As I was reading a book an acquaintance sent me, Clear Quiet Mind, I came across a section in the book from Chapter 7, The Myth of Perfection, that I believe is very helpful for accepting our imperfections and living with peace of mind in a World that is constantly telling us to be “perfect.”
After reading this chapter on the myth of perfection I googled “myth of perfection” and found that many people have written on this subject: The Huffington post, Professors, TEDTalks, etc. It is a popular subject, so it must be important to discuss.
Here I break down what I find from these multiple sources with practical ways of accepting our imperfections from Clear Quiet Mind, which can help you get past your myth of perfection to living a life with more peace of mind. Enjoy.
Dictionary definitions of perfect include: “Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.”
“Completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.”
Why do so many of us strive for an impossible feat which only leads us to disappointment? Why do we judge others when they make a mistake, but are forgiving for our own faults?
Are your role models perfect? Who are your role models? If they are a superhero from a movie or book, then that’s just not realistic.
A TED Talks speaker, Jim Hill, speaks of his former unrealistic expectations of himself and of others here.
He says, “Ive been wrong about role models all along. They don’t have to be perfect. How could they be perfect? They’re people.”
He goes on to speak about how no one is “perfect” all the time. We’re people. We’re flawed, and that is okay. After someone told him he was a good role model, he thought of all the reasons why he was not a good role model, but he says, “But if I could be a good role model for this slice of time, well then maybe all my role models could be perfect in slices of time.”
Instead of judging a person off of one bad thing they did, or maybe something they didn’t do, we can look at the slices of their lives that are inspiring to us: A characteristic of theirs, an achievement, an attitude, etc. When we chase perfection in ourselves and in others we only end up beating ourselves up, or others up (verbally usually), because we all fall short.
I want to be perfect just like you do, so how can we accept this inevitable fact of being imperfect?
Practical techniques from Clear Quiet Mind are next, but one way the speaker Jim helped himself was by practicing recognizing that his friends aren’t perfect, but they are pretty awesome at times, so he looked at the positive traits in them instead of focusing on any negative. He now tries to look at everyday people as role models, none of them are perfect, but they have slices of perfection woven into them. He says that doing this has let him off the hook of perfection.
An incredibly helpful way to release the myth of perfection is to understand that no one is perfect or ever will be, but we can look at the good qualities in others life and look up to those qualities.
Author Kevin Schoeninger also has great ideas and ways on how to handle this myth of perfection. He goes a little deeper on this subject by diving into ways to recognize when we are viewing things from a myth of perfection and then ways to release the myth of perfection.
Remember, we all struggle at times with this myth of perfection. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect.
Kevin says things like:
“Do you avoid taking risks in business because you think you might fail?”
“The Myth of Perfection is an invisible line that is impossible to measure up to.”
“When have you done enough? “By what standards can these be judged—and, who says so?”
“Is it really important for you and/or your kids or be busy, productive, and perfect all the time? Does that make for a happy and healthy life?”
“What if these standards of perfectionism are arbitrary, illusory, and moving targets that keep you locked in the stress of never being good enough or worthy enough for what you really want?”
“The bottom line is that ‘perfection’ is a myth. What you see when you step back and observe life more objectively is not perfection, but ‘diversity.’ Life is infinitely diverse. Diversity is a rule here on Earth. There are over seven billion different human bodies, sets of skills, habits, lifestyles, preferences, and personalities—and countless other lifeforms, each with their own unique characteristics.”
3 ways to recognize The Myth of Perfection
(All quoted examples below are from Chapter 7 in Kevin’s Book, Clear Quiet Mind, pages 63-74)
“The myth of perfection needs to be made conscious before you can let it go and choose another outlook. Until you recognize it and can pause it as it arises, you’ll be a slave to its mythical power.”
The first way to let go of any limiting perspective is to recognize what you’re doing, Kevin says.
1) Black and White thinking
Example: “A person is a ‘good person’ or a ‘bad person.’”
“Actions are either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’”
“This just isn’t true. Every person is a diverse mix of different intentions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. There are no 100% good or bad people. No one is 100% percent anything.”
“Actions can only be judged in context-yes even the ‘bad ones,’ like stealing, lying, and taking a life(example just below). What if these actions were in the service of a greater good?”
(Example)—“Would you lie to a Nazi about hiding a Jewish family in your attic? Would you steal their gun if they barged in and were trying to use it? Would you kill them to save innocent lives? Perhaps?”
*”Life presents itself in a rainbow of different colors and shades. Black and white thinking just doesn’t represent Reality. It’s important to view everything, every action, and everyone in their uniqueness within the complex contexts in which they appear.”
2) Always, Never, and Should
“This kind of thinking disregards the truth that all things in this physical world of time and space change and grow. Circumstances change and require different responses. We all change. Life is always changing. Life requires adaptation.”
…“Yet, we tend to label things as if they are unchanging. We say things like, ‘you always…’ and ‘I never…’ to judge others and justify ourselves.”
“‘Should’ is an equally fallible concept. We think that people should follow the rules, until they break them, create something new and amazing, and become famous for it. Then, in retrospect, they were courageous or creative geniuses.”
What if minorities and women never stood up for their rights and just followed the rules? There were laws that women couldn’t vote and that people could own slaves..How unbelievable is that? What good would happen if we didn’t break rules that are meant to be broken?
“We think that people should work until they are 65—yet, we admire those who can retire early. We think that we should long for retirement, yet those who stay engaged and active in purposeful work seem to have the most fulfilling, healthy, and happy lives.”
“Discernments about what is good, right, and valuable can only be made within the ever-changing contexts in which they occur. So, check yourself for the words always, never, and should. See if you can notice the arbitrary standards behind these statements. What if these are unnecessarily stressing you out or creating conflict?”
3) Comparison and Nitpicking
“We are brought up to compare—and this naturally leads to critical judgments if we or others don’t measure up.”
“A current example of this is the notion of ‘political correctness.’ This concept is one of the most arbitrary markers for what is good and bad. Political correctness clearly is about what is most important to the group with which you identify. It has no absolute value on its own.”
“In U.S. politics, as people congregate around ‘whatever Democrats do is bad’ or ‘whatever Republicans do it bad.’ This type of thinking leads to all sorts of contradictory and conflicting judgments…Life doesn’t offer absolute answers”
“The bottom line is that people, things, and actions can only be discerned within the complex contexts in which they occur. Quick and easy, black and white judgments are inaccurate to how life actually presents itself. Life is infinitely diverse.”
4 powerful techniques on releasing The Myth of Perfection
1) Notice Exceptions and Alternatives
“Notice exceptions to the rule you’re applying.” Kevin’s idea is that we are around imperfect people all the time, friends, family, etc, but we still love them for who they are.
He says, “For example, do you think so and so is beautiful even though he or she is ‘overweight?’ Can you think of a time when a ‘good person’ had a ‘lapse in judgment?’ Can you remember a time when the point you are now disagreeing with was true?”
“Notice the variety of possible ways you can look at the same situation. By momentarily adopting different points of view, it helps release you from the stress and tyranny of any one perspective.”
“At a minimum, it can lead you to say, ‘Maybe there are a variety of ways of looking at this situation.”
2) Refute Irrational Ideas
Our ideas, our self-talk, whether rational or irrational will impact our emotions, and our emotions motivate our actions. Kevin discusses how the psychologist Albert Ellis wrote about this, identifying common irrational beliefs that “launch us into stressful feelings which result in poor coping behaviors.”
Some of these adapted irrational beliefs include: “I must have love and approval for me to feel good, I must be flawlessly competent, successful, and perfect to deserve good things, My happiness and suffering are entirely dependent upon external events, Anything unknown, uncertain, or potentially dangerous is scary, What happened in the past determines what will happen now.”
There may be truth in some of these ideas for you, but “it’s how you use these ideas against yourself that’s decisive,” Kevin says, “When you attach to them as strong beliefs, they limit how you view yourself and your possibilities.”
“Certainly, you don’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you interpret, relate to, and respond to what happens.”
“Ellis discovered that, if you can refute your irrational ideas, you can interrupt the chain of reaction, and create a new outcome. If you reframe your thinking, you will feel and act differently. By doing this, you become stress-resistant and stress-resilient.”
Kevin discusses Ellis’s 5 Steps to Refute Irrational ideas which you can read more about here in Ellis’s ABC Model
3) Ask yourself, ‘Am I Coming from Love or Fear?’
“Anytime you’re feeling critical or judgmental toward yourself or others ask this question: Am I coming from love or fear?”
“The root of the myth of perfection is fear of vulnerability— that ‘I am vulnerable if I’m not perfect.’
“The cure for fear is first identifying your fear and acknowledging it, then deciding if it needs to be acted on or not. This helps respond appropriately to what is happening. Perhaps your fear is alerting you to something that needs to be done? If so, how can you address your fear by taking appropriate action? If not, can you let that fear go?”
“Good questions to ask fear: ‘What am I afraid might happen? Is that likely or am I exaggerating that possibility? What actions do I really need to take? Is it possible that nothing needs to be done except letting go of fear and seeing things in a more realistic empowered way?’”
“Once you’ve identified necessary actions or decided that you may be exaggerating risk to protect feelings of vulnerability, you can move toward love.”
“On the love side, you can ask, ‘How can I be more loving and compassionate toward myself and others in this situation? What would ease fear? What would help things work out well for all concerned? How can I initiate or participate in this positive outcome?’”
“In moments of fear and vulnerability, what would someone who loves you unconditionally, exactly as you are, say to you or do? How can you apply this principle to how you relate to yourself and others?”
“Love is a response that naturally arises when you see the real needs of yourself and others in any situation. Love desires the best for all concerned. Love is your natural response when you are free from fear. When you love, instead of criticizing and blaming, you can observe and discern what needs to be done.”
4) Observe and Accept What Is Actually Happening
“In moments of challenge, vulnerability, and fear, is it possible to set aside all mental chatter, all stories and judgments, and simply be an objective witness to what is happening? … It is possible with practice to do this, to free your mind.”
“Remember your skills of mindfulness, acceptance, and detachment. Is it possible to mindfully observe what is happening, accept it as it is, and let go of judging people and events as good or bad? Is it possible to see others and situations innocently, as if for the first time, without prejudice? —To help do this you might use the First Seat of Consciousness(technique): — Observe the situation from a perspective above and behind your head. Imagine yourself sitting up there, looking down on yourself, others, and the situation as a whole.”
You can imagine being in the sky, on a cloud, looking down at yourself and all of life, which can get you out of your own thoughts.
“I encourage you to try these techniques to release the myth of perfection in situations in which you are harshly judging yourself or others.”
Kevin’s book is very useful in helping people achieve an inner peace through practical techniques. I have underlined almost every single word throughout this book as I read it. As I read the book, part of me wanted the next page to not connect with me so I didn’t have to underline it, but it kept happening!
If you would like the full book you can buy it here from Amazon for $15
This is a guest post by Mershon Niesner, retired Certified Life Coach & Author of http://motherloss.blog
Mershon gives 6 insights into some of the most important aspects of life coaching and how you can use these tips to enhance your life:
Professional Coaching or Life Coaching does not replace therapy, or counseling or good common sense. However, coaching does help people get unstuck, move forward, solve their own problems and live a healthier, happier and more successful personal & professional life.
I started coaching in 1997 and was certified as a coach in 2000, long before most people had heard of coaching and certainly before coaches started writing guest columns in magazines and there were such things as blogs. Retired now, I’ve turned to writing a daily blog that includes coaching questions and I’m currently writing a book, When Lightning Strikes, to be published in 2019. Here are some things I learned during my coaching years:
1. People know the answers to their own important questions
Perhaps they don’t know how to access the answers, perhaps they don’t even know the important questions, but once they discover the question, chances are that somewhere deep inside, they have the answer. The coach’s job is to ask the questions that help people find their own powerful answers. When the answer comes from within, folks are motivated to act and results are infinitely more likely to happen. You know the feeling…when you’re told to do something you might drag your feet, but when you make the decision yourself to take meaningful action, you’re eager to try out your theory and experience the results. Coaches trust this process. They believe in their clients and create an atmosphere of trust, self-worth, and compassion.
2. Big changes sometimes start small
I had a client that was unmotivated, constantly tired, angry at herself for “not getting anything done.” When I had her do a life style assessment, I noticed she self reported that she didn’t make her bed. So, the first request I had for her was to make her bed for a week and report back. The next week she was surprised at her progress…no more naps, more energy, a greater sense of well-being and self-worth. She started her day with purpose by making her bed. She didn’t want to “mess it up” by taking a nap so she had better nighttime sleep and more energy. Did this solve all of her problems? Of course not, but it was a powerful start. Another client did an online class with me about having more fun. She realized that as a very busy corporate person she had zero fun in her life and did nothing for her own joy. Her assignment, “Buy yourself flowers once a week and put them on your desk to remind yourself that you count.” She did. She later quit her corporate job and became a coach. She was a client for several years. Little things can make a difference.
3. Most people thrive with accountability
Our profession is called coaching because in some ways, we show up like athletic coaches especially as it relates to accountability. For instance, if someone wanted to sell more widgets, I’d ask them, “How many sales calls will you make this week?” They know they are paying their coach good money to hold them accountable so that is part of the motivation. Another aspect is simply wanting to say, “Hey, Coach, I met my goal this week!” Some say, “I did such and such because I didn’t want to disappoint you.” Whatever the motivation, calls are made that would not have been made otherwise, sales increase, self-esteem rises and soon the coach is no longer needed.
4. Generally, people give themselves bigger and better challenges
As a coach or a parent or even a boss, it is tempting to “be in charge” and hand out the goals or punishment. It has been my experience as a coach and as a parent that generally well-meaning people will give themselves an even bigger challenge/punishment than you might give them. Have you ever asked your child what kind of punishment he or she deserves for a particular offense? Maybe you would take away their electronic device for a day. Depending on how bad they feel about their behavior, they will possibly say two. Remember the guy selling widgets? I might have asked him to make 10 sales calls but, likely, he will challenge himself to 15. If he says 5, I would ask him what it would take to double that and see what he says. It’s still his decision…that’s where the power lies.
5. It’s all about the listening
Few people have someone in their corner who truly listens to them. Not half listens, not listens while checking for messages, not listens while stirring the pot but listens with their whole mind and beyond…heart to heart listening. Most of my coaching was done over the telephone. I had clients all around the country and occasionally in exotic places like India. I always called them at the appointed time. Often I “had them at hello.” With just a word, I could tell much about their state of mind and would immediately ask, “what’s up?” surprising them with my “knowing.” When folks are really heard, they begin to shine as if they are on a stage with a spotlight. When they know they are valued and understood, trusted and cared about, listened to with the heart…their life begins to change. You don’t have to be a coach to really listen to the people in your life.
6. Coaching, like life in general, is messy
And finally, I used to tell my clients, “Sometimes you have to throw a lot of spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.” Living life is a messy business. To have a successful, joy-filled life, you have to try new things, step out of your comfort zone, trust yourself and your instincts (which aren’t always 100 percent), and really live this messy life to the fullest. You have to get out of your own way, have compassion for yourself and others, tap into your faith, make mistakes in order to learn and allow others to do the same. Professional or business coaching may start out to be about marketing or business plans or climbing the ladder but it always evolves into life coaching. We are whole people, experiencing life through a wide lens, not a pin hole. What’s keeping you from being all you can be? What’s one action you will take today to move towards your Future Self?
Contact me if you would like to submit a guest post — firstname.lastname@example.org
I began looking at thoughtful quotes from a multitude of great thinkers of the past, and as I was looking at Thoreau’s quotes, they kept pulling me in and in—he has some amazing things to say that can impact your life. Take time to ponder these quotes that make you think:
“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn you attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”
“Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.”
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.”
“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”
“The universe is wider than our views of it.”
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
“It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.”
“Things do not change; we change.”
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find eternity in each moment.”
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”
“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed…Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”
“There will never be a reality free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.”
“What is called genius is the abundance of life and health.”
“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
“In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.”
“Nay, be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”
“The Artist is he who detects and applies the law from observation of the works of genius, whether of man or Nature. The artisan is he who merely applies the rules which others have detected.”
“To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.”
“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”
“It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are…than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think you’re in paradise.”
“A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend.”
“The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”
“Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.”
“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
“The perception of beauty is a moral test.”
“It is never too late to give up our prejudices.”
“Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.”
“If you can speak what you will never hear, if you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things.”
“The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth.”
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
“If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. Men will believe what they see.”
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
“Books can only reveal us to ourselves, and as often as they do us this service we lay them aside.”
“There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living.”
“Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men.”
“That government is best which governs least.”
“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”
“So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one centre. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.”
“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.”
“That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest.”
”None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
“If a man constantly aspires is he not elevated?”
“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”
“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”
“To be awake is to be alive.”
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.”
“In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.”
“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.”
“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”
“Live the Life you’ve dreamed”
“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”
“I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.”
“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”
“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”
“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”
“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
“Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends…Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”
Other good Thoreau Quotes:
“How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”
“Every generation laughs at old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
“In wilderness is the preservation of the world.”
“It is the greatest of all advantages to enjoy no advantages at all.”
“The language of excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm before you can utter oracles.”
“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”
“‘Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”
“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
“Men are born to succeed, not to fail.”
“Til healthy to be sick sometimes.”
“Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling.”
I’m sure I have left out some great ones. Which is your favorite? Please share any thoughtful quotes in the comments.
Disclaimer—This might change your perspective on life. Hopefully for the better.
The choice is yours.
The 4 philosophy ideas I discuss stem from a philosophy called stoicism.
I wanted to title this post: “Stoicism 101; an old philosophy that can liberate you,” but I’m not sure if many people have heard about stoicism, and I know most people have heard of philosophy.
So what is stoicism? (scroll down to ‘4 Main Points‘ section for just the main points if you’d like).
Stoicism is defined as: “The endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.”
It is being okay with everything that happens & accepting how you feel. It is focusing on what you can control, and letting go of the rest.
Stoicism is liberating.
Stoicism can help you:
- Become a better person & friend
- Deal with people & external events appropriately
- Deal with adversity
- Maintain a level head through praise & criticism
- Come to peace with death
- Overcome destructive emotions, and many more.
Stoicism is also defined as: “An ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.”
Stoicism helps us accept life as it is. It helps us get past our labels of “good” & “bad.” Stoicism helps put us in a mindful state of awareness, getting us out of our constantly judging mind, enabling us to experience life fully, non-judgmentally.
In relation to living non-judgmentally, I’ve heard this quote: “What is chaos to the fly is normal to the spider.”
Shakespeare also said, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
We know what is good or bad in human terms, but there is a lot more going on in the universe than what we think.
There is so much happening beyond us.
We know that murder is a bad thing, yet cows, chickens and other animal life are murdered daily in our world. I eat meat so I am not complaining, I am just trying to get us all to think.
Do you think eating dog is bad?
Multiple countries eat dog today, and other countries think that this is very wrong…Here is an article that came out April 3, 2018 that discusses how over 5 million dogs are eaten in Vietnam every year—Click Here For Article.
Is it wrong to kill animals for food? I don’t have that answer.
Maybe hundreds or thousands of years from now, if the human race is still around, they will wonder how we could have eaten the meat of other animals.
Maybe not though as well.
Look back to a few examples from recent centuries, the 1900’s & beyond, to things we look back on in disgust: Open racism, public hangings & no womens’ rights.
These injustices are still happening today in some places.
So this is what philosophy is; thinking. Thinking, learning & then living out the best life from what we know. Philosophy is about questions & perspectives.
Stoicism is not pessimistic, it is optimistic, you just need to see it in the right light.
Before I get to the main points of stoicism, I would like your feedback via email. I am considering writing a short ebook that will discuss stoicism in more detail. I have about 70 pages of solid notes on the subject, & have read multiple books regarding stoicism, so if you would be interested in reading a short ebook(condensed to about 20 pages) please let me know!
For now, here is a summary of a few main points that stoicism offers & how we can apply them to our lives.
4 Main Points
•Which translates to a love of one’s fate•
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was a big fan of amor fati.
He is quoted saying, “my formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it, but love it.”
The stoics also had another way of looking at this. They believed in a universal guiding force of the universe. They thought we are like a dog tied to a moving cart, and we have two options: We can try to dig our hind legs in, struggling to control everything, getting dragged & being challenged. Or we can enjoy the ride & live our best lives.
Last quote on Amor Fati:
“Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.” Epictetus (Philosopher & former slave)
Are you loving your fate? If not, you can with practice, and it will help you live your best life.
2~Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest
Most of us have heard this quote: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr
We have heard it, and might think, “yea that’s good, I should do that.” But we often don’t follow through with this quote.
We need to follow through with action. Make a list of things you can control, and a list of things you can’t control. Then stop wasting any time on things you cannot control. This takes time & practice, as I am practicing this myself and am not perfect at it.
I love this idea from Philip Ghezelbash that relates to focusing on the things we can control:
“Do you have a problem in your life?
No? ► Then don’t worry.
Yes? ► Can you do something about it?…
Yes? ► Then don’t worry.
No? ► Then don’t worry.”
I have been practicing this lately when I am stuck in traffic. There is no reason to get upset in uncontrollable traffic, but many people do & I have too at times. I’ve been reminding myself that I have no control over the traffic, and this reminder has been bringing me peace of mind.
3~Practice poverty & misfortune
This may sound counterproductive but it can actually help a person grow tremendously.
When we intentionally practice poverty & misfortune a few days each month, we will be more prepared and accepting for when it does come.
“We must learn to disappoint ourselves at leisure before the world ever has a chance to slap us by surprise at a time of its own choosing.” Alain de Botton
Alain goes on to say: “One of the goals of civilization is to instruct us in how to be sad rather than angry. Sadness may not sound very appealing. But it carries – in this context – a huge advantage. It is what allows us to detach our emotional energies from fruitless fury around things that (however bad) we cannot change and that are the fault of no-one in particular and – after a period of mourning – to refocus our efforts in places where our few remaining legitimate hopes and expectations have a realistic chance of success.”
Entrepreneur, practicer of stoicism, and author of a New York Times Best Selling Book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss, practices this each month. See him talk about it by clicking here…
Ferriss talks about how the philosopher Cato, would practice poverty & misfortune:
During Cato’s age, over 2000 years ago, every now and then he would wear clothes that society viewed as humiliating.
Cato did this to train himself to be ashamed of only those things truly worth being ashamed about.
Deep down we know that clothes are nothing to be ashamed of, but many people spend a lot of money to buy brand clothing to impress people they don’t even like.
The philosopher Seneca also practiced this. In one of his writings he wrote: “Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’”
We undervalue what we have, because most likely we’ve always had it…
“Many of your fears are based on undervaluing the things that are easily obtainable.” Tim Ferriss
Ferriss also practices this by doing fasts, not eating anything for days, & also doing fasts that include only eating rice, or only drinking water. (If you plan on doing a fast, research it as much as possible beforehand).
This year I have done two 30 hour fasts, and multiple 16-20 hour fasts.
There has been a lot of research done on fasting, and it has many benefits. This Harvard study explains how fasting can lead to a longer and healthier life: Click Here for the study.
I’ve been practicing this another way without even knowing it: When I need clothes, I first go to Goodwill or other thrift stores, where I buy great clothes for a cheap price. I am very glad my mother took us to thrift shops growing up; they really have some amazing gems. And when I buy clothes that society might think is “poor,” that doesn’t bother me & I’ll still wear it.
Macklemore agrees here in his song Thrift shop(clean version).
He says, “I’m like, ‘yo, that’s 50 dollars for a t-shirt.’ Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition. 50 dollars for a t-shirt, that’s just some ignorant _____.
I call that getting tricked by the business.”
Do we care that much about the opinions of others that we will spend enormous amounts of money to impress them?
2000 years ago, former Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius said, “it never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”
Think about what your life would be like without the things you have. It could happen. Better to have practiced misfortune so that if it comes to you, you won’t be bothered by it.
Are you practicing poverty & misfortune? If not, do you think you will?
4~None of what you do lasts
Again, this may sound pessimistic, but it is liberating, and if you are still reading you can sense that practicing stoicism can be liberating.
Marcus Aurelius reminded himself of all the people who have died, whether they had a “great” occupation or a “lowly” one. He said: “Run down the list of those who felt intense anger at something: the most famous, the most unfortunate, the most hated, the most whatever: Where is all that now? Smoke, dust, legend…or not even a legend. Think of all the examples. And how trivial the things we want so passionately are.”
“No matter how clever or brilliant, none of what we do lasts…It’s good to remember that.” Ryan Holiday
“If everything is ephemeral, what does matter? Right now matters. Being a good person and doing the right thing right now, thats what matters and that’s what was important to the Stoics. Be humble and honest and aware.” Ryan Holiday
If you want to really live your best life, it is important to frequently think of your own mortality. This will help you appreciate each and every moment, and not have such an intense fear of death that most people refuse to think about.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” Marcus Aurelius
I hope you enjoyed learning about, or learning more about the wonderful philosophy of stoicism. There are many more practices involved with stoicism; these were a few key starting points I believe are good to begin with, & they are ones that I am practicing.
If you want to learn more about stoicism, I recommend reading the book “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. I recently read it & it is now one of my top 3 all-time favorite books.
And as I said, I have many notes on stoicism and am considering writing a short ebook on the subject to discuss it in more details (the ebook would be around 20 pages). If this is something you’d be interested in reading please let me know 🙂
I look forward to hearing from you, & hope you have gained a new perspective through reading this.
“In your actions, don’t procrastinate. In your conversations, don’t confuse. In your thoughts, don’t wander. In your soul, don’t be passive or aggressive. In your life, don’t be all about business.” Aurelius
What if what we thought about an event wasn’t always the best way of looking at it?
Many of us label our experiences and situations as “good,” or “bad,” and many other things.
This perspective limits us from living our best lives.
As a culture we have seemed to judge events as good or bad (luck), but sometimes when we think something “bad” has happened, it is good in disguise. And sometimes when we think something “good” has happened, it is bad in disguise.
There’s an ancient proverb that elaborates this concept:
There was a farmer who had a beautiful strong horse that was used to plow his fields.
One day, the horse escaped, and the farmer’s neighbors came to the man sympathizing about his bad luck. The farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”
A few days later the horse returned with a herd of stallions. This time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. He replied with, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”
The next week when the farmer’s son was trying to tame one of the stallions, he fell off the horse and broke his leg. “What bad luck,” the neighbors told the farmer. “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?” Said the farmer.
A few days later an army came into the village, forcing every able-bodied youth to join them. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they didn’t bother to take him with them.
Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?
I’m sure you can think of a time when something bad happened but it turned out to help you in the end. Was it good luck or bad luck?
We can’t always know the reason behind an event, so it’s important to keep a neutral attitude..
..To observe the events in our life without judging them, without drawing conclusions about them…This can bring about great peace of mind.
Great leaders understand this concept and are able to remain calm, trust life and themselves, take appropriate action, generate acceptance, and have a flexible attitude.
So the next time you’re in a situation that you label as “good” or “bad” I encourage you to ask yourself, “Good luck?” “Bad luck?” Who knows…
Thank you for reading!
Here’s another post that may also help you enable a different perspective: Question your Certainty
I was listening to famous blogger Mark Manson get interviewed by Marie Forleo Here when he said something that inspired this whole post. I believe that this idea can help everyone in their daily lives.
- “The starting point is simple, start asking WHY about everything.”
“What if I’m wrong?” “What if my assumption is wrong?”
The more I think about this subject, the more I see how IMPORTANT it is to question ourselves.
“Don’t believe everything you think” is a quote that has impacted my life in great ways.
Author Dan Millman wrote that our thoughts are like wild monkeys stung by a scorpion.
Our minds are running all day; thoughts appear like clouds passing by, some stay longer than others, but some quickly pass by. So how can you and I let go of these “clouds?”
1) As Manson would say, “There’s no ‘how.’ It’s all in your head.” There is not much you can do other than try on a new perspective and ask, “What if my assumption isn’t true?” What would that mean? And then psychically traverse the answer.
- So write down 5 things in your life that you could potentially be wrong about. Question those deep assumptions you’ve had about your identity for years. For example, “I am lazy” I am not an attractive person” “I don’t know how to talk to people” “I won’t ever be happy” “The world is going to shit”
The more emotion you have behind these assumptions, the more important it is to write it down and CHALLENGE IT!
After you have written down 5 or more assumptions, go through them and write down what it would mean in your life if it were wrong.
It may not be easy but it’s worth it! Anyway how confident can you be in your own beliefs if you’ve never challenged them? Try to see the “other side,” and when it does appear more likely and more valid, join that side!
2) THINK THROUGH YOUR THOUGHTS to see if what you’re thinking is irrational or not.
For example: Say that you get a little nervous to go to the gym or grocery shopping. But why? Because you have to step out of your COMFORT ZONE.
You are comfortable inside your apartment watching TV & the thought of leaving will disrupt your comfort – so you think..
It’s crazy how the mind can trick us to stay exactly where we are. But if you want to do anything significant or really even just anything, you need to leave your comfort zone. It’s worth it. The pain you will feel later on in life due to staying in your comfort zone will be much worse than the temporary discomfort of going for what you want.
-This can relate to asking a girl/guy out.
-Performing at that open mic night you’ve been considering.
-Joining that group you’ve been thinking of joining.
-Anything that has to do with doing what you want.
People are afraid of all sorts of things & that’s okay. You shouldn’t try to strive to be fearless, you should strive to TAKE ACTION when you are feeling afraid.
I have learned that it’s not about how I think or feel, it’s about what I do!!
Don’t believe everything you think! Question your assumptions and thoughts, and start TAKING ACTION!!!
Stop wasting time caring about the wrong things; things that only worry you. Start caring about things that truly matter to you!
Click the BOOK PICTURE below to buy Mark Manson’s NY Times Best Selling book that can help you do all of the above!