Simple Stoic Advice
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 and his moral letters, letter 22 from Letters on Ethics:
“Things people are unwilling to leave: they love the profits of misery even as they curse the miseries themselves.”
The world entices us with promises of things such as wealth, a roof over our head, fame and attention, if we perform certain tasks. The world asks us to trade our time for these things.
Yet many times, we are not fulfilled by the task at hand. Our jobs are not fulfilling to us. We long for a change, a chance to explore a different world, to be rid of the problems we suffer at our current job.
This is what Seneca spoke to Lucilius about and reminded him that it is through these rewards that we keep ourselves in place. A job does not hold us to it if we wish to leave, it is the rewards which keep us there.
“It is easy to escape from you job, dear Lucilius, if you have no regard for the rewards of the job. It is the rewards that hinder us and keep us at it.”
And many of us have been in this position. We’ve worked for companies that see us as a cog in the wheel, or as a way to boost profits. Some people love their jobs and the rewards they receive for a job well done are just the cherry on top. But others of us do not enjoy our jobs, and the rewards keep us there even though our intrinsic motivations have long since dissipated. We are then left, in agony at times, at a job we wish to leave but cannot and we hang on, miserable as ever, hoping for a change.
Seneca speaks to this very fate using the metaphor of someone hanging from a cliff:
“No matter how timid you are, you surely would not choose to dangle forever over the cliff; it would be better to fall at once.”
Some people die long before they ever reach death. We must learn what we can and cannot control and take the appropriate actions to exit situations which no longer benefit us, while there is still time.