Choose Your Response Carefully!

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A bit of continuation to the mature response -blog from last week.

That topic was in retrospect a big hit for myself, because by writing that I had prepared myself for rejection what followed the next day. Now I was ready to deal with it in mature way, because I had just revisited the notes and what it means to respond maturely. Despite knowing and remembering some of this, I have to say that dealing with rejection in personal relationships is never easy.

Even in professional life: sales and marketing people face rejection several or even dozens of times per day it’s not easy even though there it’s not so personal. Rejection hurts.

Here we come to the part what we are actually able to control: our response to the outside impulse. Separation between an animal and a conscious being is the ability to delay the time in between impulse and response. We have the ability to choose our response. This so called last of human freedoms is what many philosophies including stoicism teaches us.

Today I realized that choosing means that there are usually several different options for us to consider. Several paths, from which we can always choose the best suited path for our purposes.

How long can you take in between impulse and response? Try taking a moment of your time.

Usually the powerful have the time to be quiet and think before reply. Do you recognize the feeling?

Be responsible, choose your response carefully!

Now is the Time to Be What You Can Be

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In short I’ve fallen for stoicism. During the January I’ve re-read two books on stoicism: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday. Also currently I am reading Ego is the Enemy and I will read the Daily Stoic.

Stoicism is a practical and applied philosophy of a virtuous life. If you cannot practice the thought or virtue, it’s not stoicism. Being a stoic means having inner dialogue, finding what you are in control of and then living the best life you can from there with no complaints about the circumstances or about results. Stoicism is about action, not about attaching to the rewards.

Living the best you can in the present, because stoic recognizes life is only in the present. Nobody can change the past, however with the action in the present we create future. Nor does stoic gets attached to the future – everything goes to the plan because we are creating the plan every moment as we go. Stoic cannot be thus harmed by ill will, because stoic turns any obstacle into opportunity or dies trying.

Literally stoic recognizes the shortness of life: memento mori – remember you are mortal.

It’s only now time to be what you can be. It’s now when you should start not only being, but start the doing. Be the doing you can be!

I decided to modify the words of Gandhi: Do the change you want to see in the world. Doing is being, do not just talk, start doing something about what you want! In the end we never cannot be still to long, we are never complete, perfection is just a day dream. Excellence is what we should pursue. Excellence means the best we are capable of with the given time and resources. We do not need to commit overly too much resources, that would be foolish, yet we need just enough to create excellence, the best possible solution.

Excellence requires letting go and yet finding ways to fulfill the need completely. Excellence is the practice of virtues. Every day we become what we can be if we practice excellence. The time to practice excellence is now!

Virtue is the Purpose of Life

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Doing good, doing the right thing in whatever position you are in life is the purpose of life according to the Stoics. Take responsibility of your soul, of what you can do, because that’s all you can do.

Do not judge, writes Marcus Aurelius.

Do not judge, always seek to praise were Abraham Lincolns words according to Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Virtue is doing the right thing when we have the freedom to choose otherwise. Marcus Aurelius is fascinating example of this, because he was the emperor of the known world, ruler with absolute power. Yet he was living in virtue.

Trying to put this to the scope of personal life: should I discard all my desires I ask myself again? Then I remember the difference between a desire, lust and a positive desire.

What causes us to be virtuous? What causes positive desires?

Sigmund Freud suggests that it may be sublimation. Something negative we have done earlier in life may cause to turn into something major positive later in life.

Reflecting on my own past, I certainly feel that the reason I contemplate so much on the virtues, what is right and best for everyone is because I feel that when I was younger I wasn’t very good example. Due to that earlier experience I certainly want to go to the opposite direction as fast as I can, which is a very positive.

We want to progress and above all we want to be something more than we were before. As stoics put it, at least we should try to be better than animals. And the way to do that is through civilizing ourselves and taking responsibility of our souls. By putting our values to work and working from where we are now.

 

Further info

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on Wikipedia

Marcus Aurelius Lecture on Stoicism

Freud on: Sublimation

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Anticipate Needs, Accept and Fulfill Them

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Life becomes very satisfying when we realize that our needs are met through other people. We are often too blind for our own needs, we simply live our own life every day and thus cannot see the bigger picture very well. Other people we meet on the other hand can start to see a lot better than ourselves the ways what do we rebeally need in life.

It is through others that we can satisfy our needs at high levels.

I want to add, that we may have the wisdom about ourselves to know the difference between a need and a want. We may even understand that we do not need much. It’s about there where our understanding about the needs tend to get blurred. Often our greatest needs are social needs, because we are really social beings.

As example, much of the feeling of safety comes from group and society. Feeling of belonging as well. Even feeling of meaning and purpose: doing good to others and to the whole society at large.

When we become good at anticipating needs of others and also our own our life becomes meaningful. Our purpose literally becomes anticipating and fulfilling the needs of others at high levels.

When we operate at high levels, there is playfulness, curiosity, experimentation and exploration! We want to improve our societies, we want to live exciting happy lives.

Yesterday when I watched Elon Musk talk about Making Life Multiplanetary I see that he is working from what do we need or even must do as a species in order to increase the odds of basic survival and safety.

Elon Musk has anticipated the need, as has many others. Anyone who has anticipated and accepted the need starts to talk about the importance of doing something, in order to find collaborators to find a way to fulfill the need. Then there are those who are resourceful enough find the people and with limited resource start to work towards fulfilling the need. Eventually they will succeed.

Whatever it is a big or small need, in our own lives or in the lives of others. Try to anticipate, accept and fulfill them. Be a good stoic and you won’t be disappointed.

Giving Up Desires is a Piece of Bliss

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I’ve found refuge in the thoughts of karma:

Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;

And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BCE

One is like is his desires. In the end if we live up to our best, in the end we will be well.

Another train of thought, I like to entertain is that of philosopher (stoic). With few desires there needs are easily fulfilled and life is lived happy.

Avoiding desire is difficult and requires effort. It also involves dealing with thoughts such as:

I am not my grades

I am not my past

I am not my thoughts

I am not my salary

I am not my net worth

Most of these I’ve found to be incredibly helpful thought, each one has been kind of like a breakthrough, giving up a desire is acquiring a piece of bliss.

Life is Long Enough to Discover and Give Your Gift to the World

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On Wednesday I wrote Purpose of Life which is to fulfill the needs of others at higher levels. In the end once we start to fulfill the needs of others at higher levels, we will also in the end get what we need the most.

In there I mentioned the shortness of life, which I today want to overturn.

My thinking before has based on accepting the shortness of life, today I decided to look a bit deeper in what does it actually mean. Therefore I decided to study some texts of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, one of the Stoics. Unlike settling for the plain quotes, I read his Shortness of Life. Here the famous quote about the shortness of life continues with another equally important sentence: “it’s not that we’ve a short time to live, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it’s been given to us in generous measure for accomplishing the greatest things, if the whole of it is well invested.”

Combined with the second sentence, there is an abundant world view and gratitude in place. Length of life is enough, we’ve been given plenty it’s just the matter of how we use it.

Brilliant! So we have plenty of time, the question is then for what?

Here I would like to bring another Stoic called Marcus Aurelius to reply to this one. I listened his audiobook and one thought in particular has stuck with me: it is to work according to ones’ nature.

Nature here means your tendencies, strengths and inclinations. Literally it is about around which activity are you willing to persist and master in order to benefit others? These abilities, activities can be rather creative and used through times in combination with other qualities and abilities often resulting in unforeseen consequences.

Diversity exists; whole evolution is based on advantages and strengths. For example in the nature there are for example 20 000 bee species alone, each with certain specializations. Human mind is also capable of such diversity, so therefore we have huge diversity of personalities, strengths and tendencies.

Effort to discover and develop that nature is what matters. With such effort you will fulfill your purpose manifold.

In this time – purpose continuum, our conscious ability do direct our attention (focus) is the one thing that determines, if our time is abundant or short.

Giving the Day Your Everything and World Will Give You Everything You Dare to Ask  

 

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Having read Obstacle is the Way last week and continuing my journey to the Stoicist thoughts and actions a particular thought of Marcus Aurelius caught my attention this morning: give day your everything.

In particular I liked the grapefruit metaphor. It’s not like the grape vines actually expect anything in return, instead they labor those fruits because it is in their nature. Marcus Aurelius contemplates that isn’t it the nature of man to work and give your everything?

Giving everything and doing your best, because it is in our nature. By default this might not be, but this is what we are capable of.

Creating the fruits of labor and then giving them away. Why? Because only when we work to find and satisfy the needs of others at high levels, ultimately we get what we dare to ask.