Simple Stoic Advice

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The beautiful thing about Stoic philosophy is the advice contained within it is just as applicable today as it was when it was first written all those many years ago. We can learn a great deal from interpreting the advice provided and using it to our advantage as we go throughout our own lives.

Today’s quote comes to us courtesy of Seneca from his essay, On the Shortness of Life:

Quote

“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.”

Advice

In perhaps his most famous essay, On the Shortness of Life, Seneca makes the argument that we, as humans, waste much of our lives on such trivialities that it is not until we are within walking distance of death that we begin to realize that time, unlike anything else, is our most valuable asset.

Yet many of us live as though we were immortal. We do not necessarily save for retirement, we do not eat healthy, we allow vices to run much of our lives. But unlike other things in life that we can buy, time is an absolute. We’re all provided a certain length of time, unbeknownst to us how much, and we squander much of it.

For example, in the world we live in today, many children want to grow up to be internet stars. The new generation has been raised on watching people online become famous and thus want to themselves do the same thing. But even this comes with a price, as Seneca writes:

“when you see a man repeatedly wearing the robe of office, or one whose name is often spoken in the Forum, do not envy him: these things are won at the cost of life.”

As Seneca explains, fame is not all it is cut out to be as our time no longer is our own. He uses as an example Emperor Augustus who could no longer be in charge of his time because there were too many demands placed upon him. As Emperor, he was needed too often and thus, others controlled his life by controlling his time.

Too often, we misunderstand the reality of life when it comes to time. We spend much of it wasted and are prone to the Optimism Bias, believing that the future will be better than the present. This is particularly common with smokers who believe by the time their habits gets the best of them, there will be a cure. But as history has shown, little progress has been made over the last 2,000 years when it comes to curing cancer.

Understanding that our time is our most valuable asset is the key to living a more fulfilled life because we begin to learn just how short and fragile it is. Therefore, grabbing hold of today is critical to maximizing our time.

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