October 31

“It is the mark of a noble spirit not to precipitate oneself into such things on the ground that they are better, but to practice for them on the ground until they are easy to endure.” – Seneca

There are things right now, and there are always likely going to be things going forward, that irritate us and do not bring out the best in us. Some of them are going to surprise us, but most of them are things that we could readily identify if we sat down and thought about it for a few minutes.

We could continue to allow those things to irritate us and we could continue to be somewhat taken aback each time they arrive and ruin our mood. We could continue to throw ourselves into the mix of difficulties that life throws at us with little planning and no adjustment of our position.

Or we could identify the things that are most commonly the source of our hardship and our frustration and we could train to meet them. We could prepare our minds to deal with life’s frustrations, we could hone our abilities to deal with the situations that end up causing us the most trouble in life, and we could remember that we can only control so much.

As we start on that path, we will find that it is slightly more difficult but that life becomes less irritating and more rewarding at the same time.

virtus fortis vocat

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October 30

“You should lay hold, once and for all, upon a single norm to live by, and should regulate your whole life according to this norm.” – Seneca

If we were going to set one single rule to live the rest of our lives by, one that would have the greatest impact on our lives, and give us the best opportunity to become the best people we can become without having to add to it, that rule would be: Control the things you can control.

In this life we have control over very few things. We control our actions, our thoughts, our emotions, our words, and our reactions to the world around us. That is it.

Our actions, the things we do, how we interact with the world. This is probably our biggest outside influence, people will judge us most by our actions. We are the product of the little things we choose to do day in day out, our habits are who we are.

Our thoughts are how we choose to interpret the world around us. While these are likely the most private things we have control over, in a lot of ways our thoughts are the things that motivate our words and actions. If we don’t control these we will end up saying and doing things we don’t mean to say and do.

Our emotions are directly linked to our thoughts but they are the part of us, who we are, that is intertwined with our words and actions. They are the parts of our words that betray our thoughts, and work themselves into our actions. If we don’t control our emotions, they can move into our subconscious and control us. If we think we can’t control our emotions, they already have.

Our words, the things we choose to say are a direct reflection of our thoughts. The things we choose to share with the people around us say a lot about what they can expect of us and what we are thinking about in any given situation. We should take the time to control our words by choosing to not say anything until we’ve had time to roll it around in our heads for awhile.

The way we choose to react to the world around us tells people everything they need to know about who we are. If we are cool, calm, collected, and pleasant when everything is going our way but lose our minds when things don’t go our way, people know who we really are.

These are the things we get to control, this is a pretty comprehensive list. Everything not on this list is outside of our control and can be ignored by us for the most part. Following this rule will make us into the people we want to be, whoever that might be.

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October 29

“The highest duty and proof of wisdom – that deed and word should be in accord, that a person should be equal to themselves under all conditions, and always the same.”               – Seneca

We can say all kinds of things in this life, we can give all kinds of advice, we can explain the rules of whatever game we think we are playing as often as we like, but if our actions are not in concert with our words we are inconsistent and our message doesn’t matter. Even if we have the best of ideas, if we can’t put them into practice in our own lives, no one is going to listen to us. Worse than that, people see right through that behavior and will look down on us. Rightly so.

But living by our own words is difficult, it takes time and we will have to practice before we become good enough at it to feel like our actions and our words are always in step.

The easier thing to do in life is to keep our mouths shut. This requires little to no energy to accomplish and has the same effect as getting our actions in line. In fact, it is even better than that because we will have an even greater impact if we aren’t talking to people about the path we are on and instead, we wait to show them with the way we act. This works well because it is not expected of us because we’ve been quietly living our best life.

And we can continue to do that for the rest of our lives.

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October 28

“Great things can not be bought for small sums; so reckon up whether it is preferable to leave your own true self, or merely some of your belongings.” – Seneca

Spoiler alert. Life is really hard sometimes. In fact, the more valuable something is, the harder it is to get.

The same is true of our relationships, valuable relationships like marriages, friendships, business partnerships, and others take a lot of work. They aren’t easy.

Being in good shape and staying healthy involves exercising, eating right, and getting the right amount of rest. Those things aren’t easy.

Being financially secure takes more than just having a good job that pays well, or inheriting a large amount of money – anyone can spend more than they make, any idiot can chew through an inheritance. Being financially secure involves limiting our spending more than it does maximizing our earning. If we spend a moment on that idea we’ll realize that our spending is the part of our financial equation we have the most control over. Not one hundred percent control but certainly more control than we have over how much we earn. But being financially disciplined isn’t easy.

And these are just a few of the voluntary hardships we will endure to get some of the things that we deem worth having in this life. But the end result is the same for all of them, nothing worth having comes easily and the greater the struggle, often the greater the reward.

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October 27

“The outcome of a mighty anger is madness, and hence anger should be avoided, not merely that we may escape excess, but that we may have a healthy mind.” – Seneca

Emotional discipline. It is the one skill we can learn and develop that will make the most difference for us in this life. Becoming the person who keeps their calm in the face of a crisis involves disciplining our emotional response to the crisis and to the other people who are going to be involved.

But emotional discipline isn’t easy. In fact, it is also likely to be the most difficult thing we ever learn to do and it will likely take more than a lifetime to fully master.

But it is something that we can learn to recognize in ourselves immediately and something we can begin getting better at today. Likely within the next few hours. It is a skill we should prioritize and we should not only recognize it when we fail at keeping our emotions in check, we should also teach ourselves to recognize why allowing our emotions to rule us gets in the way of accomplishing the things we want to accomplish.

Emotional discipline will help us stop internalizing the things we shouldn’t even be allowing to affect us. Emotional discipline will help us solve problems faster without being distracted by how we are feeling. Emotional discipline will allow us to save our emotional responses for the things in life that deserve them.

Emotional discipline will set us free to work on the rest of our progress.

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October 26

“I would have you reach the point where you possess wealth dauntlessly; this can be accomplished only by persuading yourself that you can live happily without it, and by regarding riches always as likely to elude you.” – Seneca

It’s not the wealth we have, it’s not the luxuries we enjoy, and it’s not the lifestyle we are accustomed to that is going to create problems for us in life. It is the inability to live without these things if our situation demands it that will make us miserable should things change.

Right now, we are accustomed to a certain way of living. If we can’t imagine ourselves being willing to change that way of living in for a more meager existence and still maintaining our current level of happiness, we have ourselves a problem.

It is a problem because if we can’t live without it, we have allowed luxuries to become necessary and if our fortunes change and we can no longer afford the lifestyle we have allowed ourselves to become accustomed to, we are going to be miserable.

Instead, if we treat the good fortune we have right now as fleeting, outside our control and something we should enjoy because it might very well leave us one day we will be in a much better position if it ever does. We will be prepared.

Even better than that, if we know that we can live happily without our current level of luxury and an opportunity to make our own lives dramatically better comes along but requires us to make some short term sacrifices, we aren’t going to miss out because we aren’t sure if we can live with less.

We already know we can.

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October 25

“We shall be rich with all the more comfort, if we once learn how far poverty is from being a burden.” – Seneca

It can be easy to take all of the comforts and luxuries we have in our lives for granted. Most – if not all of us – know where our next meal is coming from, we will be safe from the elements tonight when we go to bed, we have clean running water, and if we are reading this on line, we likely also have electricity. It’s easy to forget that these things are luxuries when we compare ourselves to a large number of our fellow humans.

When we catch ourselves taking these things for granted, expecting them to be there and not being grateful for them when they are, we should take a few days and try living without one or two of the luxuries we are taking for granted.

We would be grateful for on demand electricity when we had it if we decided to live without it for a few days. The same would go for the internet, running water, and the food we are used to having whenever we want it.

Not that we should deny ourselves these things regularly, but we’d do well for ourselves to even just imagine life without them. If we feel like we’re struggling with imaging it, we should try an exercise where we go without.

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October 24

“If you would not have a person flinch when the crisis comes, train them before it comes.” – Seneca

If we think about the things that can distract us from our work, ruin our day, and make what should be an enjoyable time absolutely miserable, they all have one thing in common; we can anticipate them.

In fact, part of what makes us so miserable when these things happen is that we have anticipated them, we have set expectations, and then we have allowed ourselves to react to the outcome in one way over another.

In the way that we react to these self made disappointments – in truth, all disappointments are self made – we are clearly labeling these moments as a crisis at the time and we are choosing to anticipate them in the wrong fashion.

It would be a very valuable exercise for us to sit down and come up with two to three things that occur on a regular basis in our lives that cause us stress. This is not likely going to be a difficult exercise and most of us have already probably thought of three or four things already.

Now, instead of trying to find a way to control the other people, the situation, or even the way the stresser makes us feel, let’s look at how we can control ourselves when one of these stressful events occurs. What can we do differently that will make the event less troublesome for us? Is there a way we can make it into something that is not a big deal to us at all?

We should take two to three of those things and we should work towards implementing a plan to allow them to affect us less than we currently allow them to. In this way, we will have trained ourselves to avoid the crises that we are already creating for ourselves.

virtus fortis vocat.

October 23

“It shows much more courage to remain dry and sober when the mob is drunk and vomiting; but it shows greater self control to refuse to withdraw oneself and to do what the crowd does, but in a different way.” – Seneca

For many of us, perhaps all of us, as we set goals and map our the people we want to become over the next few months or years, we will start likely notice that our goals do not involve things such as drinking more alcohol or staying out late with our friends more frequently.

In fact, many of us might go in the opposite direction and that may cost us some of our relationships in the short term. That is going to be alright so long as we recognize that we have some control over each of our relationships. Specifically, we have control over half of each relationship we are in. The half that involves us.

Some of our relationships involve things we may consider removing from our lives if we are going to become the people we want to be over the next few years. In fact, some of our relationships may be built on these things entirely.

In the beginning of our journey, we might find that it is easier for us to stay on the path if we just don’t associate in these circles anymore. And in the beginning that is fine. But we should also keep in mind that our goal is not ever going to be to stay where the path is easier.

Our goal should be to be able to associate with those people, not indulge in the behavior we no longer want to indulge in, and not make the people we are associating feel any worse for indulging just because we are there not joining in the indulgence. This won’t be easy, for us or them, especially in the beginning but if we discipline ourselves and stay on the path, it will be worth it.

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October 22

“Therefore one should not seek to lay up riches first; one may attain to philosophy, however, even without money for the journey.” – Seneca

When we decide to make a change towards being the person we want to be we should make realistic goals and set them within a realistic time frame. Real changes take about three to six months to start to see them. Most major life changes will become normal to us around the three to five year mark and then there are certainly some things we may want for ourselves that take a lifetime to accomplish.

It makes sense then, especially if we are new to making changes in our lives, to start with goals that are three to six months out there. We can think about where we would like to see ourselves in three to six months. And we should be realistic.

The nice things about choosing to sit down and map out the changes we would like to see in ourselves three to six months from now is that when we set those goals and we get started, we will feel differently immediately. We will even start to see results sooner than we expect.

And we don’t need to wait until we have this sorted out or we have our finances in order, we can literally sit down, make a list of things we want to see change in the next six months, determine which of those things are possible, pick our favorite two things and start today.

And we should.

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October 21

“Study cannot be helpful unless you take pains to live simply; and living simply is voluntary poverty.” – Seneca

It’s almost a cliche, and it’s usually ridiculously inaccurate, the starving college student. When did we ever have more expendable income than when we were in college? Ski passes? Nights out every weekend? Trips for Spring Break? Most of us can’t afford these things now.

Of course, at the same time, can we really say we were acquiring wisdom during that period of our lives? No. For many of us, wisdom came later, sometimes much later, sometimes not at all. Sure we may have learned skills, we acquired knowledge, and some of us may have left our schooling with a solid base for acquiring knowledge and life skills but if we stopped improving after graduation, we could not consider ourselves to be in possession of any type of wisdom.

Wisdom comes later, and it typically doesn’t come easily. We spend the rest of our lives either learning from our experiences or repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

If we want to focus on getting better if we want to work at acquiring wisdom there is one step we all have to take first; we have to identify the things we can control and the things we can not control. Once we do that we can focus on the things we actually have control over. When we start doing that, our lives change almost immediately. Once we recognize the things we control we can start to see how we can work to bring about the things we want, or we can see how the things we want are not realistic goals as we do not have any control over them.

And then we can start to become better people.

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October 20

“If you wish to have leisure for your mind, either be a poor man or resemble a poor man.” -Seneca

It is an exchange we make without realizing we are making an exchange. We all push to make more, to accumulate more, and to achieve a higher status in the circles we travel in.  And sometimes we may forget that the more we try to accumulate the more complicated and distracting our life is going to become.

But that is the way it has to be, the more we add to our lives the more things are going to have to manage.

That is the trade off we never really think about. There is likely a limit each of us is willing to get to when it comes to accumulating wealth, a limit where things suddenly become uncomfortable because life has become more complicated than we would like it to be.

And if we think about it, none of us have likely thought of the limit we’d be comfortable with. But the complication is that as things become more complicated, for some reason we are programmed to think that as we acquire more and more wealth it will become simpler. Somehow we think that having these things handled by other people will be easier full well forgetting that if that is the direction we choose, we have to manage actual people aside from ourselves. That isn’t easier.

Better still, live a simple life and be grateful. We’ll be wealthy before we realize it.

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October 19

“Riches ave shut off many a man from the attainment of wisdom; poverty is unburdened and free from care.” – Seneca

Not just material poverty but also the attainment of some level of success can be just as large an obstacle on the path to working on ourselves. We have all accomplished something, and that something is going to be a little bit different for each of us. But we all could find a reason or an excuse to effectively rest on our laurels and scrape by with the fruits of our current level of achievement.

And of course, many of us do just that. We fall into a rut where we work tour jobs, we live our lives and we kind of attach blinders to the rest of the world and even to ourselves. Or we might look at how far we have come and say to ourselves that the way we are right now is just fine and we need no further improvement.

And then we find ourselves frustrated, we find ourselves not enjoying our work, or our relationships, or our own lives and we wonder why.

It’s because we have stopped improving, we have stopped trying to be better people, we have stopped trying to be better at what we do. We have stopped trying to get better.

We will never be complete but that doesn’t mean we get to stop trying.

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October 18

“It is more important for you to keep the resolutions you have already made than to go on and make noble ones.” – Seneca

We can all have ideas. In fact, sitting around and coming up with ideas is something that anyone can be really good at with very little practice or training. The more we do it, the grander those ideas can become. And how much are all of those grand ideas worth? Nothing.

An idea only has value when it is put into action, when the plan is executed on, and the idea is made into something real. Something that impacts the world in some way. Even if it is a very small way.

And a small idea put into action, realized, and learned from will always be more valuable than a grand plan that never sees the world outside the dreamer’s mind.

So while we could look at our small plans and we could shrug and tell ourselves those plans don’t matter, we need better plans, better ideas. It is exactly those small plans, the little things we are doing now that will lead to bigger and better things.

Because having an idea is one thing, but we need to learn how to turn those ideas into realities and like anything else, that takes time, effort, and persistence. We need to learn how to execute.

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October 17

“A happy life is reached when our wisdom is brought to completion, but that life is at least endurable even when our wisdom has only just begun.” – Seneca

As soon as we make a decision to start focusing on the things we can control and letting go of the things we have no control over, we get to experience an almost instant improvement in our quality of life. Not because we will be instantly good at sorting out the things we can control and the things we can not, not because we will even be good at controlling the things we can control yet. Life will get better because we will recognize that we do have some control over how we approach life, and that gives us a little more to work with.

When we decide that we are going to focus only on the things in life we can control we immediately recognize that there are some things we will have to give up. One of those things is going to be judging ourselves harshly because we are at the beginning of our journey. We can’t be good at this stuff yet, we are only just getting started.

Giving ourselves that allowance instantly improves where we are in the world. We can look at everything a little differently when we know exactly what we need to do in order to make our lives a little better. Even if we can’t do that thing all that well at the moment.

Because with just a little practice we will be better.

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October 16

“Time is something of which we ought to keep strict account.” – Seneca

We don’t know how much time any of us really have left but we do know exactly how much time we have left in a week, a month or even a year. If for example, we work an eight to five job Monday through Friday, from the moment we clock in at 8:00 am on Monday morning until quitting time at 5:00 pm on Friday afternoon, there are exactly six thousand three hundred minuted to go. Total. Including time to sleep, eat, shower, do personal care and family stuff. The whole show is 6,300 minutes long.

For some of us that might look like a countdown, for some of us that may look like a challenge and for some of us it is going to look like a finite supply of a resource which we need to use to get everything we want to accomplish accomplished.

We can’t make more minutes in a day, we can’t make more hours in a week, and we can’t make more days in a year. We only have so many hours to sell every year and what we choose to do with them is going to relate back directly to how far we are able to progress in anything during that time frame. If we spend those minutes wisely, we will travel quite a distance, if we waste hours on foolish things, we won’t. It’s that simple.

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October 15

“He who craves riches feels fear on their account. No man, however, enjoys a blessing that brings anxiety; he is always trying to add a little more.” – Seneca

We all want to be comfortable, we all want to feel secure, and we all want to stay comfortable and secure for as long as possible. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is fine to prefer nice things, it is fine to prefer to live well, and it is fine to prefer wealth over poverty. In fact, we’d have to have something wrong with us to prefer life the other way around.

But to prefer something is not the same thing as to crave it or to desire it. Sure, we’d rather have a nice house, but we know full well we can be comfortable in a small house or apartment. Sure, we’d like to have a nice car but most of us could get by with public transportation and for those of us who can’t, a car that does the job is just as well.

When we fall into the trap of allowing ourselves to want something, to make it a priority in our lives, something we know we can live without, we open the door to allowing ourselves to feel like we are entitled to something. When we start to form expectations about having some luxury by right, we are setting ourselves up to be disappointed, and possibly miserable.

And worse than that, we are getting in the way of becoming the best possible versions of ourselves.

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October 14

“The wise man regards the reasons for all his actions, but not the results. The beginning is in our power; fortune decides the issue.” – Seneca

We like to imagine that we control a lot more than we do. We like to imagine that we will set out to complete a task and that we have control over how it turns out, the way it works, and the impact it has. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, we control everything leading right up until other people, or any outside forces are involved. After that, factors we have no control over get involved and may very well end up ruining our project all together. At the very least, they are going to alter somehow. Almost nothing we set out to accomplish in this life is going to go exactly the way we planned it.

And that is acceptable so long as we understand that gong into every project we work on and every goal we try to accomplish. In fact, knowing that we are going to experience set backs that are not under our control helps us deal with them when they arise. We caqn also plan for the ones that we can think of and then we can be amused when things we didn’t plan for happen.

Because those are the only things we can control.

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October 13

“The wise man will not upset the customs of the people, nor will he invite the attention of the populace by any novel ways of living.” – Seneca

It probably exists in every community in the world. There is likely always at least one family or individual in the community that is whispered about. The way they live draws attention and generates gossip within the community. Sometimes, this might be exactly what they want, sometimes it might be a product of things they can not control, and sometimes they just might not know any different.

No matter the reason, the lifestyle in those cases is a distraction. No matter what those people do, no matter how else they contribute to the community, the first thing most people will think of is the different way that they live. When we allow ourselves to become known for something, that something can easily become an obstacle we need to overcome in order to progress as people.

Instead we should be mindful of our actions, mindful of our behavior, our words and even our thoughts. When we find them crossing out away from the way most people act, talk, or even think we should question them. If we don’t have a solid reason to step outside the mainstream, we need to step back in. Not because we should be afraid to be judged by those around us but because we should be afraid to lose our ability to influence people around us by distracting them with something unimportant.

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October 12

“Philosophy itself, however, should be practiced with calmness and moderation.”                   – Seneca

Like anything we choose to identify with, setting philosophy as our internal operating system comes with its own set of pitfalls. Mostly we give ourselves license to reflect on our own words, actions, and the way we approach the world. This will inevitably lead to us quietly – or sometimes not so quietly – passing judgment on the words, actions, or perceived thoughts of others.

We might be subtle about it, we might not even know that we are doing it but when we see someone getting upset about something they can’t control and we think to ourselves that they are being foolish and wasting energy on things outside their control, we are guilty of the same thing. And worse, we know we should know better.

We should be catching these moments, these should be the first things we start to root out of our lives. Partially because we have no right to even have opinions about the goings on in the lives of others but mostly because thoughts like these hold us back.

Our best self isn’t concerned with how others act, even how others treat us, because our best self is focused on finding each of our won weaknesses and if we can not eliminate them, we should at least be finding ways to make them work in our favor. We should be streamlining our forward motion on the path to becoming the person we want to be. This should take all of our focus.

But we can not focus on that until we stop looking at others.

We should stop looking at and judging others today.

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October 11

“For speech making at the bar, or any other pursuit which claims the people’s attention, makes for us enemies; but philosophy is peaceful and minds her own business.” – Seneca

No matter what we do in life, if we have to interact with the public, especially in a professional manner we are going to have people who don’t like us. We may very well have the other person’s best interests in mind one hundred percent of the time and still, some people are not going to like us. Some people may even just plain hate us. And there’s nothing we can do about that, it’s not part of the equation we can control.

Sure, we can do our best to control our emotions, our reactions, and to put others first all the time, but that doesn’t mean that we are going to get that across to everyone. We just can’t control everything.

But if we build ourselves a mental retreat from all of it. A place to go when we can start to feel ourselves becoming overwhelmed by the pressures of ‘performing’ for the crowds in our professional lives, we can have a place to reset ourselves mentally.

All this place requires is detachment, the ability to remove ourselves from our situation and look at ourselves and the situation we find ourselves in objectively. And that takes practice.

The good news is, we can practice everyday.

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October 10

“If you are empty handed, the highway man passes you by: even along an infested road, the poor may travel in peace.” – Seneca

There is more to avoiding the excesses of luxury than just not appearing too full of ourselves and not allowing ourselves to be softened by luxury. We should avoid the excesses of luxury because they also make enemies for us. They make the people close to us resentful, not because we are successful, but because we allow the success to change the way we act. And we are the culmination of the little things we choose to do everyday, including becoming accustomed to luxury.

By becoming accustomed to luxury we allow those around us to have to suffer through conversations, dinners, and vacations with us as we – consciously or not – dwell on the fact that at this moment we are enjoying some measure of success. A little later on when that success evaporates, they will be the first in line to enjoy our suffering as the life we have allowed ourselves to become accustomed to falls apart.

Right or wrong, that is how they’ll see it. We can avoid this by recognizing that the success we experience – as well as the failure – have little to do with us and more to do with externals outside of our control. Not that we can’t set ourselves up for success, but setting ourselves up to succeed is no way a guarantee of success and experiencing success is not contingent on only our abilities and what we have done.

Instead, in both success and failure, we should remain grateful for the opportunity to test ourselves, and we should be thankful to get the opportunity to do it again and again until we finally have to leave the arena.

Because gratitude is everything.

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October 9

“A wise man shuns a strong man who may be injurious to him, making a point of not seeming to avoid him because an important part of one’s safety lies in not seeking safety openly; for what one avoids, one condemns.” – Seneca

Sometimes in life we have friends, coworkers, maybe even family members that we are better off not having anything to do with. Maybe they have changed, started down a path we can’t be associated with, or gone off the rails a little bit more than we can accommodate. But more likely, we have changed. More likely, we are at a place where old behaviors that we once could tolerate are now best put behind us.

But that doesn’t mean we need to alienate our loved ones simply because for the time being, we have outgrown them. In fact, we do far more damage to ourselves by even letting them know that we have moved on beyond them. We do far better limiting our interactions with them while still giving ourselves the opportunity to work on our ability to lead by example and to build relationships while keeping people at a distance. Those are two skill sets that will serve us well should we choose to develop them.

And we should choose to develop them.

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October 8

“So the wise man will never provoke the anger of those in power; nay, he will even turn his course, precisely as he would turn from a storm if he were steering a ship.” – Seneca

This is different than not standing up to those in power. Well sort of. It is exactly the skill set we need if we are going to stand up to power. Because standing up to power is about influencing other people, people who might be used to being in charge, to alter their course of action. We can’t do that if we are going around provoking anger and starting arguments.

Sure that might work for us a few times, we might get results by arguing with others and by provoking anger, we might even get our own show on a cable news program, but we won’t be changing the world as effectively as we could if we made ourselves the type of person people came to for our perspective. The type of person who doesn’t raise offense but instead provokes thoughtful reflection.

We do this by detaching and seeing things from another person’s point of view, understanding their position and what they are trying to accomplish, and then finding a way to frame their position in a way that encompasses our arguments.

This takes practice, hard work, and most of all time. But with those three things, we can turn ourselves into someone who can actually influence others instead of someone who can occasionally berate others into doing what we want.

The difference is immense.

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October 7

“Let us, therefore, see to it that we abstain from giving offence.” – Seneca

Life can be a bit of a winding road, people we meet today may play huge roles in our lives in the future and the people we rely on now may very well be people we remember by then.

We never know the role another person is going to play for us. The person who accidentally takes our seat on the subway, or speaks over us in a meeting might very well be the person who can help us solve an issue we’ve been struggling with for some time now.

We should be charitable with the feelings and disposition of other people. We should take some time before we act and think about the consequences of our actions. This takes two things that take time to develop; discipline and detachment.

We can’t take the time to look at our actions and think about the consequences without implementing the practice every single day. In every single situation. This will slow down our responses to things and we will have to accept that we will react slower, but that we will ultimately be reacting better to the world around us. Implementing this practice and sticking with it through the frustration of getting better at it takes discipline.

In order to look at our actions in a way that allows us to actually affect our behavior in a positive direction, we need to be able to detach from the situation and look at everything from the outside. This takes practice, understanding when to detach, how far to remove ourselves, and what to do with the information will take us time to get better at. We will never be perfect, sometimes we will fail but detachment is the number one things we can do to improve the way we react to the way around us.

It will take a lifetime to perfect but learning not to offend those around us is a skill that will help us in ways we might not have ever experienced otherwise.

virtus fortis vocat

October 6

“If I am not mistaken, there are three main classes of fear: we fear want, we fear sickness, and we fear the troubles which arise from the violence of the stronger.”                – Seneca

Human beings are brutal creatures capable of despicable things. We – collectively – have done some of the most atrocious and heinous things to each other, things most of us wouldn’t even be able to imagine.

And we tend to only do those things to the people we can consider as ‘others’ or not within our group. Or sometimes, when we are really horrible, we do them to the people we are supposed to love the most.

Focusing on the things we do to the ‘other’ groups of people, it’s no wonder that when we live together in large heterogeneous societies we tend to have friction. That friction can lead to a fear of each other, because we don’t understand the way each of us thinks and therefore we struggle to anticipate each others’ responses to external stimuli.

Se we place each other into groups and we ultimately place ourselves into groups as well. It helps us understand our world and make sense of our daily interactions. Even if our groups are flawed, even if they are downright wrong, they help us navigate our world so they are useful to us, in a way.

They also are the way in which ordinary people like ourselves can be made to do the horrific things our species is capable of. Little by little, one tiny compromise after another we can be pushed into making the groups about ‘them’ and ‘us.’ It can start off innocuous enough, disagreements about politics, thinking one side of the equation wants to get in the way of our current way of life. Then they become a threat to our way of life, then they become the enemy. Then easily enough, they become a threat to our families and ourselves.

Once someone is a threat to our very being, well then we are capable of doing just about anything to protect the things we love.

Even if they don’t actually need protecting.

virtus fortis vocat

October 5

“Virtue is held too cheap by those who count their bodies too dear. We should cherish the body with the greatest care; but we should be prepared, when reason, self respect, and duty demand the sacrifice, to deliver it even to the flames.” – Seneca

There is a certain vanity that develops when we focus on living healthier lives. We can see the effects of healthy and unhealthy lifestyles in the people we encounter on a daily basis. As we start to see the results of our healthier lifestyles – and it only takes a few months to start to see actual results – we can develop a perspective about those who are clearly not making healthy life choices that is not as charitable as our best self would have it.

We forget that we only control ourselves, our actions, and our thoughts and that the lifestyles of others, especially those who do not come into contact with ours, are of no concern to us.

It may also become more important to us at one point to stop focusing so much on a healthier lifestyle and focus on other things. Perhaps we will need to spend more time getting our family’s finances on track, perhaps we will need to focus on fleeing a war, or maybe we just will need to focus on being better people and we might realize that the vanity that comes with a healthy lifestyle is holding us back.

Will we be ready to abandon our bodies to preserve our integrity?

virtus fortis vocat

October 4

“I do not maintain that the body is not to be indulged at all; but I maintain that we must not be slaves to it.” – Seneca

We’re human. We have wants and we have needs. We need to eat, we want to be eating things that we enjoy. We have to sleep, we want to be sleeping somewhere comfortable.

We don’t require to have what we want in order to meet our needs, if we are tired enough, we can sleep anywhere. If we are hungry enough even foods we do not like will become palatable to us.

And while there are times that we should deprive ourselves of our wants even while meeting our needs, we should eat bland food, sleep in uncomfortable conditions, and put ourselves through a little discomfort once in awhile if for no other reason than to appreciate the fact we don’t have to endure these things, while we should do all of that from time to time, those things don’t necessarily make us better.

It is our attitude and our approach to the things we want that make us better. It is our ability to see that the things that we want are not the things that we need even if they are closely related.

It is our understanding that we should be grateful for having the things we want in this life. It is our ability to view them as luxuries. Enjoyable for certain but not necessary. They are not even necessary to have good lives.

And that is the only thing we should be working on.

virtus fortis vocat

October 3

“Reflect and you will see how revolting is the fickleness of men who lay down every day new foundations of life, and begin to build up fresh hopes even at the brink of the grave.” – Seneca

There is a balance to this, a certain juggling that has to be done to squeeze the lesson out of this particular piece of wisdom.

While it is important to remember that our lives aren’t over until we take our last breath, and that every day is another day we could do something productive to make ourselves better people and lessen the unnecessary suffering around us, we need to remember that we only control ourselves. But we also have to control ourselves.

When we have set a goal or decided on a specific path, we should also determine how long we are going to give that goal or path until we start to see results. And then we should probably double that amount of time and get to work. Putting our shoulders to the important tasks and forgetting the nagging voice in the back of our minds that tells us that we are wasting our time, not getting anywhere, and never going to see the results we want.

We should give ourselves the time and opportunity to succeed by not constantly taking on new projects or new tasks. We should run the course we have set.

And if life determines that our course has to change and we have to recreate ourselves, by all means, we should do that to the best of our ability. But we can’t control that. We can control sticking to the path we set.

And we should control what we can.

virtus fortis vocat

October 2

“We let ourselves drift with every breeze; we are frightened at uncertainties, just as if they were certain. We observe no moderation.” – Seneca

Today, more than any other time in recorded history we have the capability to avoid almost any information that runs counter to our current belief system. We can build for ourselves – purposefully or otherwise – a world in which we only have our current beliefs reinforced, never challenged, never objected to.

And we can take that as far as we want to. Sometimes we might catch ourselves taking it further than we mean to. We can lose friends, we can alienate our family members. All because we protect ourselves from ideas and thoughts we don’t agree with. All because we go too far in supporting our own ideas, even when they are clearly faulty.

This doesn’t just slow our progress as people. Creating our own little bubbles doesn’t only keep us from becoming the best people we can be. It makes us useless. Once we’ve gone as far as only seeing the world from a single perspective, we’ve removed our ability to relate to others or to be related to by others. We lose our effectiveness in setting an example and using that example to lead. We make ourselves into caricatures that can be easily dismissed due to our lack of understanding the nuances of the world we live in.

We can not be our best selves if we can not relate to others or have others relate to us. We need to be resolute in our positions and the only way to be resolute is to understand. The only way to understand is to learn.

virtus fortis vocat

 

October 1

“But life is not worth living and there is no limit to our sorrows if we choose to indulge our fears to the greatest possible extent.” – Seneca

Our minds will lie to us. They will create worst case scenarios or worse, they will tell us we are doing just fine when in reality we need a serious course correction.

Our brains might tell us that we can’t quit drinking alcohol, how would we ever survive a social event? Our brains might tell us that we’re just not morning people. Or that we are absolutely justified in being upset by this thing or that thing we have zero control over.

And of course our brains will tell us to be afraid of things we do not understand. So afraid in fact, that we start to develop full on belief systems around things we have no idea about. And then we try to control these things. We don’t even understand them but we will try to control them.

And that doesn’t work. And we become frustrated. But our brains will lie to us and we will double down on attempting to control these things.

Or we can choose not to live like that. We can choose to control the thoughts we allow into our minds, we can control the words we choose to speak and we can choose to control how we act in this world.

And we can reap the benefits of a life well lived.

virtus fortis vocat