“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives — choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
Excellence is not difficult to understand, it really boils down to the formation of new neural connections in your brain through consistent action. Easier said than done. Excellence requires a literal, ever-evolving, “new you”.
The first time I grabbed a book to learn german, it was exciting. From the 3rd time to the 30th time, however, it was hard. I forced myself to wake up 45 minutes earlier than usual before going to school to open the damn grammar book while half asleep and studying it until the 30-minute session was over. I knew I wouldn’t do it at any other time other than first thing in the morning.
When I finished the 30-minute session, I felt really, really good. Learning is addicting. The 45th session draws you in like the smell of your mom’s food. I did not longer open the book dreading the constant reminder of: “you’re not good enough”, but rather because I was genuinely interested in knowing what happened to Harry Potter next. By that point, I had switched from grammar to novels. Learning german became fun. The neural highways had been formed.
Learning anything new is similar to the take-off of a rocket ship into space. At first, it needs massive amounts of energy just to be able to get to the higher atmosphere of the earth and stop being pulled down by gravity.
Anything can be learned. Literally anything. This is not an attempt to motivate you, it’s literally how the brain works.
There is something important to note though. Whether you are conscious of the workings of your mind or not, you are reshaping and molding your brain at every single second. Either for the good or for the bad.
Neuroplasticity is the term used to define the capacity of your brain to change connections and behavior in response to new information, sensory stimulation development, damage, or dysfunction. (Brittanica) ***quote
The brain is modeling and remodeling itself all the time. You are continuously getting better at whatever you happen to be doing at the moment, whether that is thinking negatively of yourself or cooking pasta. Endlessly reshaping your brain.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
This is good news and bad news. Good news because you could get better at literally anything, you just have to put your brain to work. Bad news, because if you are not getting better, most probably you are getting worse, or better at something bad.
Stoicism, Neuroplasticity and Thinking right
One of the things I love about Stoic philosophy is that it forces you to think right. It makes you think straight. If the brain is designed to get better at whatever you are practicing, then practicing Stoic philosophy is getting better at thinking right.
Let’s think about hardship, to give an example. We all get some of it through our lives, it’s inevitable, it’s part of being alive. When you are experiencing it, you’d wish that things be different. You begin to think that if you had made a different choice in the past, you wouldn’t be having so much trouble now.
This way of thinking is incorrect. First, because you cannot do anything about the past and second because you are blinding yourself from the opportunity that your trouble/hardship/challenge comes with. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, correct reasoning is available to anyone who will use their brains.
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Start thinking right enough times and you’ll change your brain and yourself into a straight-minded person.
How does one go about that?
Once again, Stoicism is great for its simplicity.
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
I’ll leave you with a bit of homework this time. I’m sure you’re going to have many challenges today, deadlines to meet, sons to take care of and all the other things that life demands daily.
So I want you to apply this today: The problem is always inside, never outside, every time you think the problem is “out there” that is the problem.
Choose to be smarter, choose to be wiser, choose to be a better parent, choose to be a better person.
Focus on being what you want to see in the world.
Subscribe and receive the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.
Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.
I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. email@example.com