June 30

“Whatever I may possess, I will neither hoard it greedily nor squander it recklessly. I will think that I have no possessions so real as those which I have given away to deserving people.” – Seneca

Life is going to put us through a lot. Much of it will be difficult and we will have to endure. Much of it will be mundane and will make up the part of life where we press forward and keep in mind our end goals. This part is like rowing through doldrums rather than waiting for the wind. And some of life is just downright wonderful, enjoyable and these are the parts that we savor and enjoy. they make the hard days worth it and the dull days more bearable. Enjoying the good times is a way to prevent the hard times from beating us down. The best way to enjoy good times is to share them with others.

Similarly life will bring us things, some of them very nice. We will at times even have the opportunity to own or experience things that we know are above our station in life. Being a good steward of what life gives us offers us the the opportunity to enjoy these rare things and experiences that we are provided with. But sharing them with others is the way that we truly get to experience just how good the good things in life can be.

We should be sharing our wealth, whether that wealth is material or immaterial, with the people we share our lives with.

virtus fortis vocat

Advertisements

June 29

“I will live so as to remember that I was born for others, and will praise Nature on this account: for in what fashion could she have done better for me?” – Seneca

A good life. The best version of ourselves. The highest ideal we can hold ourselves to.

All of these have a single thing in common, they are all accomplished by putting others before ourselves. This can mean that we sell all of our possessions, give the money to the poor, and then dedicate our lives to service of one kind or another. And that would be admirable and that would lead to a good life. But it doesn’t have to be so extreme.

Instead, putting others first could mean, seeing that another person’s needs are met in every interaction we have. Maybe that means being sure that a coworker has the support and resources necessary to complete their job requirements without any added stress, maybe it means being sure we are present and available for our spouse. Or our children.

The place to start with these skills – and putting others first is a skill like any other – is general and broad. Like landscaping a lawn. The first thing to do is a general cut, so that you can see what else needs doing. Similarly, the first thing we should do when adopting a life of service is to develop a mindset that thinks of others’ needs first. We should start asking ourselves what each person in our lives now or who come into our lives in the future actually need from us. And then we should do our best to give it to them.

And we should repeat until we are good at it. Then, once the lawn is mowed and we have that part down, we can focus on the more detailed aspects. We can develop our ability to anticipate needs, or to actually sacrifice our own needs for others.

And we repeat and repeat and repeat. Until it is over.

virtus fortis vocat

June 28

“I will despise riches when I have them as much as when I have them not; if they be elsewhere I will not be more gloomy, if they sparkle around me I will not be more lively than I should be otherwise.” Seneca

It’s not wrong to have nice things, it’s not wrong to enjoy nice things, it’s not wrong to work hard to get nice things that we want.

It is important to retain the perspective that the nice things we choose to enjoy are there simply for our enjoyment and while they may brighten our day a little, and they definitely make life a little easier, they are not the things that make life great. They are also not the things that make us great.

Wealth is a status symbol not because of what the wealth itself provides, but because of what it represents. A person who has accumulated wealth must have a level of ability and an intellect to allow such an accumulation to occur and persist. Those abilities and intellect are still there is the wealth is stripped away and in fact it is often people who are capable of much but content living with less who enjoy an ability to live outside of the normal bounds of social pressures. People who may not have accumulated wealth but are content and at peace with their position in life tend to garner the admiration and respect of people from all walks of life.

Let’s be those people. Even if the respect we earn is only our own.

virtus fortis vocat

June 27

“A person who sets the rules of their life will soar aloft and strive to make their way to the gods: of a truth, even though they fail, they fail in a high emprise.” – Seneca

When we set the standards for ourselves, life doesn’t just happen to us, we control the one thing we have control over. Ourselves. When we fail to set our own rules, when we fail to create our own standards, life will set the rules and standards for us. We will drift into becoming whatever it is people become when they choose to drift through life like a ship without a captain. Let’s not find out what that is.

When we choose not to attempt to master ourselves, when we choose not to employ self discipline, when we choose not to control our thoughts, actions, and words then we are choosing to live through reaction and impulse. We are choosing to be less than we could be.

When we choose to work towards self mastery, and especially when we commit to it and understand that it is a life long commitment, we have to know that we will fail. But we fail high. We fail in a manner that still makes us great. Because the journey that ends in that failure will have helped push us into becoming the best version of ourselves that we were able to achieve within a lifetime.

More could be asked of no one.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 26

“It is the act of a generous spirit to conceive plans which are too vast to be carried into execution even by those who are endowed with gigantic intellects.”  – Seneca

Setting unrealistic goals is a surefire way to frustrate ourselves into wishing we had never started trying to accomplish anything in the first place. But if we are aware of how unrealistic the goal is and then set off to try to complete it and – most importantly – reflect back on how the effort we are making has changed us, then the goal isn’t unrealistic it is simply a point we are aiming at.

The point of a goal we can never attain isn’t to frustrate ourselves. The point is having an aim that pushes us into becoming people we would not have become without it. The fact that the goal is out of our reach is exactly the point.

If we set realistic goals in terms of personal development, if we know that our goals are attainable and we know what we have to do in order to attain them, we will never go as far as we can in that direction. Because we have no idea how far we can really go.

The point of a plan that can not be put into execution is who we are when we fail to arrive at the goal, because striving to make the goal will force us to become that person.

Enjoy the struggle.

virtus fortis vocat

June 25

“If you would be great, look with respect on those who attempt great things, even though they fail.” – Seneca

Everyone who goes before us, everyone we reach to for guidance, everyone we look up to from our current position, they have all failed at self mastery. They have failed to accomplish goals they set for themselves. They have all failed to live up to the standards they have set for themselves.

Because they all set their goals further than they knew was possible. And because they were working towards a goal that seemed to move away from them the closer the got to achieving it, they made it further than they ever would have if they had set a goal that they knew was reasonable at the beginning.

And therein lies the trick to self mastery. We can’t set reasonable goals in the beginning because we have no idea how much improvement we are capable of over the next few weeks, or the next few months or even the next year. And we are always at the beginning. This path doesn’t follow a simple linear formula where we make steady progress. We may very well make little, hardly noticeable progress for weeks, maybe even months on end and then suddenly something clicks for us and within a week our skills at detachment or emotional discipline to choose two examples, have more than tripled.

And so we stay on the path, and we set the goals beyond our reach, and we keep reaching because we have no idea just how much we are capable of.

Let’s surprise ourselves.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 24

“You say no one acts up to his professions, or lives according to the standard which he sets up in his discourses: what wonder, seeing that the words which they speak are brave, gigantic and able to weather all the storms which wreck mankind.” – Seneca

We have set large goals. We have chosen high and difficult standards. We have accepted that self mastery is a goal we constantly strive for full well knowing that we will never attain it.

We invite mockery. We invite people to question our motives. We invite people to doubt our abilities. And we even invite self doubt to creep in and wear away our inner defenses during the times when we are most vulnerable.

But if we look closely, it’s true of everyone. If our ideal is not better than us, if it is easily accessible or even attainable within a single lifetime then it is easy to contemplate a better more superior ideal.

If instead, we understand that we have chosen a goal that is unattainable and that we will not reach that goal within our lifetime. And if we understand that no mortal could in all possibility achieve the level of self mastery we are working towards in a single lifetime. Then we will know that we have set the goals we want for ourselves at an appropriate difficulty.

And even though we will never achieve them, we will become far better than we ever could have imagined.

virtus fortis vocat

June 23

“I’ve lived. I’ve run the race which Fortune set for me.” – Seneca

Spoiler alert: the race that life has set for us is an obstacle race. Just when we think we can’t run anymore, we are relieved by having to carry five gallon buckets of crushed gravel straight uphill.

Here’s another fun fact. No one gets to the end of an obstacle race and is satisfied by all of the obstacles they skipped and all the walking they did.

No one gets to the end of an obstacle race and is proud of the creative ways they found to complain and moan about the course they chose to run in the first place. If we don’t think that we have chosen the race we are currently running, we need to reassess the inventory of our lives.

Do we want to risk getting to the end of this race and feeling like we complained too much? Or that we skipped obstacles that we would have been proud to have completed?

Life is going to be hard regardless of what we take on. It will be difficult regardless of the path we choose. Let’s choose the hard things that are going to mean something to us once they are completed. Let’s have a good attitude about navigating the difficulties life throws at us without our choosing. Let’s choose to always do the hard things.

And let’s finish the race life has set for us with pride that we made the best of it.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 22

“Spite shall not hinder me from continuing to praise that life which I do not, indeed, lead but which I know I ought to lead, from loving virtue and from following after her albeit from a long way behind her and with halting gait.” – Seneca

Discouragement is a big part of attempting mastery of any subject. The discouragement that accompanies the feeling of failure when the subject of mastery of ourselves is immense. Fear of this feeling is likely what leads us to react to another person’s attempt to master themselves with mockery or doubt. It is a difficult path that requires a lot of reflection, to plan out what the best version of ourselves would look like, to aim for that and then to make the necessary adjustments along the way when we realize how naive our initial idea of our best selves was.

While there is a certain freedom that comes with the realization that we will never reach the point where our goal is met and our self mastery has been completely attained, we can use the same point as a reason to become complacent. Rather than focusing on the fact that we will never fully attain self mastery we should be taking a daily inventory of how we are doing along the way and then making the necessary changes to be a little better tomorrow than we were today.

And then we should be able to look back in one month and see that we have made small amounts of progress, and yearly we should be able to see how far we have come.

And we should never stop.

virtus fortis vocat

June 21

“Great philosophers all declared how we ought to live, not how they did live. I speak of virtue, not of myself, and when I blame vices, I blame my own first of all: when I have the power, I shall live as I ought to.” – Seneca

A few times daily we should be able to reflect on how the day is going thus far and how we are doing at controlling the things within our power and not being affected by the things that are not within our power.

Every time we do this, we should notice that we are falling short of our goals in some way. We shouldn’t be discouraged by this, the goal of self mastery is a life long one and mastery of any subject involves ever moving goal posts.

We should however, be able to identify a few key places that we are able to make improvements on what we are doing right away. Most frequently this will involve the way we are choosing to see a particular problem or issue as this is something that we can choose to correct almost immediately.

Every day we should be taking a few minutes and reflecting on how that particular part of the day is going, how we are feeling, and we should learn to identify a few thing that will make it better right away. And then we should be doing those things.

virtus fortis vocat

June 20

“I am not a wise man, and I will not be one in order to feed your spite: so do not require me to be on a level with the best of men, but merely to be better than the worst: I am satisfied, if everyday I take away something from my vices and correct my faults. I have not arrived at perfect soundness of mind, indeed, I never shall arrive at it. I make this speech not on my own behalf, but on behalf of one who has made some progress in virtue.” – Seneca

Choosing to work towards mastery of any subject involves accepting that one will never actually attain the goal they are working towards. Mastery of the self is a lifelong pursuit and we need to approach it with the understanding that we are not ever going to be complete. We will never be perfect, we will never have all of the answers, we will never behave exactly as we should in all situations.

But how much worse would we be if we were to never try at all? If we were to go through life simply reacting to the things that happen to us, not reflecting on how we might have interpreted things differently, or phrased our own words or actions in a better manner.

No, we will never be perfect. But we will be consistently better than we were the last time we took inventory. We will make slow and steady progress and we will look back on ourselves and cringe at how far we had to come. And if we are fortunate we will also look forward to being able to look back at ourselves now and cringe again in the future.

virtus fortis vocat

June 19

“He however, who is only on the road to virtue, although he may have made great progress along it, nevertheless needs some favor from Fortune while he is still struggling among mere human interests, while he is untying that knot, and all the bonds which bind him to mortality.” – Seneca

All of the binds which bind us to mortality. We will only shed those binds at one point in our lives, the end. Here we allow ourselves to understand that this is a life long pursuit and that we will not arrive at the end until we actually arrive at the final end.

No matter the progress we make, we will not be perfect, we will still have further to go. We will still have weaknesses to battle, we will even develop new weaknesses along the way. We will still stray from the path. We will still fall short of our goals.

And how could we not? We are aiming to forge ourselves into the absolute best version of who we are. This isn’t just a difficult task. It is impossible. The target is always moving a little further away. Our ideal will always pull just a little further away every time we make a successful step towards it.

And that is the point. Becoming the best versions of ourselves is a conscious, life long pursuit. It is the only hobby we will ever need, it is the only task that goes with us everywhere we go and takes up one hundred percent of our waking hours. And we will never achieve it.

But the effort alone will be worth the exceedingly small but meaningful results we do achieve.

virtus fortis vocat

June 18

“If all that a person needs is concentrated within themselves, how can they require anything from without?” – Seneca

Self reliance. This allows us to be dependent on the only thing we actually have control over. Ourselves.

Like any of the skills involved in developing ourselves into the best versions of us, learning to be reliant on ourselves is a skill we will work on and develop over the course of our lives. Mastery in this, like mastery in anything is a goal we will approach but never actually arrive at.

This skill starts in us recognizing what is within our control, and what is not. In our control are our thoughts, our actions, the words we use with ourselves and others, and the way we allow the things we do not control to affect us.

Outside of our control is literally everything else. The words and actions of others. The way the natural world affects the environment we live in. The things that happen within our own bodies.

By drawing those distinctions clearly for ourselves – no small task in itself- we can then make an inventory of the things that we can actually affect around us. Once we have that inventory we then have to pick up the incredible task of not being affected by anything not on that list.

Once we have approached mastery of choosing not to allow the things we do not control to affect us, we will have approached having all that we need concentrated within ourselves.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 17

“Does virtue alone make us happy? Why of course for when we are placed beyond the reach of any desire, what can we possibly lack?” – Seneca

Being happy with what we have is a common platitude in today’s society. But the idea that wanting for more, desiring more, wishing for more, is exactly what keeps us from being happy is a truth hidden within the platitude.

We would do well to stop wishing for more. But to stop wishing for more without resigning ourselves to becoming complacent about getting better is a skill that will take a life time of practice. A way to begin this practice would be start at a level of absurdity and then move backwards from there.

Most of us are never going to own a penthouse apartment in a major city that we travel to and from in a helicopter we own. Moving further back, most of us are never going to have a driver who picks us up and ferries us to and from work. And of course most of us are going to be ok with this situation, because we can do nothing about it. As we move closer and closer to our current situation we will hit a point where we will reach some level of luxury we hope to attain one day. What will it take to get us there? Are we willing to do those things without compromising our integrity? If the answer is yes, then we should start towards doing those things. And we should be satisfied when we get there. If we get there.

There’s nothing wrong with taking an opportunity when it is presented to us. There is nothing wrong with making our own opportunities when we can. But there is no reason for most of us to be pining away for the private helicopter, penthouse apartment world we will never attain. It is a waste of time. Time that could be spent becoming better people.

That we can all attain.

virtus fortis vocat

June 16

“To bear the ills of mortal life, and to submit with good grace to what we cannot avoid.”      – Seneca

We can’t hide. Life is coming. It’s coming hard and fast and it has bad things in store for us. We can lock ourselves away and still it is going to strip away the things we love, it is going to break us down and then it will kill us. And when life is done with us, the world will move on and most everyone left behind will have no idea we ever existed. The fact that we are alive right now, reading this means that this ending is inevitable for each of us. We have our quiet, meaningless little corner in the world for this short and insignificant time.

But it is ours. And we are free.

And in this little corner, during this insignificant time, we control how we see the world we live in. We control the experience we have and we control the manner in which we bear the burdens that life is going to heap on us whether we accept them or not.

The more we choose to see the world as full of opportunities, oddly enough, the more opportunities we have presented to us. The more we choose to see the people we interact with as partners in a great game of life, the more we build meaningful relationships.

This is not a believe it until we become it idea. This is an idea that screams, enjoy it because it is going to destroy us either way idea. Let’s make the most of it, squeeze every drop from the fruit and enjoy our time becoming the best people we can.

virtus fortis vocat

June 15

“It is folly, and ignorance of one’s true position to grieve because one has not got something or because something has caused us rough treatment.” – Seneca

Where we are right now in life is where we are right now in life.

What we have right now in life is what we have right now in life.

The things that have happened to us – good and bad – are the things that have happened to us.

We have no control over these things. Perhaps we did at one point, many of the things we have and the positions we have acquired are the result of many small decisions we have made over a period of time. Sometimes that period is our entire lifespan thus far. But as of right now, we have zero control over where we are. We are at the starting point we are at and the sooner we accept that the sooner we will see the best way to move forward.

Anything we want to change about where we are, what we have, or how we are dealing with things that have happened to us, these things will take time to change.

If for example, we want to be in better shape. It is going to take several months before we see results, it will likely take several weeks of work before we even feel any results. But we still have to get up, move our bodies, avoid the wrong foods, eat the right foods, sweat, work hard, and all of that has to happen over and over again before we even see or feel the slightest change. Any positive change worth making is going to be the same.

But it will be worth it. We can stop wanting and start working today. We start where we are.

virtus fortis vocat

June 14

“For liberty can only remain unconquered as long as she knows nothing more valuable than herself.” – Seneca

Freedom. It’s a double edged sword that we often take for granted. We fail to realize that in order to enjoy freedom we have to place nothing ahead of its value on our minds.

If we truly want to be free, we have to value that freedom more than our security, more than our safety, in some cases even more than our own lives.

If we place our financial security in a place of value ahead of freedom, we are going to find ourselves doing things outside of our moral standard to achieve financial gain. Maybe it’s just a dishonest word to a potential sale, maybe we even allow a person to convince themselves but we know its wrong. We become enslaved to our own greed. That’s not freedom.

If we place safety over freedom, we will be willing to put our future, our day to day in the hands of someone else in order that they might keep us safe. While we may still feel free, we are subservient to our own sense of safety. We are allowing ourselves to limit our own activities in the name of our own perception of safety. That’s not freedom.

If we put ourselves in a position where we value our own lives more than freedom we will be willing to live under someone else’s standard, under the control of another person just to survive. That’s not freedom.

In the words of the American Library Association: “Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.” May we never forget that.

virtus fortis vocat

June 13

“He who grumbles and complains and bemoan himself is nevertheless forcibly compelled to obey orders.” – Seneca

We could choose to see life as a long series of difficult tasks. And what could make us more cynical, as we become more competent, the difficulty of the tasks we are expected to accomplish is only going to increase.

If we choose to take this point of view, we still have to do the hard things, we still will become more competent and we will still be expected to perform more and more difficult tasks. We will just make ourselves – and likely those around us – miserable while we do it.

No matter how miserable we are about it, no matter how much we complain about the things that need to be done, they still need to be done. They aren’t going to go away. And even if they do, they are taking any opportunity that they brought with them when they go.

Instead, we should resign ourselves to not only performing the duties we have made ourselves responsible for but also we should resign ourselves to maintaining a good attitude about the tasks we have to perform. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to be happy about it, but we also don’t have to make ourselves miserable.

Complaining about our responsibilities only makes our experience worse. Better to keep our emotions disciplined and maybe even learn to enjoy doing the hard things life will ask of us.

virtus fortis vocat

June 12

“A man cannot be a good defender of his country, a good avenger of her wrongs, or a good defender of his friends, if he be inclined to pleasures.” – Seneca

The number one thing we gain be denying ourselves the ability to indulge in our immediate desires is perspective. By acclimating ourselves to refraining from giving into our wishes in the here and now, we allow ourselves to detach from any situation we find ourselves in and we allow ourselves to have a better global view of the situation because we are not wrapped up in satisfying our immediate wants. We are already looking towards the future.

When we are able to detach and see a situation from the outside, or as close to the outside as a person can get, we are able to see not only the effect but also the cause and often the solution if one is necessary.

This skill, which will take us our lifetimes to even approach mastering, is one that allows us to see problems before they are really problems and we can redirect our actions towards solving the problem before it has a chance to fully develop.

Detachment isn’t any easy skill to learn and it might prove impossible for us to master but it is one skill that will pay off huge even if we only make small progress.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 11

“Let virtue lead the way and bear the standard; we shall have pleasure for all of that, but we shall be the masters and controllers; pleasure may win some concessions from us, but will not force us to do anything.” – Seneca

If we set our minds to becoming better people, the best version of ourselves, if we hold to that standard, the path is going to be difficult. We are going to have to give up a lot of the things we divert ourselves with currently. We are also going to sacrifice a lot of things that we will watch others not having to sacrifice.

If we allow ourselves to, it will be easy for us to become envious, or on the other side of the same coin, self righteous in regards to others.

Instead, we should remind ourselves that we are each on our own path and while we might have to sacrifice some things, we get a lot more out of staying on the path than we do by indulging in our immediate desires. We enjoy different pleasures than we did before and we enjoy the old pleasures differently.

There will be times where we give in and we stray from the path and indulge in our immediate desires. But if we do so mindful of the fact that we are conceding ground to pleasure and that we are allowing ourselves to be taken off the path we have chosen, we will be more aware of what we are giving up in order to indulge in the here and now.

So while we may lose some ground, maybe even some battles, if we stay on the path, we will win the war.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 10

“If you are willing to proceed to a happy life, let virtue lead the way, let pleasure follow and hang about the body like a shadow.” – Seneca

Humans are at their most content, at their happiest when they are so engrossed in something that they lose sense of self and time. We can all think about times where we were so engrossed in a project or a conversation and we lost complete track of time and hours passed though they felt like minutes.

Most of the time, this feeling occurs for us when we are involved in a task or conversation that requires us to use our talents at the outskirts of our abilities. In other words, we feel that feeling of oneness with the world around us when we are being required to use all of our abilities to accomplish something.

We are also the product of the things that we practice everyday. What we do literally becomes who we are. As a result, we should be practicing at becoming who we want to be every single day and we should be refraining from practicing things that will lead us to becoming what we do not want to become.

By practicing what we want to become every day, by setting a goal for becoming a certain type of person, changing who we are into a version closer to our best selves, we have to give up a lot. But we will also find we gain a lot as well. We will gain a new appreciation for the small pleasures that life brings us. We will gain an improved perspective on the value we place on certain aspects of life. All of this will lead to a more fulfilling and balanced life.

We begin this by implementing the practices we know are going to lead to who we want to become.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 9

“Too much pleasure is harmful but with virtue we need not worry about excess because moderation is contained within virtue.” – Seneca

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We’ve all heard this before.

By indulging in the things we enjoy, the things that we know are distractions, we might be rewarding ourselves, we may be using distractions to help build our relationships or we might just be enjoying ourselves.

Too much indulging however, lessens the pleasure we get from each of these distractions. An excess of these things that we enjoy makes them less enjoyable. That’s how hedonic adaption works. No matter what we encounter or go through, our level of contentment or happiness tends to return to a steady state.

This means that the more we indulge in pleasure, the less pleasure we receive from the things we enjoy indulging in. This gives us two strong reasons to practice moderation in our indulgences.

The first is that by practicing moderation we decrease our chances of becoming slaves to our pleasures. By staying disciplined about our indulgences we are able to focus on our goal of becoming our best selves without getting distracted by the pleasures we enjoy indulging in.

The second reason to exercise moderation in our indulgences is that we experience more pleasure the less frequently we indulge. If we hold off and force ourselves to earn our pleasures, they are all that much more enjoyable when we do finally indulge.

And that is something to look forward to.

virtus fortis vocat

June 8

“He who ranges himself on the side of virtue gives thereby a proof of noble disposition: he who follows pleasure is weak, worn out, degrading his manhood.” – Seneca

We are the product of the activities we practice everyday. The things we do daily become who we are. Being a good or becoming a bad person isn’t the product of adopting some philosophy or making a change in our thoughts. It is us choosing what we do everyday and making sure that our actions are moving us in the direction we want to be moving in. If we are not consciously choosing our actions we are choosing to not play a role in deciding who we become.

The negative of this would be a warning that we should not practice what we do not want to become.

But the positive is that if we want to become good people, if we truly want to become our best selves, all we have to do is determine what our best selves would do. And then do that. Every single day.

That’s it. By acting like our best selves every day, eventually we embody our best selves.

While that sounds simple, let us try it for a few days and then decide just how easy simple can be. Spoiler alert, it is really hard.

But it is also worth it.

virtus fortis vocat

June 7

“Modesty can never assert itself, when shameful idleness is dignified with an honorable name.” – Seneca

Well earned and short periods of relaxation are good for us, to be certain. They are even better for us if we share them with people we care about. These times allow us reinforce bonds, reflect on recent accomplishments, and plan for future endeavors.

But those moments of reflection and leisure are not where people feel the most alive. These are not the moments that allow us to experience the true joy of being fully in the moment.

It turns out that feeling, feeling like we are completely immersed in the world around us and at the same time unaware of any distractions, this beautiful feeling only comes to us when we are involved in performing a task or solving a problem that utilizes the outer limits of our skill sets.

In other words, we feel the best, we are the most content, we might argue the happiest, when we are fully utilizing, even taxing our abilities as human beings.

But mentally we all long for those quiet moments, the leisure. Why?

We all likely fail to recognize the things in life that actually make us feel better. We likely look to the wrong things for leisure as often as we fail to realize that eating well and exercising are actually more enjoyable than eating poorly and being sedentary. Just as we fail to realize that reading a book is more enjoyable than watching television.

So when we feel like we’ve earned a little down time today, let’s take on a small project that we’ve been wanting to work on or taking on a new project we’ve wanted to try. Maybe we start something we’ve had in the back of our minds for a little while.

virtus fortis vocat

June 6

“The vicious hide their excesses in the lap of philosophy.” – Seneca

There are people, huge groups of them in fact, who would have us believe that the realization of all of our wildest dreams lie at the end of their particular program or process. As it turns out, our wildest dreams often appear to involve wealth, material possessions, and status symbolism. And we collectively, allow this to be labeled as self help.

If instead we help ourselves by detaching a little bit from our own lives and do our best to look at them objectively from the outside, we might see that a large part of why we turn to these self help sources in the first place is that our goals are to control things we have no control over. No process, no program, no guru is ever going to grant us power over the things we can not control.

We do not need anyone else’s help realizing the difference between the things we have control over and the things which we do not. We require only a small amount of self reflection and a touch of brutal honesty with ourselves to see the difference there.

Once we have those two things separated out, we can focus our energy on the things we have control over and we can allow the things we do not have control over to do as they will.

When we start to control the things we can and recognize the things we can not control, then we can begin to help ourselves.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 5

“I can show you many people beset by pleasures, people upon whom Fortune has showered all of her gifts, people you must admit are bad people.” – Seneca

Successful people are not necessarily good people, though good people tend to be successful in their own way.

We would have to allow ourselves a lot of denial and revision to reality to convince ourselves that the luxuries that come with material success do not bring pleasure along with them. Of course they do! In many ways that is the first reward that leads us along a path of pursuing material success. Our problems arise when we allow the trappings of success to become just that, trappings. When we are working towards more and more possessions, more exotic vacations, more high tech gadgets, when our goal becomes more. That is when we are trapped.

We would have to do some serious mental editing to ignore the toll this lifestyle obsession takes on those who choose this path. When we find ourselves trapped by pleasures, when we find ourselves working towards a goal of more, we find ourselves ignoring other aspects of our lives in search of more. We become adapted to the luxuries and pleasures we have and if we take them for granted we continue to search for more.

Until we start to approach life with a sense of gratitude for what we have, down to the smallest of luxuries, this cycle will consume our waking hours. It will consume our lives.

Let us develop our sense of gratitude early, and focus on becoming better people now.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 4

“The pleasures of the wise are mild, decorous, verging on dullness, kept under restraint and scarcely noticeable.” – Seneca

That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun does it? Pleasure that could be perceived as dull? That sounds like a bore.

If we compare two versions of pleasure. The first being the contentment found in enjoying a walk through a sunny park in the middle of a hectic workday. A few moments to allow our minds to wander, to take in the beauty of the day, and remind ourselves that we are filling our place in this beautiful world. The second being a busy night of getting food, drinks, and spending an evening on the town.

Both of these are fun in their own way, but only one revitalizes us, gives us a better perspective on our purpose, and reminds us of the reason we choose to avoid the second pleasure most of the time.

By approaching life with a sense of gratitude for the experiences and little luxuries we have, our ability to find pleasure in little things.

This protects us from becoming slaves to pleasure and allowing it to control our decision making. Like any drug, the more we give in to pleasure, the more of it we need to feel the high that comes with enjoying pleasure. It is far better to allow what pleasures come on their own to season our lives and focus our energy on becoming the best people we can.

virtus fortis vocat

 

 

June 3

“If a person is engrossed in pleasure, how will they resist toil, danger, want, and all of the ills which surround us and threaten our lives? How will they bear the sight of death or pain?” – Seneca

There is an idea, a life philosophy that is as pernicious as it is prevalent in society today. The idea that happiness is somehow in and of itself a good goal for our lives.

The bothersome bit about happiness as a life goal is that happiness is an emotional state predominated by positive emotions. Sometimes in life, often in fact, we are going to encounter events and times where positive emotions would be the wrong experience. During these times, experiencing positive emotions would be a pretty big clue that there is something seriously wrong and we need professional help.

A well rounded life experiences a range of emotional states. Many of them are predominated by negative emotions. Anxiety, pain, fear, and confusion would be just a few of the emotional states that might accompany events we look back at someday and see as pivotal and important events in our own lives. Events we wouldn’t trade for all the pleasant emotions in the world.

Further more, setting happiness as our goal in life robs us of our ability to cope when things do go sideways on us. And they will go sideways on us. Life is going to knock us flat on our backs a few more times before the ride is over. If our goal is happiness, we might see ourselves as failures during those times. If we see ourselves as being open to full well rounded lives, we will see these as opportunities to grow.

virtus fortis vocat

June 2

“Do you ask what I seek from virtue? I answer, ‘Virtue.’ It is its own reward. Does this not appear great enough, when I tell you that the highest good is an unyielding strength of mind, wisdom, magnanimity, sound judgement, freedom, harmony, beauty?” – Seneca

The reward in living a life in pursuit of being the best people we can become is that we get closer to becoming the best people we can become. This is enough of a reward, in and of itself.

When we learn to discipline ourselves to focus our energy and attention only the things that we actually have control over, we have a sense of peace and increased control over our destiny. This is a reward.

When we learn to discipline our reaction to the events that occur around us, even to us and we control our thoughts to keep us from being hurt or offended by things we had no control over, our interpersonal relationships become easier and more enjoyable. This is a reward.

When we learn to discipline our impulses and decision making we find ourselves wasting less time, money, and energy on things that we don’t need or things that will not truly provide a benefit to us on our path. This leaves us with more time, money, and energy. This is three rewards.

So let’s stay on the path and every once in awhile let’s take a look around us and take inventory of all of the rewards the path has provided us with.

virtus fortis vocat

 

June 1

“We do not choose virtue because it gives us pleasure but it also gives us pleasure if we choose it.” – Seneca

There is a lot of joy and plenty of pleasure to be had in living a life that focuses on developing as individuals and recognizing that the things we can control are the things that relate directly to us, our thoughts, our actions, our response to the world around us.

The peace that comes with understanding the things we do and do not control and then focusing on only that is pleasurable in itself. The freedom that comes with disciplining our reaction to the external world, our actions, and our end of relationships is very pleasurable.

This is not why we have chosen to focus on developing ourselves into better people or why we have decided to withhold the base pleasures of life for a chance at a higher realization of life. But the pleasures that come along with that decision do help to soften the blow of the difficulty we have to endure to keep moving along this path. They help a lot.

Recognizing that we control our response to the world around us and that we choose our own emotional response to things gives us power over our own happiness, in any situation. This in turn gives us the opportunity to be grateful for even the smallest pleasures we might encounter along our path.

It is up to us.

virtus fortis vocat