2,000 years ago, philosopher Seneca came to the conclusion that:
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. 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.
Epictetus, who compiled a manual of Stoic ethical advice in Enchiridion, puts it more concisely:
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
Speaking of great Epictetus, he also said that:
You are a little soul carrying around a corpse.
I have come a long way since starting this blog. I have grown immensely as a person, and am just truly getting started. The simple look at the date of the latest post reveals that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been around, I’ve just moved with what life has had in store for me.
I have successfully concluded the period of material growth, and am presently on my way to expand my higher knowledge and share what I have learned over the years with the world.
There Are No Coincidences
You are reading this blog because you are meant to read it. How much you take off it is entirely up to you. Whether you identify with anything I have to say is irrelevant. You have your own method of comprehending the universe, and if what I say doesn’t resonate with your inner self, simply discard it as “Mark is once again pulling something out of his behind“. But if you find but one sentence that maintains the same frequency as your eternal being, then you were meant to find this place.
Now let’s take a look at stoicism – Greco-Roman philosophy with the goal of accepting reality as the key to inner peace – for exercises that may help increase out optimism and with it, happiness.
View From Above
Marcus Aurelius advises you to perform an exercise called “View From Above“, whereby you envision yourself from the view of the third person. While keeping yourself in the center, you zoom out, and continue zooming out to contemplate the scale of the universe:
You can rid yourself of many useless things among those that disturb you, for they lie entirely in your imagination; and you will then gain for yourself ample space by comprehending the whole universe in your mind, and by contemplating the eternity of time, and observing the rapid change of every part of everything, how short is the time from birth to dissolution, and the illimitable time before birth as well as the equally boundless time after dissolution.
With this scale, you can gain a better perspective on the insignificance of your problems. When compared to the universe, whatever problems you presently face, will likely appear trivial. For instance, if you are feeling down because you got rejected by someone you loved, it may help you overcome the emotional hurdles if you put things into universal perspective.
The exercise consists of envisioning what it would feel like if we were handed a shittier card in life, or if you lost things or persons from your life. For examples, if you lost all your wealth, if you were born in a poor third world country, if you were born with a disability, if you lost a loved one, etc. Seneca explains it best:
Remember that all we have is “on loan” from Fortune, which can reclaim it without our permission—indeed, without even advance notice. Thus, we should love all our dear ones, but always with the thought that we have no promise that we may keep them forever—nay, no promise even that we may keep them for long.
Do not fixate on these thoughts. Do not make them your reality. Instead, use them to realize how lucky you are, and to prepare for the worst case scenario so when something dark happens to you, it won’t break you down completely.
Gratitude is a natural part of this exercise, and gratitude makes the entire journey through life more enjoyable, because it defends you from aslap across your face when upcoming success gets chewed up by “hedonic adaptation” – the tendency to go back to your default level of happiness once you achieve success.
This exercise involves deliberate exposure to uncomfortable situations. This will train you not to hold comfort in such high regard. You can do it by taking cold showers, fasting for a day, approaching members of the opposite sex who seem way beyond your league randomly on the street, sleeping on hard surfaces, etc.
But neither a bull nor a noble-spirited man comes to be what he is all at once; he must undertake hard winter training, and prepare himself, and not propel himself rashly into what is not appropriate to him.
This will help you soar above complaints by other people of feeling discomfort, because you have hardened yourself up for life. You were put in this life to grow as a being. Your path through life will not always be a walk in the rose garden. Sooner or later shit will go sideways for you and you want to be ready with mental and physical fortitude to battle through come what may.
You are not here by accident. How you position yourself in respect to this fact reflects your acceptance or resistance of your purpose.
I have not had to ask anyone to help me move in over a decade, because in over a decade I have not owned anything I could not lift with one hand.
When you redefine problems such that you fully control their outcome, it places the burden of overcoming challenges on you, and frees you from having to beg others to do what you want. This is known as “Outcome Independence“.
When confronted with a problem, ask if it is something in your control, or outside of it. If the problem is outside your control, then since there is nothing you can do about it, it would make no sense to worry. Accept that, and move on to other things. There is no point in wasting energy, whether physical or emotional, if you can’t affect the outcome.
On the other hand, if the problem is under your control, then there is likewise no reason to worry because you can fully take care of it.
Be outcome independent. When you go out with the goal to have fun, you can then hit on girls and hopefully bring one home. But if you don’t, you still had fun, and you get to go home to get better sleep and wake up alone. You never lose with this mindset.
And if you do end up bringing a girl home, internalize your goals and make them independent from external factors not under your control. Thus, instead of wanting to have sex with the girl, which would put the control over the outcome at least partially in her control and thus outside of yours, reset the goal to become the most attractive version of yourself to the woman.
Remember, even if you win the rat race, you’re still nothing but a measly rat.