Self development

Modern problems, philosophy, Psychology, Self development

Two ways of living


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“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

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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

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

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