July 31

“I do not regard a person as poor, if the little that remains is enough for them.” – Seneca

Not being able to meet our needs would be a terrible thing. There are people on Earth today, this very moment, who are going to lose their lives because they can not get enough to eat.

Chances are, if we are reading these pages on the internet, we not only are far removed from that risk but the risk is so foreign to us that we would rather forget that it exists and is a reality for over three million people a year.

Paradoxically, remembering that the world is full of suffering and pain that we can not begin to imagine is the surest way to contentment. Because when we are aware of how bad things are for some people and when we realize that those around them still survive and press on, even in the face of completely ambivalent darkness, we can worry a little less about our own ‘problems.’

We are not starving, we do not know what true thirst really feels like, we are no exposed to the elements against our will, and on top of that we have access to all of the information we could ever want at the tips of our fingers. We are richer than our ancestors ever could have imagined.

Let’s not allow ourselves to be richer than we appreciate.

virtus fortis vocat

 

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July 30

“Lay hold of today’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by.” – Seneca

We have right now. We might not be here tomorrow and frankly, we have right now. What else are we going to do with this moment? Are we going to click on another online ‘article’ about ten more reasons we can’t live without Chia seeds?

Or are we going to spend some time working on becoming better people? On working on the things we want to accomplish? On spending time on what is important? Truly important.

We can’t get any of this stuff called time back. It ticks away one second at a time. Sixty of those become minutes, then hours, before we know it a whole day is wasted and we are no closer to becoming better. At anything.

We can use this time to read. To write. To reflect. To develop a skill.

If we carry a book around with us all the time and read while we are waiting in line, while we are waiting anywhere. Even if it’s only for ten minutes a day, that is sixty hours of reading a year. We can read a lot of books in sixty hours.

We could learn a lot, do a lot, become better with these moments.

Because these moments are our lives. Let’s live them.

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July 29

“For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years are behind us are in death’s hands.” – Seneca

It is amazing how much can be gleaned from looking at something we have always known in a new light.

When we start looking at our lives as a finite resource, one that for many of us has likely already been more than half spent, we start to see how important it is to make the most of what we have been given.

When we acknowledge that we have no idea how much of this resource we call life we actually have and therefore have no idea how much we might have left, it intensifies our need to make the most of whatever we have been given.

That’s not to say that our lives need to be some frantic attempt to cram in as much experience as possible before the clock runs out. Rather, we should waste no time in determining where our remaining time is best spent. What are the things that truly matter to us and what are the things we should likely remove from our lives altogether?

Once we’ve mastered that we’ll likely have no issue with seeing the passing of each day as a tiny dose of death. One that will eventually catch up with us.

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July 28

“Certain moments are torn from us, some are gently removed, and others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness.”              – Seneca

We get this time. We get now and we get to do it here. Practically all of us will have a tomorrow, almost all of us will have a month, nearly all of us have a year, many of us have a decade, maybe even a few decades. But none of us have a century left. None.

These moments, these are what we build a life out of. The moments we spend the majority of our time thinking about, planning, and saving our hard earned money for, those moments are distractions. They are fulfilling and important distractions to be sure but even the trip of a lifetime is not what makes a lifetime.

Life is lived in the mundane, the day to day. How we treat the people we share this life with when we get to spend time with them is what makes our life.

For most of us, the important parts of our lives will be the relationships we have with others. Most of the time we spend with those people involves things such as, getting ready for work in the morning, making and eating dinner, and doing chores. Life is lived in the mundane.

But how we choose to experience the mundane is what makes a life. Let’s make ours worth living.

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July 27

“Why do you not rather cast your eyes around yourselves at the ills which tear you to pieces on every side, some attacking from without, some burning in your own bosoms?”   – Seneca

We are all guilty. It’s probably the most common of the human conditions. We make snap judgments about the faults of others but take ages to recognize our own faults and often we never go about the effort of addressing them.

Too often, the things we see in others are simply a product of us catching them in moments that are not their finest or us filtering their actions through the lens of our own experience.

Unlearning this behavior will likely take a lifetime and while it is a worthwhile endeavor, there is at least one thing we can do daily to help make ourselves a little more aware of how this weakness creeps into our daily lives.

We should, at least once daily, think back on the previous day and try to find a few instances where if someone had caught us in just that moment and made a judgment call about us, they would be left thinking we were completely incompetent.

Chances are, we will be able to find several without even really thinking too hard and long about it. If we practice we can become good at this, if we are consistent, this will spill over into other aspects of our lives and we will find ourselves being a little more forgiving with our judgment of others.

And that would make us better than we are today.

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July 26

“Bound upon me, rush upon me, I will overcome you by enduring your onset: whatever strikes against that which is firm and unconquerable merely injures itself with its own violence.” – Seneca

The world will bound upon us. Life will come at us fast, hard, and eventually it will kill us all. But between now and that day, we get to choose how we allow the hardships life has in store for us to affect us.

There is always a choice. And whether we choose to make a choice or allow ourselves to choose without thinking, we are always making a choice. We can choose to be reactive, completely affected by the things happening to and around us. In this case we are choosing to be affected by things we can not control and our lives will be an endless course of frustration, annoyance, and irritation punctuated by moments of pleasure and enjoyment for certain but even then we are likely to miss out on fully enjoying these as we respond to external stimuli. Or we can choose to be resolute, steadfast, and completely detached from the things happening to and around us. Paradoxically, it is by stepping back and detaching from the things happening to and around us, that we are able to enjoy the process we are involved in.

And when we start to enjoy even the difficult things, we become the rock that the rest of the world either relies on or breaks itself against.

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July 25

“The hardness of flint is known by none so well as those who strike it.” – Seneca

The difficulty of life is present in all of our lives but those among us who rise and meet that difficulty head on with the intention of not just getting through the difficulty but harnessing it and using it to their advantage to become better people and maybe even find an opportunity in the difficulty, they alone taste the sweetness life has to offer.

Sure sitting in the sun and enjoying its warming rays feels good to all of us, but how much better does it feel to someone who has been cold, wet, tired, and in the dark for several days?

Life is going to bring hardship to our front door whether we are prepared for it or not. It will show up whether we are willing to make the most of it or not as well. But what won’t happen, is we won’t be able to learn and grow, we won’t get the experience life has to offer if we don’t accept the hardship and try our best to get something good out of it.

We will never know just how good we are until we strike out at the hard times we are going through and try to break off just a little piece of goodness to make something out of. And until we do that, we will never know just how hard we can be.

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July 24

“Praise good men if you are able: if not, pass by them in silence: if indeed you take pleasure in this offensive abusiveness, fall foul of one another: for when you rave against Heaven, I do not say that you commit sacrilege but you waste your time.”                – Seneca

People doing work they consider to be important or especially doing work they consider to be a reflection of their best self can take an incredible amount of misguided and ad hominem abuse and criticism before it even seems to affect them at all.

We may find ourselves wondering how. How do they ignore this abuse? How do they not hear the criticism of their life’s work? How do they not take this personally?

Likely, they understand that they do not control what people think about what they are doing, they don’t control how other people act, and they understand that they only control how they choose to respond to the world around them. Including people intent on criticizing things they do not understand.

It’s easy to let other people’s voices get into our minds and under our skin. But it does us no good and takes away from our primary goal. And how often, after we have had a chance to reflect on the criticism, do we find that it was well informed and we were able to use it to improve what we were doing? Never. Or at least, almost never.

Better to follow the lessons of the great and keep our heads down and our shoulders leaned into the important tasks. Let the world around us do what it will and let our work speak for us.

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July 23

“Although this conduct of yours does not hurt me, yet, for your own sakes, I advise you, respect virtue: believe those who having long followed her cry aloud that what they follow is a thing of might, and daily appears mightier.” – Seneca

There is amount of frustration that comes with always doing the right thing in dealing with other human beings. There will be times where it feels as if getting ahead is a futile effort and the entire world is stacked in favor of those willing to bend their ethics in order to get the immediate win.

And while the easy thing to do is to tell ourselves that everyone gets what they deserve in the end, we also know at some level that is is fundamentally not true. Terrible people succeed all the time. Good people struggle and some of them never seem to catch a break in life.

But these are things that we can not control and we do not worry about the things that lie outside of our control. Instead, we focus on the things that lie firmly within our sphere of influence. We focus on working towards being our best selves, in all situations, all of the time. We might not always be successful but we always put in the effort.

And our best self does the right thing, in every situation. Even if it hurts.

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July 22

“Your opinion of me affects me with pain, not for my own sake but for yours, because to hate perfection and assail virtue is in itself a resignation of all hope of doing well.”             – Seneca

The notion that the trick to being happy is not caring what others think of us is often used as an excuse to act like an absolute fool and somehow mentally remove any guilt we might feel over our behavior. This may actually work for some people but for those of us actually putting the work into becoming the best possible versions of ourselves, it just won’t work like that.

This is because those of us on this path will end up reflecting on our behavior and trying to see how we come across through the eyes of the people impacted by our actions. If we are being honest with ourselves and if we have been acting like fools, we will realize it. And we will regret it.

Even if we are acting in the manner we hope to and coming across exactly like we want to, there will be people who hate us for it. This is where self reflection is actually a protective measure instead of a tool for being critical with ourselves.

People who have given up on becoming better, either as people, at a skill, or just in general will always find a way to criticize, mock, or degrade someone still making the attempt. It is only through self reflection, listening to what others have to say and then applying a reasonable amount of logic to a situation that we will be able to determine what sort of situation we find ourselves in. Fortunately, this gets easier with practice.

And we should practice everyday.

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July 21

“I have no more fixed principle than that of not altering the course of my life to suit your prejudices; you may pour your accustomed talk upon me from all sides; I shall not think you are abusing me, but that you are merely wailing like poor little babies.” – Seneca

It doesn’t matter what we decide to dedicate ourselves to, there will always be detractors. There will always be people standing on the sidelines giving us their unsolicited opinion about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and the value of our choices.

The easier position to take is to tell ourselves not to listen to them. We can remind ourselves that ‘haters gonna hate’ or that the only thing that matters is ‘the man in the arena’ but that doesn’t really give us the flexibility and perspective we need to fully embrace the path of becoming the best possible version of ourselves.

Instead, we should be listening to people when they criticize our actions, intentions, and ideas. We should try to look at it from their point of view and we should learn to determine whether or not their argument has merit. Because it might.

It might be that we need to adjust course in order to be on the path to self betterment. It might be that we need to hear that our attitude and actions do not reflect the ideals we are trying to portray. Or it might be that haters gonna hate and we need to stay focused on our own path.

But we won’t know until we listen.

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July 20

“If one takes away riches from the wise man, one leaves him still in possession of all that is his: for he lives happy in the present, and without fear for the future.” – Seneca

Living in the moment is an idea position that has been poisoned by society because it implies a lack of concern for the future and a failure to learn from the mistakes or successes of our past. Nothing could be further from the truth, it takes a significant amount of willpower and mental strength to stay content in the here and now while simultaneously planning for the future and learning from the past. It takes courage to look at the past, learn lessons then try to plan for the future full well knowing that you have little to no control over what happens.

And that is what living happily in the present  is about. It means knowing full well that whatever life decides to dish out, we are going to live happy, meaningful lives. But it also means knowing full well that we have little to no control over what life has in store for us. That doesn’t mean we don’t plan and learn from our mistakes or successes. Instead we do everything we can to mitigate the effects of anything bad and to put ourselves in a position to be able to take advantage of anything good that life throws at us.

And being prepared for the future – at least as much as is possible – frees us to enjoy our current blessings or learn from our current hardships or if we are truly blessed, do both at the same time.

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July 19

“No general ever trusts so implicitly in the maintenance of peace as not to make himself ready for war.” – Seneca

Similarly we should never trust so well in the skills we’ve gained or the life we have built for ourselves to ever want to stop finding little ways to make ourselves better. Because the little things turn into big things. Sure, we may have finally landed the job we wanted but how do we excel at it? How can we improve the experience for the people that our job impacts? How can we be the best at what we do without developing an ego that will get in our way?

This same principle can be applied to so many areas of our lives. We will see successes, especially if we set realistic and attainable goals in the short term but that shouldn’t take our minds off the fact that we will never be finished, we will never be perfect. Becoming the best person we can become is a lifetime accomplishment and even when we finally close our eyes for good, there will be things we did not finish.

But our example will live on in the lives we touch and if we can set an example of what the quest for perfection looks like and if we can share with as many people as we influence through that example just how much this quest has made our lives better then even though we fail to become perfect we succeed in inspiring those who come behind us. That is the best legacy a person could leave behind.

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July 18

“You accustom yourself to wealth and cling to it as if somebody has promised you it would be yours forever, but a wise man never thinks about poverty so much as when he is surrounded by wealth.” – Seneca

They are called the trappings of life for a reason. Originally ‘trappings’ referred to the adornments placed on the bridle and saddle of horses to display power and prestige, the trappings of life remain the same; pretty but functionally irrelevant.

And we get used to having them, no matter how much we accumulate, we get used to having it. That’s called hedonic adaption. We get used to being where we are, we get comfortable. We become complacent.

Unless we decide to keep the possibilities clearly in mind. It can all be taken away from us at any time. We have no control over how life is going to come at us. We are all just a car accident, an illness, or an identity theft away from having our entire lives twisted completely sideways.

That shouldn’t scare us, but it should put into perspective where we are, what we can expect and what we can control. Tomorrow everything could be completely different, completely alien to what we want or expect. But we should know deep down that we can handle it. Come what may.

Because we control us, we control our outlook, we control our attitude. We should keep front and center in our minds at all times that the fortune we enjoy right now is fickle and can disappear. But we should also know with equal certainty that even if it does, we will still be in control of what matters.

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July 17

“Riches are slaves in the house of a wise man, but masters in that of a fool.” – Seneca

Money, wealth, and related instruments are exactly that to those who understand the limits between the things they have control over, instruments. People who understand that these things are tools to be used to make our lives more enjoyable, more comfortable or to improve the lives of those around us also tend to understand that they can get by just fine without as much as they currently have. Life may not be as comfortable or as interesting and they may have to focus more on their own issues and less on those around them but they will still be able to enjoy life.

Those of us driven by the accumulation of wealth on the other hand will never be able to truly enjoy life. Yes, those people will experience the finer things, they will have more comfort, more pleasure, and even more leisure than the rest of us but they will always be haunted by the need to accumulate more. They will serve their wealth instead of allowing their wealth to serve them.

We might not have everything we want but we have way more control over deciding to want less than we do over being able to get more.

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July 16

“I shall make whatever befalls me a good thing, but I prefer what befalls me should be comfortable and pleasant and unlikely to cause me annoyance.” – Seneca

Making the most of any situation is a skill that is learned and perfected over a lifetime. While it allows us to take the bad that life is going to throw at us and make the most of it, developing a skill for making the most of any situation is not a license to allow the things we do have control over to be neglected.

We should not, for example, stop making our car payments because we know that we could live comfortably without a car. Instead if we feel that we would do well without the car, we should return it to the dealership and allow someone who needs it more than we do to take advantage of it. We should effectively try to decrease the amount of chaos in the world, not add to it.

Furthermore, being able to handle anything that life throws at us is not a carte blanche for chaos. Simply because we know that we can handle a hectic workday is not enough of a reason to pack everyday as full as we can and leave ourselves trying to juggle more things than we can handle while also operating at our highest level.

Instead we should aim for a balance. Some days should be used to stretch our abilities in offering our absolute best in any situation and others should be used to handle as many things as we possibly can. And in both situations we should be taxing ourselves just up to the point where we can not take it.

We shouldn’t worry about trying to determine which days are for which ahead of time. That is not within our control. We just have to be ready to take things as they come.

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July 15

“Riches I say are not a good thing; for if they were, they would make men good: now since that which is found even among bad men cannot be termed good, I do not allow them to be called so: nevertheless I admit they are desirable and useful and contribute great comforts to our lives.” – Seneca

In and of itself, money is not a good thing. In and of itself, money is not a bad thing. Money is a thing, an instrument that we use to exchange our time, goods, and services for other people’s time, goods, and services.

Not having money does not make a person a bad person. Not having money does not lead a person to do bad things. Having a lot of money does not make a person a bad person. Having a lot of money does not lead a person to do bad things. There is a fair amount of people on either ends of these extremes that allow themselves to do bad things and even to become bad people. Why?

It’s not the money, lack of or excess. It is the desire to have more, at any cost. It is looking at the world and instead of seeing where a person could be content with what they have or where they could honestly make a change in their own lives in order to bring about a positive change, people choose instead to see where they can take advantage, where they can game the system just a little bit.

Sometimes these are little things, sometimes they are huge infractions. Either way it is the same. It is someone sacrificing something they do control, their integrity, in order to attempt to control something they can not, their fortune.

Let’s stick with what we can control in life. Become the best versions of ourselves. We might not get rich but we won’t be bad either.

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July 14

“As he is capable of performing a journey upon his own feet, but yet would prefer to mount a carriage, just so a man will be capable of being poor, yet will wish to be rich.”      – Seneca

It is the freedom that wealth buys us that most of us crave. The ability to choose when and how we spend our time. The ability to become less reliant on our work as a source of providing a living. In a word, wealth provides us with freedom.

We can be perfectly happy continuing on working, spending a little more than half of our waking hours committed to our professions. We can build a nice life around that and we can make the most of what life brings us.

But we would all prefer to be independent of our work. We would all prefer to know that we were working because we wanted to, or because we enjoyed it instead of doing it simply because we had to.

If we detach a little from the idea of independence we can see that this is more of a mindset than an actual reality. In reality we could be making millions of dollars a year and still be just as stuck in our jobs as we are now. On the other side of the coin, we could probably be making less than we currently do but limit our spending and simplify our lifestyle so that we are free to continue doing what we do because we enjoy the work and the relationships we’ve built along the way.

The key to being there is two fold. First we need to change the way we look at wealth and work. Second we need to commit to taking the steps to get ourselves where we want to be. And we need to be detached and honest with ourselves.

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July 13

“The wise man will not allow a single ill-won penny to cross his threshold; yet he will not refuse or close his door against great riches, if they are the gift of fortune and the product of virtue.” – Seneca

There are all kinds of things that could be counted as great riches but one in particular is often overlooked and often declined due to the effect accepting it would have on our own ego.

People will offer us assistance with all sorts of things, they may hold a door, offer to buy us lunch, or simply offer a word of encouragement or a compliment. And how often do we in turn decline or rebuke those gestures?

Why? These are not ill-won riches. These are the reflections of how we carry ourselves in the world. People want to help or be kind to people they think would help or be kind to them. When we are offered these blessings in life and we turn them down we take away the opportunity the other person had to feel good about themselves. This could have set the tone for them for the remainder of the day. In a way, by refusing the kindness of others, we run the risk of ruining their day for them. Let’s not do that.

Let’s instead approach the riches that people offer us, great or small, with a sense of gratitude.

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July 12

“Who can doubt, however, that the wise man, if he is rich, has a wider field for the development of his powers than if he is poor.” – Seneca

For a slight spin on this, yes we would all be able to develop faster or better if we had more wealth but easier than gaining more wealth is learning to require less of it to live. Always.

By learning to live without some of the luxuries that cost us small increments of our wealth each day, week, or month we free ourselves a bit from the need to earn that wealth in the first place.

Since wealth acquired is typically a direct reflection of time taken out of our lives to work at acquiring wealth, the less we need, the more time we have to improve other skill sets and work towards becoming the best versions of ourselves.

Oddly enough, by focusing on living with less and freeing up some of our valuable time to focus on improvement, we will find that our attitude and perspective towards acquiring wealth will change in a positive direction. This in turn often leads to a better outcome for those of us who depend on commissions or direct sales to earn a living. If we don’t seem desperate, somehow we seem more trustworthy.

But most importantly, by learning to live with less, we get to focus on what matters more. Becoming the best versions of us that we can.

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July 11

“The philosopher may own ample wealth, but will not own wealth that has been torn from another, or which is stained with another’s blood.” – Seneca

 

While there are still plenty of opportunities for us to avoid products and attainment of wealth that is actually marred by violent conflict, slave labor, and the exploitation of others, simply avoiding these products is not going to take us far in making us into the best versions of ourselves. In fact, we are far more likely to become caught up in the self righteous virtue signalling that comes with avoiding products or businesses on ethical grounds and miss the opportunity to grow as people if we select only this route.

Instead we should look to our day to day interactions with others and ask ourselves honestly, are we getting an unfair advantage by misleading or being disingenuous with our friends, coworkers, or family?  If the answer to that question is ever yes, we should actively work on removing that behavior from our routine as quickly and effectively as possible. Removing the root of our desire to gain some small advantage over our the people around us without regard to the cost to those same people is what makes us into better people. We do that by focusing on the small things we do every day, often subconsciously.

Yes we should avoid products made inexpensive through exploitation, or ones obtained through violent conflict but more importantly to our own well being, we should avoid exhibiting the behavior that makes these vile things possible to begin with.

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July 10

“If my riches leave me, they will carry away with them nothing except themselves.”             – Seneca

Wealth on its own is not a bad thing. Being afraid of losing our wealth, or being obsessed with attaining more of it that we risk compromising our integrity. The best way to view our wealth, like many things in life, is to look at it as a set of things we can control and things we can not control.

We might have some control over how much money we make, but not as much as we would like to think. Even if we are working for ourselves, the money comes from other people, they have to have some desire to spend it with us. And people are fickle.

We have control over what we spend to a higher degree but still we have needs and our lives have fixed costs. There will always be money that could be wealth being sent out the door instead. Always.

We have the most control over how we think about our wealth. We control how much we allow it to affect our day to day. This is a good place for us to practice the art of detachment. We can pull back from our own lives and look at them from the outside. We can ask ourselves if our needs are being met, if our lives are comfortable, and if we are afforded some luxury in life. If the answer to these questions is yes, we have no reason to allow wealth to occupy any portion of our minds. We can enjoy what life gives us.

And most of us can do that starting now.

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July 9

“Riches encourage and brighten up such a man just as a sailor is delighted at a favorable wind that bears him on his way, or as people feel pleasure at a fine day or a sunny spot in cold weather.” – Seneca

Luxuries are pleasant, they provide comfort, enjoyment, and add a little bit to our lives to help make them more enjoyable.

Like any situation however, we can get used to luxury, we can become accustomed to the increased comfort and convenience of a more luxurious standard of living.

If we allow this to happen to ourselves, when life corrects itself and we lose those luxuries that we have allowed ourselves to become accustomed to, we suffer all the more for it.

If instead we have maintained an appreciation for the luxuries our lives provide us with and we maintain an understanding that our lives would still be ours without them, when they are taken away from us we will find ourselves less troubled by the sudden loss of comfort and convenience.

This is part of the practice of purposefully denying ourselves luxuries at times in our lives. By denying ourselves pleasures we are used to enjoying we accomplish two major things. The first is that we prevent ourselves from becoming so accustomed to our comforts and conveniences that we find ourselves dependent on them for our happiness. The second is that we allow ourselves to appreciate and enjoy them even more because we know first hand how much they add to the enjoyment of that particular moment.

So let’s deny ourselves a little pleasure today, so that we might enjoy it more fully tomorrow.

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July 8

“Some things though they may be trifles compared to the sum total, and though they may be taken away without destroying the chief good, yet add somewhat to that constant cheerfulness which arises from virtue.” – Seneca

There is a dichotomy to this path. There are little luxuries in life that make life a little better, a little more enjoyable, and while we know we would be just fine without them, we also can enjoy them while they are a part of our life.

Money is an interesting part of this dichotomy. Stoic philosophy, and most philosophy in general admonishes us for being controlled or obsessed with wealth. But stoic philosophers also point out that wealth by itself, and attained honestly is not a bad thing.

So having wealth isn’t bad but we shouldn’t live our lives with the sole purpose of attaining it and once we have some we shouldn’t live our lives afraid to lose it. Like anything else we don’t control, we should be indifferent to wealth.

To continue the dichotomy, if we are far enough along the path of learning to control what we can and be indifferent to what we can not, we could also find ourselves working in just about any situation and not only would we be comfortable but would thrive and succeed because we control what we can and are unaffected by what we can not.

To tie the two dichotomies together and carry the thought out a little further, if we had a job that we really enjoyed, or we had a dream job and we also had a dream salary we could follow the following path and try to merge those two as best as possible.

We could make a list of all of the jobs we could think of that were close to or might eventually lead to our dream job. Once that list is complete, we start sending out resumes and cover letters, while also determining what salary will be necessary to leave our current job. We go on interviews, look at potential employers, negotiate, and stay persistent until we find what we are looking for. All while remaining loyal to our current employer and fulfilling our current job description to the best our abilities. Then we repeat the process until we reach our original goal.

It would likely take eighteen to thirty-six months at each step to find the right job with the right salary, maybe even longer if we are in a rural area and not willing to relocate. It would be very important to remain vigilant against complacency and a deterioration of our attitude towards our current employment during that time.

But it could be done, and it would help us along our path to becoming our best selves in several ways.

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July 7

“The wise man will not despise himself, however short of stature he may be, but nevertheless he will wish to be tall.” – Seneca

We can acknowledge our flaws and wish for our flaws to be different without hating ourselves or thinking less of ourselves for having them. It’s only human to acknowledge the imperfections nature has dealt us during our development and maturity, some of these will be physical, some of them will manifest in our personality and temperament. Some of them we can work on improving, some of them are here to stay.

For the flaws that are here to stay, we will likely always wish for them to be different. We may always wish to be taller, have a smaller nose, more symmetrical eyes, or a different voice. But as we work towards becoming our best selves, hopefully we will realize that it is possible to not like these things about us without having them reflect on who we are.

Seeing our flaws and acknowledging them for what they are helps keep us humble, it reminds us that no matter what we do we will never be perfect in our own eyes. This allows us the opportunity to detach, look at ourselves from the outside, and focus on addressing things that are actually going to make a difference. Things we can change that will make us better people.

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July 6

“The wise man does not think himself unworthy of any chance presents: he does not love riches, but he prefers to have them; he does not receive them into his spirit, but only into his house.” – Seneca

This thought is applicable to more than just riches. It lies at the heart of understanding what we actually have control over and what we do not. We might have riches today, we might lose them all tomorrow. But this detachment from things works on anything, even things that are not things.

We can invite the things people say about us into our thoughts without allowing them to reside in our minds, we don’ t have to dwell on something someone says about us or a criticism a person passes on to us. But we can think about these things and see if there isn’t some useful piece of information that we can glean out of their criticism or gossip. In the beginning it may help us to remind ourselves that we are winning if we take their bitter words and use them as a fuel for improvement rather than the stinging barbs they were meant to be.

But as we learn to take the things, good and bad, that life gives us and use them as we can to help us along our path, discarding the things we can not use, we will improve this skill set of detachment and emotional discipline.

And that will be worth more than riches.

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July 5

“Riches, comfort, safety, and long life. These things ought to be despised, not that we should not possess them, but we should not possess them with fear and trembling: we do not drive them away from us but when they leave us we follow after them unconcerned.” – Seneca

It is nice to have nice things, it is nice to be in good health, it is nice to have a lifestyle that allows us to stop and enjoy quiet moments without worrying that we are going to be injured or worse.

But those things are not our lives. Our lives would still be ours to live and to control the things we control and to learn to remain unaffected by the things we can not control even if we lose our wealth, our health, and our relative safety. In fact, in that situation learning to control what we can and to remain unaffected by the things we can not becomes even more important.

When we have a fear of losing these things, when we fear sudden poverty, when we fear loss of health, when we act in a way that makes us feel like we are somehow preventing these things – things which we have no control over – from occurring, we have lost our freedom. We are allowing ourselves to be trapped by focusing on things outside of our own control.

Let’s not be afraid. Let’s focus on the things within our control and let’s continue to move forward. Regardless of our situation and regardless of how much time we have left.

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July 4

“Whenever either nature demands my breath again, or reason bids me dismiss it, I will quit this life, calling all to witness that I have loved a good conscience, and good pursuits; that no one’s freedom, my own least of all, has been impaired through me.” – Seneca

Life is short. We are going to die. And when that time comes, there will be plenty that we will have to look back and admit we did not accomplish. There will be plenty of areas that we will look back at and feel we could have done a better job, or we could have handled better.

Our goal in pushing ourselves to become the best version of ourselves we can is to limit those regrets as much as possible. Just like mitigating risk, there is no way to completely eliminate the regrets but we can and should try to reduce them to the lowest amount possible.

Nowhere should this be worked on as hard as the way in which we deal with and treat the people that come into our lives. Ideally we should be able to look back at the end of our lives and honestly say to ourselves that we were as kind, fair, and generous with people as we could have possibly been from this day forward.

We are not ideal, we are going to fail, we will fall short of that goal. But that shouldn’t stop us from working each day to treat everyone we encounter just a little better than we did yesterday.

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July 3

“I will be agreeable with my friends, gentle and mild with my foes: I will grant pardon before it is asked, I will meet the wishes of honorable men halfway.” – Seneca

Other people remain firmly on the list of things we can not control. Their actions, their words, their thoughts, and their reactions to the world around them lie entirely within their own control. Whether they choose to employ that self control is also entirely up to them.

The one thing we can control that may affect the way they think about, speak about, and act towards us is how we treat them. How we interact with others doesn’t just tell them how they should feel about us, it also tells us how we are coming along on the path to becoming the best versions of ourselves.

The best version of ourselves doesn’t compare ourselves to our friends. the best version of ourselves is above treating our rivals and enemies the same way they treat us. The best version of us assumes the best of people and forgives them immediately when they act unpleasantly towards us. The best version of ourselves is accommodating and helpful and willing to compromise with everyone to reach the best results in any situation.

Most importantly, the best version of ourselves doesn’t just happen. That person is the product of our daily practices. We build that person slowly out of the product of the many tiny decisions we make about how we act every single day.

And while that person may never fully arrive, we should be a little closer to them every day.

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July 2

“In eating and drinking my object will be to quench the desires of Nature, not to fill and empty my belly.” – Seneca

Nutrition. If ever there was a more widely spread but poorly understood concept that affected millions to billions of people and was opined on by laypersons the world over, that subject would be neck and neck with nutrition. A quick visit across the interwebs can find us starkly contrasting theories and ideas about human nutrition each backed by solid – if not slightly cherry picked – evidence.

While it is very true that for most of us our version of our best selves involves and perhaps hinges on a person who is in better shape and healthier than we are right now, our position within these meditations is firmly ensconced within philosophy.

Our focus when we think about the food we eat, in terms of our current goals of becoming the best version of ourselves is that we do not indulge to excess in the things we eat or drink. We do not eat or drink to satisfy an impulsive urge. We do not eat and drink because we are bored. We eat and drink because we are hungry, we are thirsty, and our bodies require nourishment to continue on, to recover from the work we do to it, and to fuel our further work.

Our focus should be that our every move, each action is aimed at working us closer to our goal of becoming the best versions of ourselves.

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July 1

“I will do nothing because of public opinion, but everything because of conscience: whenever I do anything alone by myself I will believe the eyes of the Roman people are upon me while I do it.” – Seneca

There is a solid argument for the role a belief in the supernatural, specifically a super natural being or group of beings who watched with interest the going-ons of Earth, took an interest in its inhabitants and intervened in their lives, and the founding of a societies that followed a rule of law and therefore advanced into relatively safe and healthy places.

A big part of this is the “fear of god” that encourages people to behave within a specific set of social norms regardless of who is around because their god can always see them and is judging their behavior.

While this idea might seem quaint to us, living in a time and era where the validity and veracity of supernatural beliefs has been openly questioned by popular thinkers for almost two centuries, it deserves respect as a driving force and strong reason behind the development of the type of social behavior that allows people to feel safe enough to settle with strangers, build homes close to one another, share resources, share knowledge, and start the progress that advanced to the civilization we enjoy today.

Regardless of our current beliefs, we can enjoy the same driving force as we take steps on becoming our best selves. If it helps us to believe that there is a super natural being watching our every move, judging our intentions and our actions, than we should continue to do so. If for whatever reason that does not work for us, it might help to act as if someone we know, someone who would like to see us fail – we all know at least one – was watching and could read our mind at all times. This is a fun exercise to play, at work, parenting, interacting with our spouses/partners. We can imagine that they were watching and reading our minds and we could imagine what they would be thinking.

If that is what it takes for us to act solely on our conscience, at least in the beginning, let’s learn to get good at that.

And eventually let’s learn to do it because we know it’s right.

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