A change of character, not a change of air, is what you need […] whatever your destination you will be followed by your own failings.
In life, we often look for some external change which we hope will bring us fulfillment. If only I got that promotion or if only I can lose another five pounds or if only that girl had said yes or if only I can travel more, I’ll be happy and so on. Always looking for something other than ourselves. However, it’s also true that when those external things we wished for come true, we only find temporary relief, if that, before we crave something else.
Seneca would say the reason for this repetitive living is that you’re not aiming to improve your character, so no matter the circumstances, you are still stuck with yourself, with your own thoughts and feelings.
And if you want to know why all this running away cannot help you, the answer is simply this: you are running away in your own company. You have to lay aside the load of your spirit. Until you do that, nowhere will satisfy you.
I believe that a lot of us know that we can do more but lack the work ethic and discipline. So you’re left with this itch that keeps reminding you of what you can become while you distract yourself with external concerns and, in this day and age, distraction through social media.
I know I’m one of these people. It’s hard to find happiness and joy in life when you’re internally unbalanced.
Recognition of this is just the first step. The passive understanding will not do. Action has to follow this understanding.
A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation.
For myself, there are two things that have helped bridge the gap between who I am and who I wish to be, and that’s self-reflection and voluntary hardship.
Often self-reflection and meditation go hand in hand, but I’m yet to find benefits of meditation. However, another form of self-reflection is writing. Through journaling, I’m able to remind myself to stay on the path as cliche as that sounds. The reminders are necessary. Also through writing, I’m able to work through all the noise that’s in my life, all the different things grabbing my attention, in order to concentrate on what I want to do with my time. Working out what I want to do and who I want to be has certainly helped bring more stability to the internal me, which has taken the focus away from the external cravings.
Voluntary hardship is another way to “lay aside the load of your spirit” as Seneca said. The idea is that you consciously move towards something that makes you uncomfortable, something that pushes you into the zone of proximal development where you will have to grow in order to overcome some challenge. This doesn’t have to be a great struggle. If you can only run a mile, going to a mile and a half is an accomplishment. If you can’t run at all then just walking half a mile is something that can help you grow. The little steps of discomfort strengthen your internal resolve and make you internally proud. In this way, you don’t have to seek external validation to feel good.
Once you have rid yourself of the affliction there, though, every change of scene will become a pleasure. You may be banished to the ends of the earth, and yet in whatever outlandish corner of the world you may find yourself stationed, you will find that place, whatever it may be like, a hospitable home.
When the inner state is in balance, then you see the brilliance of life in everything. The mundane, everyday life seems unique.
So–to the best of your ability—demonstrate your own guilt, conduct inquiries pf your own into all the evidence against yourself. Play the part first of prosecutor, then of a judge and finally of pleader in mitigation. Be harsh with yourself at times.
By holding yourself accountable, by holding yourself up to an inner standard, you experience true growth. External standards and cravings come and go. They change like the weather and your left thinking whether you have actually grown which brings feelings of disappointment and shame. But when you consistently meet the internal standards then you can compare the previous you to the present you, you see your development. In this manner, we get closer to internal peace and with it true fulfillment and happiness.
Stoic Lesson: How To Keep Yourself Accountable
Stoic Lesson: The Right Mindset For A Happy Life
Stoic Lesson: Concentrate On What You Can Control
Stoic Lesson: You Have To Acknowledge Your Sickness Before You Can Be Cured
Stoic Lesson: Epictetus On Progress
Stoic Lesson: An Exercise In Being Grateful
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