Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day… The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.
— Marcus Aurelius
We are always wondering about when will be, finally, the time in our lives we get to enjoy ourselves. The Stoics had an answer for that, and it is, right now.
How? Negative visualization.
Imagine one thing that you really appreciate in your life at this moment. Maybe your parents are still alive and you can call your mom later in the day, maybe the roof above your head (look at it). You’re reading this on your phone or on your laptop, how cool it is to have access to all the information there is? Guttenberg would be so jealous.
It’s easy to forget all the massive good we get to enjoy each day by day.
Now, imagine yourself losing one of those things. Take a second, close your eyes. Thank god you still have a roof? Right? And your phone? And maybe your parents as well?
That’s the Stoic technique of negative visualization. You imagine yourself losing the things that you hold dearly and then you get to appreciate what you take for granted, allowing you to enjoy what you already have.
Now, should you put your hands in your head, lean back on your chair, and just relax? Just be content with what you have and don’t ask for more?
Not quite so.
You’re a human being, and the world is an absurdly fun and awe-inspiring place to be in. There are tons of things that you’ll naturally be attracted to. Think about them. How cool would it be for you to learn how to act? Like Al-Pacino? Or if acting is not your thing, how cool would it be to play a musical instrument? How cool would it be to write a song? How cool would it be to travel the world?
There is so much to do, it’s amazing.
And one more thing…
You’re going to die. Memento Mori.
So, so far we know two things.
- Life can be enjoyed and appreciated right now. Practice negative visualization and imagine losing things in your life that you value, then feel grateful that you still have them and get to appreciate your life right now.
- Memento Mori. Life is going to end and there are a shit ton of cool things that you could be and should be definitely doing.
- I’ll add a third one here, and it is, the most awesome things, are damn hard.
The Great Stuff Is Hard
The great things in life are hard. Writing a great book is hard. Writing a great novel is hard. Painting a masterpiece is really hard. Opening up a business and making it work is absolutely super hard. Life is hard in many ways. But for life to be fun, we have to be OK with things being hard.
What happens with this hardness is that we become unmotivated. The goals are too grand, too big, too long to do. We don’t know where to start and so we don’t begin.
But you don’t get to not embark on the journey of your callings. Not doing so will not let you sleep at night. Even more, it won’t let you leave this life with peace. A life well-lived, forcefully, needs to include the struggle of trying to do great stuff, our stuff. Our callings are the sources of our enjoyment.
“Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings a blessed death.”― Leonardo da Vinci
Think about a day in which you kicked ass, a day when you thought to yourself, wow, I nailed it today. You went to sleep like a baby, so it is with life. You need to follow your passions and act on them to be able to say that at the end.
Your Control, your little hammer, the immovable stoic will
It’s cheesy to think about your life as a sculpture, but that is exactly what it is. A sculpture composed of all those callings, all those things you’d like to do and that spark a fiery fire on your belly.
You can do them, you might not succeed, but you can try, and that is all that is needed. You need to have the right mindset, the right focus. First, you need to learn how to enjoy yourself while you’re taking on your grand goals. You need to learn how to appreciate the process. Just like the surfer, who enjoys “riding the wave”, you need to enjoy the “ride of your life”.
First, determine your goals, you really just need to have a glimpse of where you’d like to be or who you’d want to be, any goal is better than nothing. Once you’ve determined your road, ask yourself what is the next tiny task that you could do. Something so stupidly simple it’d be impossible not to do it.
Focus on that, just on that. What is going to happen is that you’re going to change your focus (a thing that is totally and completely under your control by the way) to the process instead. The process and the present moment are enjoyable in themselves.
Think about the next tiny action as a water drop. Enough water drops can make a hole in a rock. It’s just the same with your process. It just needs to be constant.
Now. If you focus on the process, you’ll be focusing on the things that eventually make up the grand things. Your mind needs to be right here, right now, concentrated on the task.
So what about the Immovable Stoic Will?
I told you how to enjoy the moment and your life by practicing negative visualization and becoming conscious of your goals by remembering that you’re going to die.
Finally, I told you about how to go about it by becoming a water drop piercing through a mountain. All of these, together, make up for the Immovable Stoic Will.
The immovable stoic will is knowing that you are the drop of water, you can keep it up, and keep it up, and keep it up. Until you’ve molded the great canyon.
Focus on one water drop at a time, then the next one, then the next one. You’ll always be able to do one more tiny thing.
Thanks for reading,
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