Has it ever happened to you that you needed to make an important decision in your life, and you had a gut feeling of what you thought you needed to do, but you didn’t felt so sure about your decision, so you asked for advice, then followed the advice, fucked up, only to discover afterwards that your gut decision was the best decision you could’ve taken in the first place?
You’re not alone, it’s painfully common.
Most of the time, when you look for advice in this way, is because you do not trust yourself enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are, in fact, many cases where following the advice from an expert, say, a doctor, is the best thing you could do. But almost always this is never the case. Almost always the best advisor for what you should do is yourself.
This is because no one is living your life as you are living it. It’s impossible for another person to know every tiny matter that might affect your decision, they only know their side of the game.
It is therefore logically incoherent to blindly follow advice from anyone but yourself.
But at the same time, you still want to make sure you’re making the best decisions, right? I mean, that why you ask for advice for the first time.
How can you make decisions the most effectively?
Living According To Nature
I always felt this proposition from Stoicism a bit weird. What exactly does living according to nature mean?
“You desire to LIVE “according to Nature”? Oh, you noble Stoics, what fraud of words! Imagine to yourselves a being like Nature, boundlessly extravagant, boundlessly indifferent, without purpose or consideration, without pity or justice, at once fruitful and barren and uncertain: imagine to yourselves INDIFFERENCE as a power — how COULD you live in accordance with such indifference? To live — is not that just endeavouring to be otherwise than this Nature? Is not living valuing, preferring, being unjust, being limited, endeavouring to be different? And granted that your imperative, “living according to Nature,” means actually the same as “living according to life” — how could you do DIFFERENTLY? — Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
Ouch! Haha, you can see now why I found this living according to nature thing a bit weird. But, it is not so when you think about it, so let’s think about it.
Remember, we are still trying to figure out how to make the best decisions.
Nietzsche asks: How could you possibly not live according to life? And he’s right. You can’t. The modern Stoic definition for living according to nature is best described by Lawrence C. Baker in his great book A New Stoicism, and it says:
“Following nature means following the facts. It means getting the facts about the physical and social world we inhabit, and the facts about our situation in it — our own powers, relationships, limitations, possibilities, motives, intentions, and endeavors — before we deliberate about normative matters. It means facing those facts — accepting them for exactly what they are, no more and no less — before we draw normative conclusions from them. It means doing ethics from the facts — constructing normative propositions a posteriori. It means adjusting those normative propositions to fit changes in the facts, and accepting those adjustments for exactly what they are, no more and no less. And it means living within the facts — within the realm of actual rather than hypothetical norms.”
― Lawrence C. Becker, A New Stoicism
Nietzsche is right, it is impossible to live something different to life, life is all there is. But what living according to nature to the stoics is, is to live as close to the facts as you possibly can. It means to accept the facts about your situation first for what they are, no more no less, and then develop a normative conclusion from it afterwards. In other words, you face the facts about your situation so you can come as close as you can to the reality of your situation and from there, make a decision.
It means living within the facts — within the realm of actual rather than hypothetical norms.
This is what having a cool head means as well.
Living according to nature is to approach your life scientifically. You are going to make mistakes, but you will take those mistakes into account so that in the future you can adjust your decision making for the better. The best thing you can do is to deal with facts and not with what you’d like or what one person says might happen. You want to live as close to reality as possible.
You are the only person living your life, so don’t expect better answers, ultimately, from anyone but yourself.
The most precise way with which you can make decisions is to live according to nature. That is, live as close as you can to the facts about your situation, and from that point make your decisions. Your situation does not have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be terrible either. It is what it is. Courage is needed to accept things as they are, but once this is done, you’ll be better off and better prepared for anything that comes at you.
Bring it on is a good phrase for everything.
Thanks for reading,
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