January 1, 2017 – Control and Choice

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…” – Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4-5

For Christmas I purchased, for my son, daughter, wife and self, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. Having listened to the audio book version of Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way, and admiring Stoic philosophy since my undergraduate studies in philosophy, I felt this book would be the perfect way to share what I believe to be an optimal way to approach life. If you are not familiar with Stoicism you may be familiar with some of its proponents. Two famous Stoic thinkers are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Marcus Aurelius and Alexander the Great, among any number of the ancient Greek philosophers (Epictetus quoted above).

I will document my journey through 2017 by not only meditating on the readings but to also share how they apply to my life through successful implementation along with areas of improvement. It is my hope that my experiences can be an inspiration to others.

Being that I was on vacation in the Rocky Mountain National park region of Colorado my first few will be an aggregate of days.

It is perfect that day one sets the tone for the year by identifying the chief task in life. I work in technology, and I find myself easily distracted by emails or instant messages asking for my help. My desire to please those in need, unfortunately, takes me away from my direct responsibilities. When I become stressed to meet deliverables who is to blame? Only me. What makes this perfect is that after 9 days of being on vacation, and being the technology lead for three projects, my inbox will be full. There will be significant catching up to do. How will I respond to these requests?

In the introduction to the book the three disciplines of Stoic thought are noted: The Discipline of Perception, The Discipline of Action and The Discipline of Will. How do I find mental clarity? How can I be best effective? How do I find the wisdom and proper view to deal with the things the future holds? Work will immediately challenge my efforts to change my behavior and habits, but to assume only work holds these challenges is false. Family and friendship are not exempt from such. Every day, and everywhere, life presents us with external experiences that require us to mentally evaluate how we will respond.

Life is unpredictable, but we don’t have to let it frustrate us. When I coached Pop Warner football I told my players that failure was simply an opportunity to get better. My hope is that mantra is something they never forgot. I know I need to hear it.

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