Psychology

Modern problems, philosophy, Psychology, Self development

Two ways of living


No Comments

“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

Living for today or living for tomorrow. Plain and simple. This is, at the core, a matter of courage, the courage to live and embrace life as it is or the lack of courage and hiding in a “better tomorrow” or “better times”. Bear with me.

Imagine a mighty mountain, a tall, white and insultingly big one staring right at you, daringly, from the distance, you can almost hear it saying: “Come and try if you dare”.

What is the goal of climbing a mountain? Getting to the top?

The top is where the glory is right?

No, no, no, no No! If you’ve ever climbed a mountain before and spent 12 gruesome hours in altitude, suffering through the cold cutting your face like little knives in the night and still keep going further even though the altitude is making you want to vomit just to get to the bloody top?

Hell no. Getting to the top is just a bonus, once you get there, you experience a blissful high and sense of achievement for about………. 20 minutes and then you have to get down, even more tired and suffer all the way back down, because you know, the summit is kinda like the middle of the trek. Then you get back on the car, open a beer and begin thinking how much you liked all that good suffering. Henry David Thoreau has a great quote for this feeling.

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The reasoning here is that the goal was never the top, but the process. What happened inside of you as you got there. Your will to push, your will to bear, your decision to smile in front of all that tiredness, in front of your weary body, in front of adversity itself. The more adversity, the bigger your smile, the bigger the glory. Stoic Antifragility itself.

“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it — all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity — , but to love it…” 
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Living for today or living for tomorrow. Back on it.

Living for tomorrow equals not living in the present. Equals living in expectancy of something to happen to start living at all. This is what’s fashionable in the 21st century. When I marry, I’ll be happy. When I afford my dream wedding then I’ll be happy. Once I finally buy that black BMW then I’ll be able to prove who I really am! When I know how to do this or that or have that job then my life will be so much better.

“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” 
― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

The mountain is just an allegory for everything else. It’s the Sisyphean myth.

When I get to the top, then I’ll be happy.

Now, if you follow this line of reasoning. Living for tomorrow means that getting to point a to point b is what will make you happy. So, if this is the case, then shouldn’t you do everything in your power to get to point B as fast and efficiently as possible.

If this is the case you should just take a damn helicopter and get to the summit. If that’s what’ll make you happy. But it won’t, and you very well know will not.

“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” 
― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

This will simply not do because you don’t really want “just getting to the top”. What you want is to be the badass who got at the top.

Being, stick this word into your head.

What you truly want is to be “the new wearer of clothes”, you don’t really want just the “clothes”.

Ironically.

You can do this right now. But it is painful, it is painful because just like with climbing the mountain you have to face all its adversities, and your own shortcoming, just so it is in life and anything you want. Pain and adversity give human life meaning. They make your challenges real, they are the price you have to pay for greatness. It’s not all pain and adversity, obviously, it depends on the lenses through which you look at them. Think about exercise, your legs hurt after you are done, but they hurt in a good way. This is what you want to achieve.

Living for the now.

When you think about living in the present moment, you might think: What about my goals, must I shun them away? Just concentrate deeply on what I’m doing at every moment?

No. When you climb a mountain, you have a goal, getting to the top, but that goal is just there to give you a sense of direction of where you want to go.

One thing is to set goals and then doing what is needed and another very different is to daydream about something being done. Life is now.

“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.” 
― Epictetus

If you live for today, you live for what is now, you are not waiting for something to happen, you make things happen. You don’t fantasize about the time when something’s done, you are too busy being and doing whatever it is you want to do today.

Life itself becomes a Dance, a Journey.

Every moment of the trip or the dance is an end in itself. Every step you take, every pain you endure, everything becomes an end in itself. Everything welcomes you to live now and not tomorrow.

Life becomes a piece of art, a piece of music, a dance. The end of dancing is not getting somewhere, it is dancing.

Living in the moment and for the moment gives your life a new perspective, it takes meaning away from that uncertain future and gives it to the moment which is in your hands right now, under your control.

What are you going to do with it?

A great complement to this read: Stoicism and Power

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.

Subscribe here

Don’t forget to visit our shop, carefully curated. Shop

Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.

Advertisements
Business advice, philosophy, Psychology, Self development, Stoic advice

The mad lust for wins is getting in your way


2 Comments

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.” 
― Epictetus (From Manual 51)

Pretty straightforward isn’t he?

Ah, competition, the very heart of our capitalist societies.

It must be good right? I mean, competition is what drives business to make things better and to make things cheaper as well. It is competition what drives the economy and ourselves in it.

But is it?

There is a theory in business that can help us understand the concept of competition better. “The blue ocean and red ocean strategy”. The premise is that there are two types of competition. The first one, and most common, is the red sea strategy.

A company competing in red seas is going to compete fiercely against his competitors in a game kind of created by bought. They will compete with lower prices, bigger stuff and will always try to do the things the other company is doing slightly better. Fighting for a piece of the limited cake the market has to offer. If you win I lose mentality.

A company competing in the blue oceans. In a vast blue and abundant ocean will compete not against the other companies but instead, it will create a whole different game unique itself. This company will not be concerned with competition as it is not playing the game everyone else is playing, it is playing its own game. This is why you pay 1,000 bucks for an iphone.

We tend to see lives in either of these two axis. Vertical or horizontal.

The vertical and horizontal axis

Thinking vertically

A person playing and thinking in the vertical axis will tend to see people as above or below him. Everything is winning or losing, but what determines whether he loses or wins is not what he is doing particularly, but in how he is doing relative to other people. He may not be great at what he is doing, he might be terrible, but if he is greater than someone, then he is doing good because he is winning, just like the red seas.

This way of thinking inevitably leads to thinking of everyone in your life as competitors. When you think about your friends and think about how one is more successful than you, you no longer think about him as your friend and someone that can help you and aid you but you think of him as your competitor, someone you have to win over. You could even say he even becomes your enemy.

If you are thinking vertically, the world will become a dangerous and perilous place to be in, a place where everyone is out there to get you. Win or lose.

Thinking horizontally

You are pretty unique, and you should unabashedly so. That is one of the main characteristics of the human being, not one human being is the same as the other. Twins may look the same outside but each has its own aspirations and inclinations inside. It is a fundamental human characteristic. This is due to our sexual nature, but that topic’s for another occasion.

The point of the matter is that, just like in the blue oceans, you are perfectly suited to create a game of your own.

When you think horizontally you don’t think about people being above or below you. In a horizontal axis you can go anywhere you want, in fact, you should go anywhere you want.

In this axis your focus is your progress. The focus on becoming your ideal self. A self that no one can even wish to match because no one can be you.

Instead of trying to make something just as good or slightly better as someone else is doing it you will be concentrated in the actual ideal, where progress is limitless. Instead of trying to look good in the eyes of other people, which is the aim of anyone competing, you will actually be doing what’s needed for greatness.

This type of greatness is the greatness Epictetus speaks of.

Realize that people don’t care that much about you

We live our lives thinking that everyone is watching us and thinking about us all the time.

But, honestly, you know deep down that this is not the case. In fact, nobody cares that much. In your movie, you are the star, but you have to realize that everyone is the protagonist of their movies in their own lives. Everyone is too busy thinking about themselves and how they look in the eyes of others to be concerned about how you look or what you are doing with your life.

Once you realize this you will start thinking less about how you look on the eyes of other people and more on how they look at themselves.

This can either be depressing or liberating.

I think it is liberating, it is liberating because you are free to do whatever you want. But one thing is needed, courage, the courage to be disliked. You cannot be really free if you are not willing to be disliked. That is the cost of freedom.

If you let others decide what you need to do with your life, you are not really free. In competition, this is precisely what you are doing, you are striving for other people approval and to see you as the winner. A game you will never win. Better to invent your own game, no one can beat you there.

Why concern yourself with competing and seeing everyone as your enemy when you can concentrate on doing as best as you can with what you have and instead see everyone as potential helpers in your unique adventure?

Realize that you do are in the Olympic Games of your life, but there is only one competitor and that is yourself against yourself.

Get busy living, but more than that, enjoy. No need to have a bad time unnecessarily.

Want to read some more: Distraction and lack of time

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.

Subscribe here

Don’t forget to visit our shop, carefully curated. Shop

Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.