How to Have the Best Week Ever | Ryan Holiday
Life is short, so it matters how you spend it.
As Seneca points out, “We are not given a short life, but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.” A minute is long if you know how to use it. A week is plenty of time if you don’t waste it.
I thought this was an extremely good read. If you are a fan of Stoicism, you'll find much to like here. And even if you are not a fan, there is still so much good information here. The kind that you could use right away.
Reading this has made me interested in finding out more about Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. From the quotes I've read on Seneca, he seems to be this old guy full of common-sense wisdom that he imparts in sometimes hilarious fashion. Marcus Aurelius on the other hand, was like this serious, principled and disciplined authority figure. Figures, he was only emperor of Rome at some point in time.
One thing I noticed is how a lot of the ideas that Jocko Willink outlined in his book — Discipline Equals Freedom — resonate with the ideas listed in this article. It could be that Jocko Willink is a student of Stoicism. I don't know for sure, just that some of the ideas are similar.
“On those mornings you struggle with getting up, keep this thought in mind—I am awakening to the work of a human being. Why then am I annoyed that I am going to do what I’m made for, the very things for which I was put into this world? Or was I made for this, to snuggle under the covers and keep warm? It’s so pleasurable. Were you then made for pleasure? In short, to be coddled or to exert yourself?” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1
This idea, of waking up every morning and seeing it as another chance to be a better human being, has been stuck in my head for a while now. There was another blogger on read.write.as who posted something similar. If I recalled correctly, his/her example made use of Sisyphus. The idea was that after so many tries at rolling the boulder up a hill, surely Sisyphus would have figured out ways to improve himself with the task at hand.
The point I'm trying to make is that every new day is a chance to improve ourselves, to become a better human being. We should make it count.
It may hurt some feelings. It may turn people off. It may take hard work. But the more you say no to the things that don’t matter, the more you can say yes to the things that do. This will let you live and enjoy the life that you want.
One of my favorite lines from the article.
Marcus Aurelius didn’t believe that it was unfortunate that bad things happened to him. He said, “No, this is fortunate that it happened to me.” Because not everyone would have been able to handle it.
This one in particular sounds like something that Jocko Willink would say. Except he will say, “Good” instead of whatever Marcus Aurelius said.
My favorite part of the article is the last part, on the topic of Review.
“I will keep constant watch over myself and—most usefully—will put each day up for review. For this is what makes us evil—that none of us looks back upon our own lives. We reflect upon only that which we are about to do. And yet our plans for the future descend from the past.” —Seneca, Moral Letters, 83.2
Winston Churchill was famously afraid of going to bed at the end of the day having not created, written or done anything that moved his life forward. “Every night,” he wrote, “I try myself by Court Martial to see if I have done anything effective during the day. I don’t mean just pawing the ground, anyone can go through the motions, but something really effective.”
That's two separate instances of different people implementing review to improve themselves.
In his book Discipline Equals Freedom, Jocko Willink mentions a similar thing. In his case, every day he will ask himself (and this is not a direct quote from the book), “What did I do today to improve myself?”
Again, there's that similarity of ideas. But my point is, these are three different persons, who lived/live in different times and they all practice the same thing. There must be something to it then, right?
At the beginning or end of each day, the Stoic sits down with his journal and reviews what he did, what he thought, and what could be improved. It’s for this reason that Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is a somewhat inscrutable book—it was for personal clarity, not public benefit. Writing down Stoic exercises was and is a form of practicing them, just as repeating a prayer or hymn might be.
The great thing here is that I already maintain a bullet journal. I can simply add this practice to it. Anyway, if you've gotten this far, go read the article. It is a good one.
This post is Day 44 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Visit https://100daystooffload.com to get more info, or to get involved.