This book is awesome. I love the short daily pieces of stoicism and thought to ponder on. I feel like it really fits in with whatever belief system you may have, and the last 6 days have been following a consistent theme. All of which point to a main characteristic of Stoicism.
Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.
So with that, I’d like to share the last four days of stoic teaching I’ve learned about them.
It’s not the thing, it’s what we make of it
When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgment of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.47
Let’s not confuse acceptance with passivity.
I love how this thought ties perfectly in the idea of owning something. Not physical or legal possession of a thing, but of a mission or task. If you truly own something and see it to its finish, then you don’t let your own internal judgments of that thing to get in the way of what you believe and think, rather you look forward to the accomplishment of that goal.
The strong accept responsibility
If we judge as good and evil only the things in the power of our own choice, then there is no room left for blaming gods or being hostile to others
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.41
“As the president of our own lives — and knowing that our powers begin and end with our reasoned choice — we would do well to internalize this same attitude. We don’t control things outside that sphere, but we do control our attitudes and our responses to those events — and that’s plenty. It’s enough that we go into each and every day knowing that there is no one to pass the buck to. It ends with us.”
This is great. We get to decide. We get to choose our attitude. We get to be the way we want, and we don’t have to let anyone dictate how we feel about anything. We have the lovely ability and opportunity of it only ever being our fault. So enjoy that and act upon that fact.
Never Complain, never explain
Don’t allow yourself to be heard any longer griping about public life, not even with your own ears!
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditation, 8.9
“Not only do even the most fortunate of us complain, it often seems like the more fortunate we are, the more time we have to do so… Perhaps you generally like your job, but you could do without a few of its attendant responsibilities. Where does that thinking get you? Nowhere, other than in a negative state of mind… It’s so easy to complain about this or that, or to try to make excuses and justifications for the things you’ve done. But that doesn’t accomplish anything — and it never lightens the load.”
I couldn’t write it any better than Marcus, Ryan, and Stephen. This is perfectly put. I hate to hear complaining, even worse when I recognize that I am complaining about something. It does NO good for anyone, especially for your state of mind. So why not just accept what happens and not complain about it. Don’t bother with excuses, they only lengthen the time it will take to get done what should have happened.
You choose the outcome
He was sent to prison. But the observation ‘he has suffered evil,’ is an addition coming from you.
— Epictetus, Discourses, 3.8.5b-6a
“This is classic Stoic thinking, as you’ve gathered by now. An event itself is objective. How we describe it — that it was unfair, or it’s a great calamity, or that they did it on purpose — is on us.”
It all on us, and our choice to choose what we want. We can only control what we can control, but that doesn’t mean we can’t choose what kind of outcome we desire. We can choose our wage, lifestyle, and personality. It’s up to us to make that happen or just let life take us which way it pleases.
Everything is change
Meditate often on the swiftness with which all that exists and is coming into being is swept by us and carried away. For substance is like a river’s unending flow, its activities continually changing and causes infinitely shifting so that almost nothing at all stands still.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.23
“Marcus borrows this wonderful metaphor from Herclitus, who said, “No man steps in the same river twice.” Because the river has changed, and so has the man… Life is in a constant state of change. And so are we. To get upset by things is to wrongly assume that they will last. To kick ourselves or blame others is grabbing at the wind. To resent change is to wrongly assume that you have a choice in the matter. Everything is change. Embrace that. Flow with it.”
It would be silly to think that things would always stay the same. So why do we go up in arms when something changes? A new president, a new job, a new house. There will always be something new each and every day. We might as well just get used to it.
Hope and fear are the same
Hecato says, ‘cease to hope and you will cease to fear’… The primary cause of both these ills is that instead of adapting ourselves to present circumstances we send out thoughts too far ahead.
— Seneca, Moral Letters, 5.7b-8
“Hope is generally regarded as good. Fear is generally regarded as bad. To a Stoic like Hecato, they are the same — both are projections into the future about things we do not control. Both are the enemy of this present moment that you are actually in. Both mean you’re living a life in opposition to amor fati. It’s not about overcoming our fears but understanding that both hope and fear contain a dangerous amount of want and worry in them. And, sadly, the want is what causes the worry.”
The present moment. You can’t do anything but make the best of it before it’s gone. You might have prepared for it, but you can only prepare so much for what you think might happen. Hope and fear cause you not to focus on the present moment you can control. How you handle this present moment is the best way you can determine and choose your outcome.
Hopefully, you’ve found these as helpful and insightful as I have. They take a minute to think about and get into, but the simplicity of thought around these principles creates an immediate burden lifting mentality to how you view your life and future goals.