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How To Actually Become Your Ideal Self


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Close your eyes and think for a moment about your ideal self, the highest you could get, be it in your finances, in your Stoic practice, family life, take everything into account. Do it now. 

How do you see yourself? On the top of Everest with your best buddies? Or maybe taking a son that’s on his way to a great life, that admires you and loves you, to his Sunday football match? How do you see yourself, how does it feel to be your ideal self? It’s a nice feeling, isn’t it? I’m sure it is. How awesome would that be? How amazing would it feel? 

Yet, you keep saying that you are going to do it, you plan it, you do some stuff here and there, but nothing really happens, years pass and you stay the same, this is a reality for most people. But not for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be yours either, as you are the one that decides whether becoming yourself happens or not. It’s on you.

Arriving at your deathbed knowing that you did not do your best must be an ubercrappy feeling. Not something you want. Remember Memento Mori, death is just around the corner. 

Ok, so, now that we know what you want, and that we know what you don’t want, how do we get towards what you do want?

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

A process

I remember when I decided I wanted to speak german. I think everyone can picture themselves speaking 5 languages while enjoying the admiration of your girlfriend/boyfriend when you order your filet mignon on the fancy french restaurant, plus all the job opportunities and higher pay that speaking a foreign language gives you. I felt pretty pumped up about it, with all these images in my mind, but sticking to it was hard, really damn hard. I never came to a point of success, I still haven’t, sure, I can order food and talk about a movie, but I cannot read Goethe in german yet. It was, and it still is, a process. Remember the word process, for it is key, print it in your mind. 

When you imagine your ideal self, it’s common to imagine a static image of a writer, mountaineer, perfect dad, perfect this perfect that. You see yourself as a timeless victory. What you don’t see, however, is that you are bound to time and to change. You are not static, you are not a medal or a title. In real life, you don’t win when you cross an imaginary line, such as in a running race. 

You either win or lose at every single moment. 

This is because you are a process of something that is happening through time. It’s never over, not until you are dead at least. When you think of your ideal self, you need to think of your ideal self, not as an image or a painting, but rather you need to think about the ideal self on the level of action and actual moving, changing reality. 

 Your definition of self is bound, more than to what your egoic mind thinks you are, to your behavior. Your behavior determines your identity. You can go ahead and say that you are going to be a writer, a mountaineer or anything, but if you don’t write, climb, or work, you are not being your ideal self. You are just imagining it. 

“If you wish to be a writer, write.”

Epictetus

The correct striving for the ideal self

Now. When you sit yourself down to write, or to learn a new language. You have to be careful with how you see yourself as you do it

Everything you do for the first time sucks. 

“The first draft of anything is shit.” Hemingway 

Becoming your ideal self is a moment-to-moment decision. You either are or you aren’t. Your first draft is shit? It doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are working on your behavior. 

You’ll get yourself into trouble if you judge you’re being a writer with having or producing a great book. You might do, you might don’t, it doesn’t matter. A writer writes, focus on that and you’ll be a writer. See yourself as a process. Don’t depend on the perfect draft or the perfect anything, better depend on the journey you decide to embark on by yourself on. The achievement of your ideal self is in doing what the ideal self says it is. Victory is sitting down to write, victory is being a good parent and hugging your son, victory is sitting down to work on that business idea. Winning at anything is a plus, true winning is being able to do it and keep doing it in the face of failure or victory, not depending on either. 

There will never come a point when you are done. Life just doesn’t work that way. Anything you want to be, you either are or you aren’t. If you want to be a writer, again, sit down to write if you want to do anything, do it. 

Habits

Think of your identity as a conglomeration of fires that, together, form your entire identity. Each fire represents one characteristic of your identity. Your good parent identity, your stoic identity, your greedy identity, your magnanimous identity, your calmed and poised identity, your anxious identity. Every characteristic you can imagine, imagine it as a little fire in your head. 

Now, as you sit in your head looking at the distance all the fires, know that you are on your realm, within yourself, inside your head, the only place you are truly free to do whatever you want. The only place in which you can decide what happens and what doesn’t. Your inner citadel. 

It is in this inner realm full o fires where your identity forms and grows, this is where your ideal self happens or not. Everything you do matters, as everything you do kindles one of your inner fires. The fires grow bigger or smaller depending on which fire you feed with wood. 

Don’t think in terms of: “Oh I remember that time I did something greedy” as if it were something that happened in the past and has no consequences as it was tiny, inconsequential even. The fire you feed burns bigger and brighter. 

If you act stoically in the face of challenge enough times, your stoic identity will eventually burn brighter than all the other fires within your head. The only way you can turn the fire off is by not feeding it anymore, the only way you make another fire bigger is by putting more coal in it. 

You are a never-ending process. Your identity is a never-ending process. Your ideal self is not a victory or defeat in time but through time. The way you become your ideal self is in doing what your ideal self is enough times until that ideal fire is the only fire burning in your head.

 No matter how crappy your writing is, no matter how crappy anything you do is, be it good or bad, you are kindling a fire.

This is great and this is bad for obvious reasons. Eat enough Mcburritos and you’ll see why it is bad. Every decision you make, every attitude you choose to feed, compounds over time and affects everything else. Nothing, absolutely nothing is isolated. Be careful with the fires you choose to burn. 

As a Stoic, you know what’s under your control, and you don’t need nor want anything else but that. Now, think of your ideal self once again. Done? Great, now let keep that fire burning, make it a fiery fire my friend. 

Until next time,

Ricardo

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How To Properly Win In Life


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Losing sucks. Everybody wants more winning in their lives. But for the aspiring Stoic, this poses a problem, a problem of interpretation. You want to win and you want to be a force of good at the same time, right? I ask: Can you be a winner and a good man at the same time? What about other people? Shouldn’t I care about them too? Let them win as well?

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
Marcus Aurelius

When you read quotes like this one above. You have to be careful with your interpretation. You could be dead wrong about it and still act on what you think is the ultimate truth. More often than you can imagine, it will not be the truth, in fact, it will never be the truth, you can only aspire to get closer and closer to it. Always, always meditate and come back to your teachings so that you can actualize your understanding of everything. Never, ever, close your eyes to ignorance. This is a topic in itself, onward. 

For a long time, when reading Marcus Aurelius, I thought that being a Stoic meant that I had to take the punches in and still be happy, like a cow in the rain, stoically taking it all in, while having a barn in front of me to cover from the rain. Although I wasn’t completely wrong because it’s true, you can train yourself to maintain a noble demeanor at all times, no matter what life throws at you, I wasn’t completely right either. I wasn’t completely right because I fell in a position in which I began to let myself be pushed around by other people in some tiny matters and others not so tiny while at the same time thinking I was acting morally. 

I thought that, because a Stoic man knows how to better deal with adversity, he should take more of it than others. You could translate this to: losing so that others could “win” more. In my wretched way of thinking and wrong interpretation, I thought that while I lost, I was winning.

I was dead wrong of course, thankfully.

Why? How do you properly win then?

Mindsets

First things first. A mindset is a frame from which you see the world. Whenever you read something, you need to think about the mindset you are reading it from as well, for the meaning of your reading will be different depending on the mindset you read it with. This is true for your relationship with others and with life in general. 

Competition

In my particular example, I saw the world as a place of winners and losers. A world of competition. Don’t get me wrong, a competitive mindset is neither good nor bad, it depends on the context. You are having a one on one basketball match? Then sure, go for competition, winning is literally defined by winning against someone else. But what happens when you take that mindset to everything else? Such as I did?

This is where it gets fun. A wrong mindset, like a wrong map, will take you nowhere. And it will not make only yourself lose, but everyone else as well. When you live life wanting to win against other people all the time, you might find yourself in a context where winning or losing against someone else will make bought of you lose. Ok, here goes an example.

Suppose you are having a hard time on your donuts business and you are making 0 sales. You arrange a meeting with your sales teams and partner to decide what you and your team should do. You have a great idea, but so does your partner. You and your partner have had an edgy week, so you are thinking that he’s an idiot, so he definitely should not make this call, so you want to impose your view against his, for the company’s well being. You exert yourself and manage to make a better argument. Everyone ends up supporting you, so you win. Only thing is, your partner knew much better about what he was talking about as he works directly in the sales department. So your idea actually bankrupts the business, you should’ve listened.

Let’s see, what was the goal here? Winning against your partner? Or getting more sales? A competitive mindset, in the wrong context, will blow out in your hands.

Now, let’s suppose that you are a Stoic or just a moral man in your eyes, and the same thing happens in your bakery. Just that now, you are the other partner, the one that lost previously. But in this case, you thought that you should let your partner have his way because it was important to him to win, so you, as the good moral man you are, let him win. You “lost to win”, at least morally.

What happened here? You bought ended up losing. The company still went bankrupt and now you are angry against yourself and as Nietzche would put it, your false morality, disguised as cowardice. 

This is how it goes in a world of winners and losers. In this world, there are only losers. You have to be careful, very, very careful and become able to catch the mindset you are working with.

Collaboration

What’s the way out then, if there is one?

The way out is maturity and collaboration. A world of winners, a world of winning properly. The world is not black and white. Unless you are playing a sport, winning and losing will always have a million shades of gray.

When you mature, you realize that you don’t want to win against other people, you want to win with other people, even if they are too childish or foolish to realize it. The truly stoic way of being is this one.

A mature person knows what he wants. In the bakery example, that was more sales, not winning against your partner. The mature person also knows that the other person has his own needs and as well and a completely different understanding of reality. So the only answer left if you want to win is collaboration.

With collaboration, there is always a better way, a way that can fit bought parties to reach their objectives or create better, entirely new objectives.

Collaboration implies maturity and creativity as well. In a complex world not fixed by the dichotomy of winning or losing, there can be many solutions, but you have to be creative enough to find them. 

You also need to be brave and compassionate at the same time. Brave because you need to know what is it that you want and speak it aloud, and compassionate because you have to listen and understand so that you can find the map that is the closest to reality.

In Buddhism, the Buddha speaks a lot about the middle way. But when he speaks about it. He does not refer to the middle of a line, but to the higher way, to the apex of a triangle. With collaboration, this is what you want to achieve, the higher way.

Day to day how to

First. 

Be careful with your interpretations. Think about your mind frame, your mindset when you read, interact or anything really.

About winning. Kow what you want, define what winning looks like to you.

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”― Seneca the Younger

Second. 

Listen. You need to understand how other people see the world so that you can understand what you are dealing with. It could be a better view than yours, or a worse one as well, but without a proper look and assessment on your part, your interpretation of other people’s reality will most likely be wrong.

Third. 

Be creative and think abundantly. There are many, many solutions if you’d just put your mind to work. Once you know what you want, and you know what other people want. It’s time to put your mind to work.

Take this to your day. Think win-win. Be brave and compassionate at the same time. Choose a higher way.

Hugs,

Ricardo

subscribe and receive the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.

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

I’m always open to suggestions and am happy to answer any questions. stoicanswers@gmail.com