to threaten our health, our wealth or even our own lives. We take away their power to negatively affect us by understanding that they control these things even less than we do. And we don’t control them at all. Then with the big frightening things out of the way, we can recognize that even the small things, the things that might only affect our mood, our day, even smaller periods of time, can not be affected by the actions of others.

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November 23

“Meantime, you are engaged in making of yourself the sort of person in whose company you would not dare to sin.” – Seneca

We all have an idea of what the person we would like to become looks like. We know how that person acts in situations, we know how that person speaks to others, we even know the thoughts that person thinks. We at least know enough about that person to have a rough idea of their character.

We can imagine with some ease then, that the person we want to become is watching over us, reading our minds, judging our actions and words daily.

We can use that to guide us into becoming that person. We can imagine that we are judging ourselves harshly on our actions and words, that we are chastising ourselves for the thoughts we are allowing into our own minds. We can use that judgement and the reflection of it even after the event to guide how we act in the future.

As we chip away at the person we currently are, as we move our current selves along the path by judging our actions, and the person we want to become starts to emerge we will start to become the person we want to be.

And then we can set the goals out a little further, making the end product something we never reach but something we also never stop striving to become. Because as important as it is that we become our best selves, shouldn’t it be something that takes a lifetime?

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November 22

“There is no doubt that it is good for one to have appointed a guardian over oneself, and to have someone whom you may look up to, someone whom you regard as a witness of your thoughts.” – Seneca

People who have well developed self control and discipline will stand out to us, not only because they are rare but also because they have a freedom and a grace that everyone working to improve themselves is looking to attain. We all likely have someone that we see as having the qualities that we wish we would had. Whether it is someone we know, someone we see in the public eye, or a historical figure we admire based on what we know of them. It doesn’t really matter so long as we know enough about them to have an idea about how they would act in a certain set of circumstances.

Once we have that person in mind, we can then imagine that they can see everything we do, even that they have insight into the thoughts we are thinking. Once we have that in place we can allow ourselves to imagine we were being observed by that person that we would have mentor us if it were possible, how that person would respond to our thoughts, our actions, and our words can help to guide us to getting a little bit better as people.

Ultimately, our goal should be to have that person be the person we want to be.

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November 21

“The grave and wise man should not beat a hasty retreat from life; he should make a becoming exit. And above all, he should avoid the weakness which has taken possession of so many, the lust for death.” – Seneca

When we start on a path that uses Stoic philosophy as the guiding principle, one of the first things we start to see differently is our own death. We start to recognize that -just like our birth – our death is largely outside our control and as a result, we can stop spending energy thinking about it.

A dangerous and simplistic way to look at this change in perspective is to see death as something we should embrace and look forward to. Something we should view with such indifference that we actually invite it into our lives.

But that view wouldn’t be us viewing it as something we have no control over. Because in truth, we could have control over our own deaths if we chose to. We could end this life anytime we wanted to. And in some cases, that might be the best option, but a case like that would be the extreme exception.

For most of us, the path continues not in spite of but because of the discomforts, the struggles and the hardships. They are making us into something, making us into someone. And bowing out before the path ends isn’t an option we should ever consider taking. Instead we should strive to be someone remembered for pressing on in the face of our adversity. Someone who continues on the path.

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November 20

“We do not suddenly fall on death, but advance towards it by slight degrees; we die every day.” – Seneca

This is a theme that comes up frequently in stoic philosophy, the time spent, the days behind us are already within death’s embrace. It’s a nice way to look at life and an even nicer way to look at death. As a process instead of an event. We can then look at our days, even our hours, as a finite set of resources. Something to be spent as we go along.

If we start to look at each day as something that we are going to have to hand over to death when it’s over we will start to value them differently. Maybe not more, it might be that we start to look at our time in a more utilitarian kind of way, but we will definitely see them differently when we change the way we see them ending.

When we start to see each passing minute as a part of us that has already died we will start to see death differently as well. Death is no longer an event to be feared, a spot in time we are dreading the arrival of. Instead, it is the place we have been discarding our passed time already. A place where eventually one hundred percent of our time will have been placed.

This might not be pleasant but maybe – just maybe – it will make us want to do more with that time before we place it in death’s hands.

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November 19

“Remember, however, before all else, to strip things of all that disturbs and confuses, and to see what each is at bottom; you will then comprehend that they contain nothing fearful except the actual fear.” – Seneca

The most terrifying aspect of anything we may ever attempt is the period between us deciding we are going to do something and then setting out on the actually act of doing the thing. In that moment is all of the anticipation, the expectation, and the visualization of how things are going to go, how we think they should go, and of course how everything could go wrong.

But how often are we right? The answer of course, is never. Even in the most mundane and routine of tasks, things never go exactly the way we planned them. If we need confirmation of that we can plan out brushing our teeth, to the minute detail, and then carry it out and see how close we were. It’s not the same.

But that fear, the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, even the fear of embarrassment these are all good things. They keep us humble, they keep us mostly within the scope of our abilities, and they remind us to control the things we can to the best of our ability before, during and after we attempt to reach a goal.

virtus fortis vocat

November 18

“It is indeed foolish to be unhappy now because you may be unhappy at some future time.” – Seneca

A statement so simple and obvious that we would likely laugh at ourselves if we were to allow ourselves to be unhappy right now because we know we are going to be unhappy again at some later date.

But how is that any different than us worrying about things that lie outside of our control? Or even being upset that they are going to happen?

Things that are our of our control are going to happen every single day. And many of them are going to be negative, some will also be positive but it is almost a guarantee that we will experience at least one negative thing a day that is completely out of our control.

Another way to look at that is for us to see that we have the opportunity at least once daily to recognize when an event is outside of our control as well as the opportunity to make a choice to not allow the event to affect our disposition.

So daily we will have the opportunity to practice seeing what is and what is not in our control, detaching from our situation enough to see what choices we can make, and then acting on the aspects we do have control of to keep a situation from affecting our day more than it has to.

With that much practice, we can’t help but get better.

virtus fortis vocat

November 17

“We must make it our aim already to have lived long enough.” – Seneca

We are not going to live forever. We do not know when we are going to be taken from this life and cast into the unknown of what – if anything – comes after this. We will do not know when we will leave our friends and loved ones behind.

Here, it is fair to compare our lives to the lives of other people. Specifically, we can compare our lives to the lives of people who have died before reaching the age we are currently at. Many of us will have personally known someone who has passed away before reaching our current age, some of us will have several, and some of us will have known people well before they passed.

Was their life any less valuable than ours? What about less full? Was their life in any way aside from length less than our own?

How are we sitting so ungrateful for the opportunity to live here, now and experience everything that this world has offered and provided to us? So ungrateful that we somehow feel we are entitled to more.

But if we look back at our lives, how much have we had the opportunity to experience? How many wonderful things have we witnessed? We should remember that even if it all disappears tomorrow, our lives were full and most importantly, they have been ours.

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November 16

“There are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose: the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river.” – Seneca

There are two principles for today’s meditation. The first is that there will be people not on the path, people who do not care about the path we are on, and people who are ‘content’ to travel through the world miserable and victims of their own apathy. These people do not matter to us as far as our view of who we are is concerned, we have zero business comparing ourselves to them.

We really shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to anyone except for who we were in the recent past. And really we should be thinking recent, comparing ourselves to who we were ten years ago is not fair. Especially if we’ve been working at becoming better people for awhile.

If we must compare to someone, the second principle of today’s meditation is that people with self control, people with discipline, they stand out. They stand far apart from the crowd. And they don’t have to be flashy, they don’t have to remind us, they typically don’t have to say anything. We can often pick them out by the way they carry themselves, the way they greet us in social settings, and the way that they choose to speak. People who have control over the things they can control are attractive to us because they stand outside the crowd but are comfortable where they stand.

We should be aiming to be people who stand comfortably apart.

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November 15

“”Pleasure, unless it is kept within bounds, tends to rush headlong into the abyss of sorrow.” – Seneca

There is nothing wrong with us enjoying ourselves. Good times, especially those spent with people we care about build relationships and strengthen bonds. Even on our own, there are things we may find pleasurable that are not in and of themselves bad things.

But even when we enjoy ourselves with our loved ones, even the most important of pleasures we enjoy within the most important of relationships we have, can be taken too far. And when we do start to focus only on the pleasure, only on the good times, even the strongest of relationships will start to feel shallow and unfulfilling. Even the strongest bonds will start to break down and relationships can become damaged.

How can we avoid this? Oddly enough, we avoid damaging relationships with too much pleasure in the same way that we strengthen ourselves against too much luxury, by struggling and focusing on building something worthwhile. And when we do that with our friends and loved ones, we develop stronger bonds and better relationships.

We do this by looking for opportunities to grow together as people. With life partners, family members and close personal friends this is easier as those bonds have been made and open lines of communication have been established.

With people a little further outside of our circle, sharing these struggles and finding common goals will be harder, but it will also be worth it. Detaching from our current situation with the goal of finding these opportunities in our work lives, our neighborhoods, and other communities will be well worth the effort.

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November 14

“Do the one thing that can render you really happy: cast aside and trample under foot all the things that glitter outwardly and are held out to you by another or as obtainable from another.” – Seneca

No matter what type of philosophy we embrace, no matter what part of the world we travel to, even if we could travel through time we still could not find a place where this message was not considered a part of enlightenment. The removal of the desire for material things is center in all of the major philosophies.

The removal of the desire for material things is not the same as not having any material things. It means that we are not moved by our need to own things, we do not allow our desire to have nice things or luxuries to make our decisions about how we work, how we make money in other ways, or how much time we spend – or don’t spend – with our families.

For some of us that might very well mean getting rid of all of our possessions and spending some time with nothing. But for most of us it is a simple shift in mindset that makes us look at the things we own as traps and this shift in perspective sets on a path to avoid being trapped by the things we own.

We can keep the things we own from owning us by removing our desire to add to their numbers.

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