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 21 from Letters on Ethics:
“Your business is most of all with yourself: it is you that are the problem. You don’t know what you want. You admire honorable conduct more than you imitate it; you see where happiness lies, but you dare not go after it.”
Comparison is the thief of joy Theodore Roosevelt once stated, and today, it is more abound than ever before. Due to our connectivity via technology, we’re constantly kept up-to-date on what others are doing. Naturally, we begin to compare ourselves to others.
We begin to feel less about our accomplishments because others have achieved more. We feel worse about ourselves because others have what we wanted. We see the success others have but when we follow the same pursuits, we end up struggling.
The Stoics though were constantly returning to the idea that we can only control ourselves and our own actions. They spoke meticulously about having an idealized version that we wished to emulate, such as the Stoic Sage, but that we needed to put in the work.
Each of the remaining texts of the Stoics shows men who chose and taught to focus on the individual, to turn the lens back to the inside, and to solve problems from there.
We must remember that we are limited in the resources of time and energy. If we are devoting our time and energy to comparing ourselves to others, we are left with no energy to work on ourselves or our own situation. We are ultimately sidelining ourselves in the game of life.
We must focus on ourselves and work to better ourselves each and every day. It is good to hold an example or role model to emulate, but we also must put in the day-to-day work.