Month: May 2019

Business advice, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

Separation of tasks


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“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ” 
― Epictetus

I’m pretty sure you know by now that no, it is not that bloody simple. The difficulty arises precisely in making the distinction of what’s in our power and what not.

Alfred Adler, one of the founding members of the Vienna’s Psychoanalytic Society as long with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, claimed in his all too controversial at the time “individual psychology” that all problems are really just interpersonal problems.

But, really? Can you really go so far as to claim that every problem is an interpersonal problem?

Example. Let’s say that X person is working for a huge company and just two days ago, he messed up really, really bad. He made the company lose half a million dollars due to a stupid decision he took. He has a huge, huge problem and apparently, on the surface level, the problem is that the company will lose money but deep down, his worries are quite different. When he goes to bed he cannot stop thinking about arriving the next day and having to look everyone in the face, especially his boss, who will be furious. In reality, his problems spring from interpersonal relationships.

Interesting isn’t it? Something to think about. My point here, coming back to the distinction between things that are under our control and things that are not is too clarify it a little more, using Adler’s concept of separation of tasks.

The reason we are often unhappy as Epictetus cleverly claim is that we cannot make this distinction and so we worry about things that shouldn’t even concern us. The separation of tasks is another way of thinking about what you can control and cannot.

In a love relationship, for example, your task is to love, you cannot make the other person love you, or, well, you can, by being lovable yourself first. But the imposition, saying: “she should do this or he should do that”, is wanting to take the other person task.

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

By separating tasks you can make the distinction of up to which point you can act and up to which point you should concern yourself with. Careful not to use this as an excuse not to do anything, because more than an excuse to not acting and leaving things be, on the contrary, you realize how much more it really is that you can actually do instead of waiting for other people to do whatever. If you are clever enough, you can always find a way in which you can act to come about anything you want, but knowing the distinction of up to which point you can do so is what will give you peace because you’ll know you’ve done your part.

Coming back to all problems being interpersonal problems, this Adlerian methodology comes very useful, because problems stop being problems, the only problem you are left with is with whether you do or you do not do your task and my friend, that’s always under your complete control.

Want to read some more: On life Navigation

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Modern problems, Reflections, Stoic advice

Sound minded


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“Throw aside all hindrances and give up your time to attaining a sound mind” 
Seneca

A sound mind, weird asset these days isn’t it?

And what is, precisely, a sound mind? According to the urban dictionary, it is: “To be mentally calm and self-confident in your actions.”

A sound minded person has in his possession clarity. A clarity similar to the one I’m sure you’ve felt at least once when you finally realize what it is that you need to do, Aha! moment. Like the one, Newton got after being hit by the apple and finding out about gravity, pure mental clarity.

So, it seems that a sound mind is something we should strive to have all the time, doesn’t it?

Indeed, a sound mind is a peaceful mind, a mind embedded with meaning and confidence, with an iron will.

So, the question arising now is: How does one go about in obtaining a sound mind?

Consequences

A sound mind provides you with the capacity to make better decisions.

A sound mind can be obtained with understanding. Understanding the situation and the decision you have to take, so first of all, you have to think a bit before doing anything. This, stop and think a bit, is the core requirement needed to achieve a sound mind.

Now that you’ve stopped to think for a bit, you need to know how to think properly.

There are consequences for each and every action you take. There is not just a consequence but several, I’d say infinite, consequences for every action because for every decision you take, it’s first consequence will ripple into thousands and thousands of them, and this is precisely the interesting part of it.

The next time you find yourself having to make a decision, think about this: First order consequences, Second order consequences, and Third-order consequences.

Let’s put an example so you can relate to it. 

Imagine that you are in the bar with your friends and you watch your clock. You realize that it’s already 10:25 PM. It’s already kind of late and you promised to yourself that you were going to take a run through the forest the next day, you want to train for that marathon you’ve always wanted to take. You already know what’s going to happen when you tell your friends that you are calling it for the night. Oh, come on! One more drink! What’s the worst that can happen! Plus Mike (your high school friend) is here and we haven’t seen him in a while! 

You know, you bloody well know, that another drink means that you are not going to run tomorrow, but right then and there you don’t know what to do, your mind is foggy, it’s hard to be sound minded in those type of situations. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen with not running tomorrow right?

Here is were the consequences come into play. Not going for a run and having one more drink, does not have immediate fatal consequences. The first order consequence would be that you wake up tired and a little hangover and therefore, a little less in shape for the marathon, but you can always run the next day right?. But, what about the second order consequence? Maybe the next day after that you are going to be too lazy as well and as you’ve already skipped the previous day, a second day of skipping training shouldn’t hurt either. Third, fourth, fifth consequences of that first decision? You did not run the marathon.

Anything makes everything, it’s all connected.

This is how you obtain a sound mind, by stopping to think for a bit of not just the first order consequence, which is almost always corrosive, but about the second, third and fourth. Now that you have more information, now that you have an idea of what it really means to take or not a decision, you can judge which one is better. You’ve acquired a sound mind.

Now that you have a sound mind, I’m sure you have a lot of thinking to do. But it is, indeed, a lovely day to practice Stoicism, isn’t it?

Want to read some more: The Reaper.

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