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Don’t Try To Be, Be.


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There is a right way and there is a wrong way to act in the world. Bought with respective consequences. 

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius

Wrong-way: Appearing and trying.

Correct way: Being and doing from being. 

The difference between these two is the mind frame (mindset), the place where you are coming from. When you are simply trying, you haven’t made a decision yet. You don’t believe you can be whatever you are trying to be or do. The actions you take are coming from a place of insecurity, of permission-seeking attitudes, outcome dependent, and not self-reliant. 

You come from a place where belief is lacking so you conform yourself with at least “appearing good”, again, not depending on yourself making it happen but on the outcomes and the approval. Your concern is in the wrong place. 

When you decide something, you stop “figuring out” how to do it, you just do it. Don’t try to be, be. Don’t appear, be. Focus on your mind-frame, focus on the only thing you can control, yourself.

The Mind-frame

During my university years, my favorite class was geopolitics. The class was as interesting as it was hard. It was the first time a professor asked us to think for ourselves instead of answering directly from the textbook. I loved the class and I still hang with my professor from time to time.

One day in class, I hit a wall hard in my learning journey. The professor asked something and I rose my hand as quickly as I could to answer. At the time, I was deeply concerned about being smart but still was too young and dumb to know better, so naturally, I confused appearing-smart from actually being-smart. 

With my hand up high, I began thinking that I hadn’t really put any attention on the question. In my youthful snobbishness, I thought I could pull it of. 

I could not. 

I answered dumbly with what seemed to me to be a smart answer. Everyone sighed as in “yeah, yeah we all know you are smart” way and I fell silent feeling stupid. But that is what happens when your interests are in appearances and your ego-enhancing and not in the world itself. You become dumb, you focus on the wrong things. While trying to sound smart, I was actually making me dumber. 

You can only be smart if you are willing to look stupid and stop caring about it. You can only be willing to be stupid when you rely on yourself and not on other people’s approval. That’s the path to freedom and real action in the world. 

It’s only a mighty big man that doesn’t care whether the people whom he meets believe that his big; but the smaller the fellow is, the bigger he wants to appear. George Horace Lorimer

Fixed vs Growth

It is the belief of a small mind to believe that his identity is fixed and not evolving and anything but static as everything else in existence. 

Carol S. Dweck debates this in his eye-opening book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The difference between the fixed and the growth mindset. 

The idea is fairly simple. If you have a fixed mindset, you will believe that you are either born being smart or you are born being dumb. Inside this mindset, there is no becoming better, so you focus your attention on trying to appear better. As you know by now, this is the dumb man’s game. 

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
Epictetus

You may look stupid asking. But trust me, in the end. You’re going to be smarter. 

In comparison, a person that has shifted to growth understands that the mind is constantly morphing itself depending on what it is asked to do. He knows that he might not be as smart today, but if he constantly works and focuses on the right things, he will inevitably be smarter tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. 

So why concern about appearing smart when you can actually make yourself smarter? Smart happens at the moment, on the level of being. 

How to apply this yourself.

The shift from fixed to growth begins when you stop relying on others for approval and recognition and you start relying on yourself. When you live for others, you can’t even really know what you would like to know or be. 

Stop searching for recognition and approval and you’ll find out what your genuine interests are.

When you’re on the constant lookout for recognition and approval, you are like a little kid that acts on the “good boy, bad boy” basis. If people approve of you, you feel good and keep doing whatever it is you are doing “good”. When you are “bad”, you do the same thing, only backward. 

Like in my class, my search for approval and recognition was impeding me from growing and knowing more. 

Stop searching for empty treasures. The real treasure lies within you. Stop trying to hear yourself outside yourself. 

person standing in front of body of water

Homework. 

Today, I want you to voluntarily be dumb. Ask every dumb question. Ask, ask and keep asking. Think about the things that you know you could do better but you are too ego-invested to investigate or ask other people. 

Do this until you don’t care if you look dumb or smart. Do this until your only care in the world is your growth. Remember, your growth is the growth of other people as well. 

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

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How To Control Conflicting Emotions


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Unresolved emotions cripple our relationships, our work, our relationships with ourselves and our kids and all we seem to be doing it NOTHING.

Let’s change that.

“It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.”
Seneca

The secret of how to control your emotions is: not seeing them as a problem and actively feeling them in your body to hear what they have to say. Feeling your emotions will get your mind to the present moment and the conflicting emotions will not be conflicting anymore. 

Let me elaborate

Courage, virtue, character, humility. These are great emotions. Man, I feel proud of myself every time I write about the Stoic ideals of bravery and grandness of soul. That’s easy, but life is never easy. I struggle with feelings of shame, guilt, and cowardice as well. I still feel embarrassed and anxious when I’m at parties and I don’t know anyone. I also get nervous whenever I’m talking to a pretty girl. 

I used to think that, from the Stoic viewpoint, I should’ve been able to control my emotions, to put my will above them. But the truth is that I was never able to do so, I was just hiding them under the rug. Which was a stupid strategy and not Stoic at all. 

The power of emotion

Have you ever heard those stories that tell how a mom lifts up a car to free his son from the crushing metal piercing through his body? 

Where do you think that power comes from? Rationality?

Of course not, it comes from raw, uninhibited emotion. 

We think about shame, guilt, and fear as our enemies, something to be embarrassed about. We tend to think that it is wrong to feel shame about our bodies or life situations. We feel embarrassed about having feelings so we try hide them.

Terrible strategy. Emotion is going nowhere. You ARE emotion. In denying emotion you are literally denying yourself. 

Like our minds, feelings have their purpose. They work wonders if you’d know how to use them. They are not there just to bug you and make you uncomfortable at parties. They are there to help you. They are the doors to authenticity and connection with other people. Out of fear, for example, comes to the mighty force of the mother lifting up a car. Out of shame, comes the possibility of authentic human connection. A connection that is badly needed in our times of “everything is always OK”. 

But, please, please tell me. 

Who the hell wants everything to be “ok” all the time?! That’s boring. 

“I’d rather be myself,” he said. “Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly.”
Aldous Huxley

Where Control really is. 

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

― Seneca

Control is in the present moment. Right here, with what you feel right now. It might not feel good, but nevertheless, the feeling doesn’t stop being necessary. There’s no: “when this happens, I’ll feel better”. Nope nothing of that. Nothing of: “I’ll feel good when I’m finished working”. Nothing of that, nada. 

If your goal is to be at peace and in control of your emotions. You can’t run away either from them nor the present moment. However uncomfortable they may be, in them lies the answer, the way for peace. 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACT ON THEM. 

Nothing good comes out of going on an angry rampage. 

The secret is to let them be. Don’t try to understand them intellectually. You have to understand them at their level, the level of feeling. 

Think with your heart and feel with your mind. 

Stop running and you’ll realize that you are already there. 

Homework. 

There is a trick. Let’s do it right now. I want you to think about how you are feeling at the moment. Ready? Ok. Now, feel in your body the emotion. Where do you feel it? In your chest? Your stomach? Are your hands cold? Maybe your feet? 

Feel the emotion until it goes away. Don’t fight with it, just feel it. Like a cloud in the sky, it will eventually go away. 

You see we don’t just think with our minds. We think with our whole body. Sit up straight with your shoulders back and you’ll realize that your mood changes instantly. 

Throughout the day. Go into your body, as you talk with people, as you work. Think with your body as well, feel your stomach, feel your heart, your chest. This exercise will inevitably bring you back to the present moment. Whenever you catch yourself just thinking and not feeling do the exercise again and again and again. It will become easier as you develop a relationship with your feelings and emotions again. 

And voila! My friend. You are in control again. 

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