1. “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.” – Epictetus
You can be kind. You can be good. You can be patient, loving, and giving.
But at the end of the day, you cannot control the outcome of your life. Your friends may abandon you. Your love may leave you. Your health may fail you. Your life may be taken from you.
Rather than troubling yourself by possible futures, which you cannot control, concern yourself only with your actions, and your character, which you can control.
Be kind, be good, be patient, loving, and giving. Your kindness will go unappreciated, your goodness will be mocked, your patience will be tested, your love will be questioned, and your sacrifice will be overlooked.
But you cannot control how you are perceived. Though you can influence them, you cannot fully control the thoughts, opinions, or attitudes of others in the way that you can fully control your own.
This brings us to our next quote.
2. “An emerald shines even if it’s worth is not spoken of.” – Marcus Aurelius
Do not do good things hoping that someone will notice your goodness.
Do good things because they are good. Do not be a certain way because you want to be liked, or because you want to be loved, or respected.
Be a certain way because it is good to be that way.
Work hard because hard work is good, not because you expect that hard work will get you places.
Love because loving is good, not because you expect that you will be loved in return.
Be fair because fairness is good, not because you expect to be treated fairly in return.
Goodness is its own reward, and because your own goodness is entirely in your control, this is where you should focus your efforts.
3. “If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.” – Marcus Aurelius
Neither blindly accept or reject criticism. Evaluate criticisms on your character, and change for the better where you can do so.
Acknowledging that you are not perfect is the first step to self-improvement, not the last step. We feel the worst about ourselves when we know deep down that we aren’t making an effort to become better people.
As long as we are putting forth an honest effort to improve, our conscience is clear.
But self deception is a trap we set that tears us down when we are not expecting it.
It causes us to stumble in the dark, and have no idea what we are stumbling over. And not knowing what troubles us is the beginning of the end of mental stability.
4. “Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present.” – Seneca
People are born with only two fears – of falling and of loud noises.
Where do the rest of our fears come from? Our past.
Where do our fears become a reality? Our future.
I may add “possible future” since even our own future is never really known to us, despite how inevitable it may seem at times. Very rarely are we really afraid of things in the present for the presents sake.
We may fear loneliness, but not merely because we are alone today, but because we fear being alone forever.
With the gift of foresight we have plagued ourselves with fears that may not even become realities.
5. “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.” – Seneca
Low attention spans, wanderlust, fear of commitment.
The desire to be everywhere in one way or another is nothing new.
With the internet it is easier than ever for your mind to be everywhere at once, and therefore, to be nowhere.
People are losing their ability and desire to focus on one thing, one place, one person.
But this can be changed at any moment, if you so desire to change it.
Of course, this isn’t to say that your must always focus on one one thing, or always be in one place, or always be with one person. Relaxing your mind is good, as is travel, as is exploring one’s options. But these things are only good if they are temporary.
If your mind is always aimless, and your location always changing, and your options always open, then you will run into an inevitable purposelessness. You will at once find yourself everywhere, and yet nowhere. And the longer you stay everywhere, the more you will feel that no one place could ever satisfy you.
6. “If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.” – Seneca
People often believe that their unhappiness is a result of their circumstances.
They believe that if they could just be in a more pleasant situation they would be much happier. But you will never be able to fully control the situation that you are in.
At any moment your circumstances could take a turn for the worst.
This you cannot control, but you can control your mind, and your attitude.
Nothing has the ability to harass you without your permission. This you have the ability to deny at any moment.