Reflections On Why You Should Take The Hard Path

To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. (Steven Pressfield)

We are incomplete beings. We are a form of potential. We are unlike other animals in this sense. A lion cub grows up to be a predator. It doesn’t require will power to become what nature intended it to be. Nature didn’t intend for humans to be anything. It left that choice to the individual. Each individual has the possibility to transcend what or who they are at this given moment and realize their potential. What stands in the way is Resistance or themselves. The voice that pokes at your insecurities, tells you you’ve worked enough, it’s good enough, that pain is bad, that struggle must be avoided, that you can blame someone else for the way you are (parents, lover, children, society, gender, race, culture), the voice that gives you an out which you actively and consciously embrace. The voice that speaks when there is a decision to be made.

To be more. To do more. To become more. Or to stay what you are.

Take the easy way or the hard way?

Easy way brings pleasure right now and makes you feel good but the chains of comfort keep you from soaring, growing, moving, changing, becoming and it robs you of time. To not work and procrastinate. To skip the last set. To have that conversation later. This choice can take your possibility away, can take your potential away.

The hard way is to do the more difficult thing right this moment and do that every moment of your life. Wake up early, workout, be disciplined, routined, have those difficult conversations, sacrifice the immediate gratification, sacrifice the warmth and comfort, embrace whatever it is that stirs the thoughts of procrastination in your mind. That’s the way. That’s the path. The discomfort.

You know what the right thing to do is because you have done plenty of self-experiments throughout your life. Plenty of times when you chose the easy way which only left you with guilt and without fulfillment. Over and over the same acts are repeated and little to no growth is to be had. The change is simple as well. You’ve known the way the whole time. You’ve avoided it each time you chose the easy way and were left with regrets later on.

The path is hard. This is the way that growth happens. You become the possibility nature laid out for you. The enemy is resistance. The reality is the shortage of time. The goal is to self actualize. The path is hard.

Stoic Lesson: Meditating On Death and Life

An ordinary journey will be incomplete if you come to a stop in the middle of it, or anywhere short of your destination, but life is never incomplete if it is an honorable one. At whatever point you leave life, if you leave it in the right way, it is whole.” (Seneca, LXXVII)

What would be an honorable life?

One that is not wasted. A life where each day is used to its maximum. Where nothing that can be done right now, at this moment, is left for tomorrow. A life where you show love and appreciation for others. Gratitude towards your loved ones who have helped make your life a little easier. A life where you help others, ease their burden, aid their pain and suffering, improve someone else’s life. A life that is full of action which is directed towards a meaningful outcome. Achieving the outcome is secondary, the effort is primary. A life that can be viewed as an example, whether it be an example of what man can accomplish or if it’s an example of what man can endure or how to balance the complexities of life or how simple life can be. A life that brings joy to others. A life that is full of attempts, failure, and attempts again.

All of these seem to me as honorable aims.

What matters is not how long the acting lasts, but how good it is. It is not important at what point you stop. Stop whenever you will — only make sure that you round it off with a good ending. (Seneca, LXXVII)

Whats a good ending?

When those who love and care for you know that you love and care for them. Your emotions and feelings are relayed to them so clearly that when the end comes there is never a doubt. A good end is also knowing when it’s enough, knowing what is enough for you. There isn’t a maddening attempt to hold on to the past and you’re able to step away from the “limelight” and allow another to take an attempt. There is no honor nor is it good to try and cling on to the glory days. A good ending would be one where you have acted in such a manner that your actions can relay to others what your character was about, what you were about, who you were. There is no need for explanation. Lastly, acceptance of the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs and the finality at the end.

All of these seem like a good ending.

Stoic Lesson On Growing Old

Well, we should cherish old age and enjoy it. It is full of pleasure if you know how to use it. Fruit tastes most delicious just when its season is ending.

It is quite telling that Seneca dedicated an entire letter to aging. It shows how little we, as people, have changed or evolved from our ancestors. For the most part, the same daily concerns that circulated in the minds of Romans are the same ones that trouble us now. One of these concerns being the natural aspect of life: Aging.

In our current age perhaps this concern is more prevalent than before or at least it seems that way with social media. There are so many different surgeries that attempt to give you a youthful appearance, so many companies that sell products to keep you young and beautiful, or so they claim, and so many people who actively seek remedies to aging.

However, the Stoic advice on this matter is similar to their advice on many topics: Acceptance, emotional/attitudinal control and a change of perspective.

Aging is a natural part of life so by accepting it, it can change your perspective from viewing aging as negative to view it as positive. Another Stoic principle is to control one’s attitude. We always have a choice in how we react. Our attitude is one of the few things we control in this life. Once more it is a matter of perspective. We can either see aging as something terrible and sad or we can view it is a new experience, a chance to see the world from a different manner, a chance to transition into a different phase of our life and even live differently. With this perspective change, you can then see the benefits of aging.

As Seneca says:

In my opinion, even the age that stands on the brink has pleasures of its own.

Not only is there a need to accept the natural aging process but also to accept our lack of control over it. It’s easy to see the self harm some people cause through plastic surgeries as they attempt to stop what is natural. Aging can be used to practice a virtue like grace. To age gracefully instead of fighting and manipulating yourself to cling on to what is long past.

Of course, the biggest concern associated with aging is death. The fear of death whether consciously or unconsciously is at the root of a lot of people’s attitudes and actions. However, the Stoics don’t see death as something terrible. Just as with aging, death is also natural.

If God adds the morrow we should accept it joyfully. The man who looks for the morrow without worrying over it knows a peaceful independence and a happiness beyond all others. Whoever has said ‘I have lived’ receives a windfall every day he gets up in the morning.

The Stoics almost recommend a daily reminder of death in order to lessen its impact if it does appear. The reminder is also there in order for you to live the present moment to its fullest extent. In this way, as one ages and death becomes more of a concern, the Stoics could see that as a blessing. By confronting that possibility we can then prepare our attitude and action towards it and in the meantime, enjoy the time we have left for when you truly acknowledge death, then each moment becomes more precious. We soon come to see what matters, what we truly desire, what makes us happy and fulfilled and on what things and with whom we would like to spend our time. So, aging can be viewed as a blessing to clear away all that doesn’t matter so we can focus on what does.

For the Stoics, any hardship is an opportunity to exercise our wisdom and the strength of our character. For some, aging is a hardship and so, for those people, aging can be viewed as an opportunity to practice the right attitude, practice our control over our attitude and to practice the right mindset.

Book Referenced: Letters From A Stoic By Seneca

 

 

 

Bruce Lee On The Importance Of Being A Quality Human Being

You know how I like to think of myself? As a human being.

For Bruce Lee, it was important to identify himself as a human first before any race, gender or ethnicity. By emphasizing his humanity over anything else, it helped him transcend social and cultural barriers and at the same time, it allowed him to think broadly and to have his philosophy be attainable to any individual.

However, Bruce Lee’s goal wasn’t simply to be human. Rather, it was to be a human of “quality”.

The function and duty of a human being, a “quality” human being, that is, is the sincere and honest development of potential and self-actualization.

Self-actualization means to achieve one’s full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world. Simply put, to become the best version of yourself.

In order to fulfill one’s own potential, it is important to hone the ability to self-reflect. Self-reflection can allow us to detach momentarily. To see our own flaws and limitations so we know the areas we need to improve or strengthen.

We can ask ourselves: What habits do we need to break? What habits do we need to start? Where do we lack knowledge? Are we too passive? What part of our life requires immediate action?

For Bruce Lee, his goal was to actualize himself and he believed that should be the goal of all humans.

To promote the growth process and develop human potential:

To get through social role playing

To fill in the holes in the personality to make [one] whole and complete again.

The social role-playing part is important as well. We are social creatures and we have to do well by our community. It’s not a selfish attitude that Bruce Lee advocated but rather he believed in actualizing ourselves by performing our social duties to the best of our ability while improving upon our flaws. Both can go hand in hand. If we become the best version of ourselves then the ripple effects of that are felt by our friends, families and the community we live in. At the same time, by dedicating ourselves to being a productive member of society, it can help move us closer to our ideal state.

What the hell; you are what you are, and self-honesty occupies a definite and vital part in the ever-growing process to become a “real” human being and not a plastic one. Somehow, one day, you will hear “hey, now that’s quality; here is someone REAL.” I’d like that.

The key to being a quality human being is self-honesty. If we lie to ourselves and run away from who we currently are then there can be no improvement. Other people can point out our flaws but it’s easy to rationalize that truth and act as if other people are wrong. It’s also important to understand that who we currently are isn’t what we have to be. Bruce Lee also advocated constant change and this change has to come from within. We can only improve and grow if we wish to and in order to do this, we need to be honest with ourselves. Brutally honest about somethings. It can be uncomfortable to pick at our own flaws but there really is no other way to inch towards self-actualization. There needs to be constant ownership and accountability of our own actions. Perhaps in this manner, one day, someone can look at us and say “here is someone real,” just as Bruce Lee was.

Book referenced: Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living 

Reflections: Be Your Own Friend

Often times we look outside ourselves for advice. It’s easy to give the responsibility for our own improvement to other people. Meaning that we find someone who is popular or trending, who is a self-help guru and then follow whatever they say, without giving to much thought to what is being told or even asking ourselves if the advice given is what we need. But popularity can cloud logic and reason. By giving up personal responsibility, we don’t feel let down by ourselves if we don’t get better. We have someone to blame, to point the finger to and in doing so, feel better about ourselves.

But the simple fact that we desire someone to help us is a good sign. It’s an internal recognization that what we are at this moment isn’t what we wish to be. We know that we can be better. We know we can improve. This alone should give us a hint of where to look in order to get good self-help advice.

Just as the phrase suggests, self-help should start with the self.

In reality, if you were to detach for a moment and take a pen and paper and ask yourself Where do you want to be in ten years’ time? How will you get there? What are the things you are doing that you need to stop? What are the things you are not doing that you need to start? You will quickly find the paper filled with proper advice.

These simple self-reflective questions bring forth, in most cases, immediate answers. Because deep down we know what our bad habits are and what we need to stop practicing. We also know exactly what we need to do in order to grow and improve. You will never know anyone as well as you know yourself. You know your transgressions, insufficiencies, and inadequacies. With this knowledge, you also know what your next step should be which is simply to fix these transgressions, insufficiencies, and inadequacies.

The issue is that all of this is difficult. It’s always hard to take on responsibility. If you fail to grow it’s on you. The reason behind your failure will be either your lack of will or discipline. Which is why it’s so much easier to do what someone else says. But the changes enacted by our own will power and self-control are longer lasting because we attain those through struggle and hardship.

Although having external aid isn’t a bad thing either, especially if you are able to narrow down your flaws. If you know your specific issues and problems then it’s easier to navigate through the endless stream of bad advice that is spouted everywhere. External sources then can teach you how to break bad habits, how to build good habits, how to enact the right mindset, how to deepen personal relationships, how to become more confident and how to love and care for oneself.

But, first, you must take on the uncomfortable task of self-reflection and self-honesty. In this way, we also come to build trust within ourselves. We can take our own words and be confident that it’s what we need. In some ways, we begin to act as a friend to ourselves. Someone who is loyal, who wants the best for us and who isn’t afraid to call us out when we get off the right path. That’s true self-help, self-love, self-care.

 

 

Reflections: Is This Necessary?

Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’

That was Marcus Aurelius’ advice to himself and several thousand years later, that piece of advice is still relevant and perhaps even more vital now then it was back then. The reason for this is that we live in an age of overabundance. Particularly when it comes to information. Every second there seems to be something new to distract us to occupy the space in our head. We are constantly stressing about the new tv show or what some politician said or a celebrity did or what someone believed in years ago. What each distracting information does is that it takes away from our own peace of mind. And it also focuses our attention on things that don’t really matter. At least not for your own personal growth.

For self-improvement, we require silence, we require self-reflection and thinking about our actions and beliefs. This can’t take place when we are overly concerned about the unnecessary.

It doesn’t really matter what show is hot right now because in a weeks time some other show will take its place and will you have really missed out on anything? One controversy is overtaken by another and the same cliche responses are given to both. The hollow words do nothing to fix external problems but they do take you away from addressing the internal issues. The trending list will always be there. There is so much content out there that you can occupy every moment of your present.

Which is why it’s important to filter what you consume mentally just as you filter what you consume physically. Your body takes after your diet and your mental health takes after what you read and think about. But it’s easy to get lost in the information, the news cycles, the figure pointing, just as it’s easier to consume junk food. Both cause damage. One is just easier to see.

One reason why we seek distractions maybe because we are unsatisfied with our lives. This dissatisfaction is a result of our own decisions and choices. So, it’s uncomfortable to let this voice speak. We much rather drown it with celebrity gossip or complaining about what some stranger did. Worse is finding satisfaction from this fake interaction. All of this takes away from real issues which if you can resolve will actually improve your life.

Is it necessary is a good filter for our rapidly changing times.

What really is necessary is improving relationships with people you care about. Getting better at something that gives you problems. Improving your physical health and mental health. Challenging your comfort zone and expanding it.

What isn’t necessary is getting lost in an avalanche of information that has almost no positive benefit.

Our thoughts often have the solutions we need. If you sit down for five-ten minutes in silence and just listen, we’ll find ourselves inching towards what we need. Or go on a walk and see how your mind finds its way to some solution or thought that will make your lives better. This truth is becoming harder to access because wherever we go we can stare at a screen or plug headphones in our ears. Such things amplify the useless while overshadowing the changes that we actually need.

How different would the world look if people spent as much time listening to their conscience as they do to chattering broadcasts? (Ryan Holiday)

Reflections: Question Yourself

And most important: Question yourself. Question yourself everyday. (Jocko Willink)

Too often we mirror others in the hopes of finding something about ourselves. We may follow the plans set out for us by our parents or teachers or other advisors and hope that by doing so, we can navigate through life in a fulfilled manner. Or we act like the people we admire, taking on their habits, mannerisms, beliefs and opinions, all the while distancing ourselves from our true nature. When you don’t know what you want to be or what you want in life, it’s only natural to grasp on to something that gives you and your life a sense of stability.

But this stability is rarely long-lasting. The fulfillment we get from doing what we are told and by following rather than leading our own lives is illusionary. What we lack is self-understanding. We are too busy trying to fulfill the requirements of others which we come to believe are our own plans and ideas that we rarely question who we are, why are we acting the way we do and what is it that we truly want out of life.

Ask yourself: Who am I? What have I learned? What have I created? What forward progress have I made? Who have I helped? What am I doing to improve myself—today? To get better, faster, stronger, healthier, smarter?

The simple and straightforward questions. Sometimes, self-reflection comes with the baggage of spiritual or mystical. In the sense that when reflecting upon our needs and wants we jump straight to the meaning of our lives, the purpose of lives, the point of our lives and such questions can be difficult to answer and can leave us more confused rather than giving us clarity which self-reflection is supposed to. But by narrowing the search, by focusing on our immediate actions such as what have you done today to make yourself healthier or smarter or what have you done to make someone else’s life easier, it can provide a sense of direction especially if your actions were accompanied by positive emotions.

You may not know what you want to do with your life but you now know that helping others felt good. The meaning of your life may be still unclear but you do know that in your day-to-day living you enjoy going for a run or reading about Roman history or the new technological advances. These small puzzle pieces can come together to form a picture that can show you what you want to look like.

Ask yourself those questions, those hard questions and then answer them, truthfully. And realize that all of us—ALL OF US—can do better. We can be better.

Life is about change, it is about growth, about evolution. By unpacking what you want through relentless self-examination in the form of questioning oneself, we step closer to finding out who we want to be, what we can do and what we wish to do. However, even such an understanding isn’t permanent. What you find in your 20s may not be what you want in your 30s or 40s and so on. So, the answers that helped you at one stage of your life may not benefit you at a later stage which is why the constant need to reflection and question yourself and your behaviors, attitudes, and emotions is a necessary tool in life.

There is really only one permanence in life which is death. Everything else is liable to change, including ourselves. But that change only comes if we are willing to explore other possibilities. These possibilities include different versions of ourselves. However, to explore these possibilities, one needs to have a self-reflective mind, a mind that is always open and questioning.

Book Referenced: Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink