“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?” — Marcus Aurelius
How much time do you spend, complaining, at least unconsciously about the way things are in your life? If you’re like me, a lot. Wallowing in shame, pity, nervousness, unwillingness, or indecision is way more harmful than you think. And that’s because you don’t only feel bad while you’re doing it, but because of the things that you’re not doing while you’re doing it. That’s the all-famous opportunity cost.
I hadn’t realized I was incurring, lately, in this type of behavior, you know, letting minuscule annoyances from work or something else, ruining an entire hour or maybe the day of my life. F that.
I let things affect me way much more than they should.
In Stoicism, there’re these things called “First Impressions”. A first impression is a reaction that occurs within yourself, instinctively, without you even noticing it happening, it just does. You may have felt this before while driving and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a drunken driver throws his car towards yours, forcing you to turn unexpectedly to save your life and his.
The first impression in this situation usually is a mixture of anger, fear, and annoyance. Darn useful as well, can you imagine what would happen if you’d had to think about maneuvering. No time to think, just acting!
The Inner Game of Tennis
Don’t think about play, just play.
That’s the core message of the book. A book I recommend, The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. If you’ve ever heard of Eckhart Tolle or any other of the modern kind of Buddhist gurus, this book is kind of their bible.
First impressions, when living, are quite useful. Like the Samurai, or the tennis player, you don’t want to be stuck in your head, you want to live.
Think about it, picture in your head two Samurais, about to attack. One thinks, I’m going to attack him, while the other just does so and slays the thinker Samurai.
That, right there, is the opportunity cost. Had the other Samurai not been so busy thinking about the defense or the attack and just done it, he would’ve had a chance to keep living and keep fighting.
Like the Samurai, we as well damage our lives by overthinking our lives. Especially the irrelevant stuff.
Get Busy Living
“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” ―Seneca
I don’t get that much time to write, you know. It really makes me angry. With my 9–5 job, if I don’t do it before 9, by the end of the day, I have no mental stamina to do it when I finish work, I play Zelda or guitar instead. I also like to exercise, strenuously, as soon as I get out of bed and finish my Wim Hof breathing meditation, so I don’t have that much time in the morning either.
Do you know what I’ve been doing lately? I get mad at my job, “for not giving me enough time to write!”.
Now, if you please help me answer this question, HOW THE BLOODY HELL IS GETTING MAD AT SOMETHING GOING TO HELP ME? I’m incurring the same opportunity cost the thinker Samurai did. While I’m trying to blame stuff for my situation, surely, another guy or girl, just like me, will be getting to bed earlier and will wake up earlier to write for an hour and a half before starting his/her day. Whereas I’ll be wallowing in self-pity and getting nowhere as a writer. Sad stuff.
Don’t be the fool that gets mad, better be the guy that gets better, don’t you think?
The same thing goes for whenever things don’t go the way you want them to go, or people being ways you don’t like. Sure you can cry, sure you can complain, but for how long? What other greater things in life are you leaving aside because of this petty need?
We all love pitty-fests. It’s the easiest thing to do, just blame anything else but you. Thing is, this road ends in wasted-life farms. It’s not a great place to end up in.
Only one thing I want you to take from this article, and it is this:
Don’t waste your time and get back up as quickly as you can.
“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to
somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” — Red Queen, Alice In Wonderland
Liked what you read?
Subscribe and receive the Askesis (practice) e-book for free to further develop your stoic practice.