Daily Journey is a collection of my thoughts from reading The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living. My objective is to gain greater control of my emotional responses by reading and sharing my thoughts on stoicism with you all everyday over the course of a year. If you would like to explore these topics with me, and others who are seeking to gain emotional control come over to the Mastery of Skill closed facebook group to join in on the conversation.
February 1st – For The Hot Headed
Strength is being the person who doesn’t get mad, the one who cannot be rattled… because they are in charge of their emotions.
Letting others invoke your anger is giving away your power of making reasoned choices and lets them have an upper hand in influencing you.
February 2nd – A Proper Frame of Mind
Lead your emotions, don’t let your emotions lead you.
February 3rd – The Source of Your Anxiety
Trying to control things outside of our spear of influence leads to anxiety, negative stress, loss of self control, and moving in the wrong direction.
So what do we do about it? The first step is to recognize our own limitations and acknowledge the things that are out of our control. Then we need to focus on what we can really do within our sphere of influence and take action there.
Deliberate action in our sphere of influence will ease the pain of anxiety and worry.
February 4th – On Being Invincible
Emotional invincibility comes from filtering your response to harassment and negative situations through your ability to make reasoned choices.
We hold the most direct control over our own thoughts which in turn helps us to control our actions. Giving up this control weakens you and makes you vulnerable to the whims and influence of others.
February 5th – Steady Your Impulses
You can be in control of your impulses by deliberately filtering them through your developed sense of justice and reason. If you don’t develop this skill you will run the risk of becoming exhausted by the disorder generated by your life and choices.
February 6th – Don’t Seek out Strife
There is a time and place for fighting a good fight, but that doesn’t mean we should be constantly seeking out a battle or a waging a war.
We should be ready for a fight when it inevitably comes, but we should also seek out and strive for peace when we can get it.
February 7th – Fear Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
When we let our emotions get in front of our minds we run the risk of letting our emotions take control of us. If that emotion is fear then we are asking for trouble.
Unreasoned fear can lead to paranoia, and these paranoid thoughts can turn into paranoid actions and behaviors. This of course becomes a recipe for disastrous outcomes.
February 8th – Did That Make You Feel Better?
Emotional outbursts are not helping you fix the problem and really aren’t helping you feel better.
February 9th – You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion
Whaaat!?! You mean I don’t have to care about everything little thing that crosses my path?
The fact of the matter is you can not possible give mental, emotional, or physical attention to everything that solicites your attention. Be selective and intentional about what you give yourself too.
February 10th – Anger is Bad Fuel
Anger is a lot like fast food… it feels good in the moment but really you know better then to even go there in the first place, and when it’s all said and done you have a stomach full of regret and less energy in the long run.
February 11th – Hero or Nero
The Story of Seneca’s student Nero and his power fueled deranged tyranny serve as a great reminder that power can be a corrupting influence in our lives… if we let it.
Luckily for us the negative influences of power can be tempered by a pursuit of ethics and virtue along with a desire for self control and mastery.
February 12th – Protect Your Peace of Mind
We often over reacted to everyday challenges with a “life or death” stress response that is completely above and beyond what is actually needed to solve the small problems we face.
To offset this reaction we need to consciously develop a relaxed and tempered response when we are pushed and pulled by the world.
Intentionally using this approach when challenges come our way will protect and preserve our peace of mind so we are truly ready when we need it the most.
February 13th – Pleasure Can Become Punishment
Too much of a good thing? Holiday uses the analogy of taking a cheat day during the week to binge eat all of the foods that are restricted or constrained on a healthy diet to explain this concept.
At first you eyeball the cheat day at the end of the week longing for pizza and ice cream. The day comes and you gorge yourself only to find out you feel fantastic in the moment, and then you feel like absolute garbage as your body tries to cope with the excess sugar, carbs and fats. Turns out disrupting your diet for that moment of please came with some some negative consequences.
As time progresses you may start to look at cheat days differently. Maybe instead of longing for the day you can break from your good habits you start to feel better when you beat cheat day by sticking with your diet?
I think this same model can apply to dealing with our emotional responses. We know a temperate, measured, and controlled response is always better than letting our emotions run rampant. We also know how we feel when we cheat from this practice. You might feel better in the moment as you let your rage run rampant… but then you have to pick up the pieces.
Was it really worth it? How much better would things be if you had not cheated?
February 14th – Think Before You Act
“Take time for deliberation, but when it is time to act then act.” — Napoleon Bonaparte
Action is required to advance our lives, but we have to be mindful and intentional in those actions. This gets harder and harder to do our emotions are over riding our ability to think.
Controlling our emotions takes deliberate practice (try mindfulness meditation). It is a skill that can be learned and mastered.
February 15th – Only Bad Dreams
There is a tendency to work ourselves up by imagining how bad things can be (or will be) which leads us down self destructive paths. Look back on those things that you dreaded doing, what was the real outcome? More than likely it wasn’t as bad as you worked yourself up to believe… it may have even been true blessing in your life once it was all said and done.
Stop letting your negative fantasies control your decisions, actions, behaviors.
February 16th – Don’t Make Things Harder Than They Need To Be
I am guilty of this, and it is one of the main reason I am on this journey, studying stoicism, because I need more emotional self control.
I have to constantly remind myself that not everything needs to be, or should be a fight. If I feel constantly besieged or embattled, it is likely the result of my own emotions running away with themselves and then getting in my way.
Controlling my emotional response allows me to be in charge when life gets heated. I can be objective and reasonable when it matters if I practice controlling my emotions even on the smallest detail.
If you find yourself asking “why does it always have to be so hard?” I would challenge you to pause and reflect on what is making things hard.. my bet is that you will find some emotions you are responsible close to the root of the struggle.
February 17th – The Enemy of Happiness
Longing for some far distant, out of focus, ambiguous desire or dream is a surefire way to be miserable. You can’t say I will be happy “when” or I will be happy “if”… You need to decide to be happy in this moment. Be happy in this set of circumstances you have right now.
The reality is, there is no other time to be happy. You only have this moment right now.
You can still set goals, and dream. You should absolutely work hard to meet your objectives and progress towards a future state that you desire… but linking your current mental state to some unmet condition in the future is a waste of time and will ruin your day…
February 18th – Prepare for the Storm
The storm is coming. There will be a time when your emotional control, resolve, willpower, and grit are going to be tested. This is inevitable.
In this moment you will win, because you will be prepared. You have taken the time to learn and practice self control. You know the strength of you ability to make reasoned choices, and in those areas where you are weak you know how to find help.
Make sure you are taking this priority seriously.
February 19th – The Banquet of Life
When I was a newly minted teenager I attended an Etiquette Dinner. It was a an informal learning experience about formal conduct.
We learned about chivalry and manners. How to set a formal table and how to act when seated during a formal dinner. We ended the evening learning to two step and tried to waltz (very badly… still struggle with that). Afterwards we all helped clean up.
The point of this reflection, is that I was intentionally taught how to conduct myself at a formal public, semi public, and private event. This one event established some foundational habits that have helped me over the years during meetings, job interviews, building relationships and friendships, and in general just being a decent human being.
We can look at life like a dinner and apply ample douses of etiquette and protocol. We can wait our turn, say please and thank you. Speak and listen politely, be courteous and warm to others. We can be grateful guest and gracious hosts. We can laugh and have fun and be inclusive and share. Take only what we need and make sure we pass on to others. And of course when the dinner is over make sure you take part in the clean up.
February 20th – The Grand Parade of Desire
It only takes a quick glance at the gossip sites to see the results of lives lived in raw pursuit of indulging every whim and desire.
Chasing after the things we desire, without regard for gaining virtue along the way is a recipe for disaster.
February 21st – Wish Not, Want Not
It is easy to vilify the relentless pursuit of power, money, and even fame. But the pursuit of other more “virtuous” achievements can also lead us to ruin. It is easy to get blinded by any desires we have and then lose track of the goals we need to be focused on.
I have this problem with looking to the future. I like to let my mind wander to what life will be like when all the bills are paid, or when I retire. Sometimes I daydream about how it will feel to write a book or contemplate how my life would have been different if I had stuck with architecture and drawing.
I really can get stuck on these things… and before I know it the day can slip away, leaving me in an emotional funk because of the wasted time and lack of progress towards my goal.
Don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying we shouldn’t have dreams and goals, but we should recognize that these desire come at a cost. By wanting something we will give it power. That power will influence and at points control our actions.
It is therefore important to notice when any desire, even the virtuous ones, are having a negative impact on us and then sharply take back control so we can actually meet our goals and earn our dreams.
February 22nd – What’s Better Left Unsaid
There is often a lot of pressure to act or speak out in the moment, but what have you done to ready yourself for the required action? What have you done to really “know” that the words you are about to say will have the desired effect?
You need to act, and act quickly. But in order to act you need to be prepared. So get started. Build yourself up Physically, Mentally, and Emotionally.
If you aren’t prepared then you need to pause and take the time you need to get ready.
February 23rd – Circumstances Have No Care for Our Feelings
Good times and bad times will come and go during your life with absolutely no regard for how you actually feel about them. You however, will transverse countless good times and bad times and how you feel and act during those times is important to you and those you are responsible for.
These good and bad times can always be tempered by our controlled emotional response. We are always in control of how we react to the things we feel, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Your thoughts and actions are yours alone to control.
Having this control allows us to be cheerful in the face of adversity. It helps us cope with sadness and loss by freeing us to focus on taking positive actions.
I remember, very distinctly, speaking at my father’s funeral and laughing along with everyone else in attendance as I talked about him and my memories of him. In that moment, grief and sorrow existed alongside pain and sadness. And that is ok.
My father died and that fact didn’t care about how I felt about his passing, it simple was a fact. But my friends and family cared about how I reacted to those facts. I needed to be measured in my grief and tempered my sadness so I could help myself and others remember the joy that he brought us and the positive impact he had in our lives.
February 24th – The Real Source of Harm
Our perception and labeling of events happening around us can be very dangerous if we aren’t careful about how we react. Essentially, the way we allow ourselves to react in any situation will dictate a certain level of harm.
For instance, say my daughter forgets (or just ignores) that she was supposed to clean her room. If I let my temper run free and criticise her in an angry rage, then I have done harm to myself and to her. Now, in the same situation I can keep my temper in check provide firm guidance, use the moment as a teaching point and do no harm to either of us.
The problem is that we think it feels good to “let things out.” Does it rally? I get there is a time and place to work through anger (my preference is the gym lifting heavy things)… but do you really feel better when you let your emotions control you? I know I don’t, I find when I lose my temper or get pessimistic and grumpy I just feel worse about. In addition to the anger I will have to deal with guilt and shame for misbehaving, and maybe even sorrow for the loss of a relationship.
Better to not to cause more harm and keep those emotions under control.
February 25th – The Smoke and Dust of Myth
Just like we can look around us and see those who enjoy the rewards of great success, we can also so those who are reaping the ruinous rewards of a life lived driven by anger, jealousy, greed, contempt, and hate.
We can be inspired by both the success and struggles of others.
February 26th – To Each Their Own
There will always be some force moving against you, some person who has wronged you, or some tragedy set upon you. You can rile and wail against these things or you can choose to be in control of your emotions.
When we choose to rage and flounder against these things we only hurt ourselves.
By choosing to maintain composure and control we protect ourselves from the unintended consequences of our rag
February 27th – Cultivating Indifference Where Others Grow Passion
Stick with me here, this might be tough to hear.
You do not have to be passionate about everything that comes across your path.
Being intentional about the things you allow to become your passions is a powerful way to stay focused on the things that really matter to you.
February 28th – When You Lose Control
You always have the opportunity to regain control of your emotions. This is your super power. This is what makes you more powerful than the rest of the animal kingdom. This is a skill that can be mastered.
You can and must refine the ability to keep control under pressure and regain control when it is lost.