Do you ever wake on a cold and damp Monday morning and say to yourself – “here we go again, same shit different day”? Perhaps surprisingly, given my usual positivity, I am doing quite a lot of this lately…
Those people who know me well will not be perturbed whereas others, could see this apparent negativity as concerning. However, do not worry, I am not consumed by any self-pity. Nor am I struggling to escape that sludge in the quagmire of doom and gloom treacle, so often poured over us on an almost daily basis by the media. I digress but, I often wonder; is it really any wonder that so many people drown in that sticky effluent every year? However, do not worry about me or my personal mental health.
Over the years I have found that a view of life that works for me is; don’t expect anything (or too much) and you won’t be disappointed – a saying that in it’s varying forms, has been attributed to many different people over the years.
That type of philosophy helps me to approach the daily grind. It also comes from my choice to approach stuff with composed equanimity. It is also similar to ideals contained within the tenets of Stoicism, a useful philosophy that I have always tended to follow… possibly even before it became ‘trendy’ due to the explosion of internet self-help gurus, found increasingly in every corner of social media platforms.
Back in 2015 Ryan Holiday of The Daily Stoic wrote a piece for the New York Observer entitled; What Everyone Gets Wrong About Stoicism Is Exactly Why You Need It. Some people have described Holiday’s work as convenient ‘media manipulation’ for commercial purposes. Regardless of that fact and in my opinion, he was and is correct.
In reality, Holiday is merely helping to make people a little more aware of some ideas and thoughts, that have been around and known for centuries. To be fair to the man, Holiday only developed ways to ‘monetize’ his thinking, which is a common career pathway opportunity across today’s business landscape of our connected world. But I digress.
“In our daily lives we forget that the things that seem to be blocking us are small and that the obstacles blocking us are actually providing us answers for where to go next. It’s a timeless formula that can be revisited again and again.” (Ryan Holiday)
The likes of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus were merely thinkers and social commentators of their time, all be it learned and important ones. They were obliged to rely upon scrolls of parchment and spoken words to distribute their thinking. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they didn’t have the convenience or immediacy (and often opinionated inaccuracy) of social-media. Perhaps if they had, society might have been vastly different than it is today?
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” (Marcus Aurelius)
On Mondays, as with every other day, I tend to start with an optimistic viewpoint. Perhaps this has developed over my advancing years, at least in part. I usually tend towards having a grateful mindset for most aspects of my life, particularly at the start of each day. Sometimes the positivity can get a little dented through the day, usually thanks to interactions with other people however, it usually starts with something along the lines of – Woohoo I’m here, what will today deliver?
My initial thoughts [on any day ahead], are drawn from a combination of both stoic philosophy and my personal lived experiences. I mostly subscribe to the Amor Fati (Latin: ‘love of fate’) and Memento Mori (Latin: ‘remember you must die’) way of thinking. After all, what is the point of worrying… you are a long time dead?
“The one perennial truth – rich or not, successful or not, religious, philosophical, it doesn’t matter – you will die. From the beginning of time to the end, death is the one universal inescapable commonality.” (Daily Stoic)
I always try to at least begin by enjoying my day. There is always an element of enthusiasm as my feet hit the floor, regardless of what challenges might unfold as the day continues. It’s true, every day can get more difficult as it progresses, and for some people more than others but, we all have struggles, in one form or another.
There will be events (and people) that serve to deflate or undermine our enthusiasm, as the day unfolds however, as the Roman Emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius suggested in his journals (Meditations 5.20); the obstacles we encounter can actually provide us with some useful resources, which help us to deal with our life struggles.
Almost on a daily basis I am also reminded of those simple words from Forrest Gump, which subsequently became an iconic quote from the romcom drama that bares his name… “Mama always said – Life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.“
Just like Forrest and his wise mother, I too think that life [like the chocolates] is a selection of events. Some great, some good, some not so good and often, some that we don’t enjoy or even like. But again, as with the chocolates, we are probably going to devour them anyway.
Many of the ‘problems’ we face are developed from our own self-talk process. The conversations we have with ourselves which revolve around illogical perceptions and or irrational/unrealistic expectations.
Perhaps we can all benefit from observing life like Forrest’s box of chocolates? After all, most people will eat all the chocolates once they have started the box, given half a chance, and regardless of which ones happen to be their favourite centres. Some of them might be more unpalatable than others but hey, it’s all still chocolate!
Whatever ‘chocolate’ you were presented with and consumed today, even if it left a bitter taste in your mouth, your box will always contains some more – until it’s empty – so try to enjoy them!