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 next 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.
June 30th: The Obstacle is the Way
We need to be able to find the hidden value in our challenges and adversity. We can either be destroyed by the obstacles we face or turn them to our advantage and grow stronger.
June 29th: No Excuses
Justifying our failure or lack of action is something we have all probably done. All we are really doing is blaming someone or something else for what we did or how we feel. This is a powerful tool to employ in order to get the results you want/need.
Want to be stronger? Work out… no excuses
Want to be smarter? Read some books or take a class… No excuses
Want to stay calm in adversity? Meditate… no excuses
Every time you just thought… but Jon, I don’t/can’t/should’t/…. you were starting to make an excuse. And that needs to stop.
June 28th: No Self-Flagellation Needed
Beating yourself up or intentional suffering will not make things better. It’s important to think critically about our thoughts and actions, but we should not mentally or physically abuse ourselves as a form of penance.
The Daily Stoic says it best here “Hold yourself to a higher standard but not an impossible one. And forgive yourself when you slip up.”
June 27th: Adversity Reveals
The way we handle challenges, even the smallest ones, tell us something about ourselves. How much smoother would life be if we cultivated a calm response to the things that take us out of balance? How much time could we buy back in our lives if we cut out the amount of complaining we do about things we should be taking action on?
We might not have control over the situation, but we own the response.
June 26th: Try the Opposite
Flipping your perspective may be the key to finding the solution to a problem or changing a habit. The basic premise offered by “The Daily Stoic” is that if you are having trouble falling asleep… focus on trying to stay awake and you may find yourself tired enough to sleep.
Seems like some mental Judo, and I’m ok with that, but tricks like this are not a cure all, and are more about changing your thinking about a problem or habit over time. If you tell yourself you miss eating cake everyday you will have to fight the urge to eat cake whenever you are confronted with the choice… on the other hand if you constantly tell yourself that you don’t like cake maybe it wont be such a challenge to turn down that slice of dry, generic, supermarket sheet cake covered in flavorless frosting.
June 25th: The Wise Don’t Have Problems
This is a tough one for me. When someone comes to you with an issue, how easy is it to just jump in and start offering advice and talking about how you feel and what you think about the problem. What if you just listened instead of trying to own their problems and talk your way through them?
Personally, I would rewrite this entry to “The Wise Don’t Take Other People’s Problems From Them.” We can help others solve their own problems through the simple action of being their to listen to them as they work things out themselves. This isn’t always going to be the case, but it might be a good routine first step.
June 24th: The Truly Educated Aren’t Quarrelsome
We aren’t talking about raw “western” style academic education in this instance. I think this sentiment is more about education in the form of real life experience. This also isn’t talking about fighting a good fight, or debating a perspective or point of view. In my mind the world “quarrelsome” implies a high level of pettiness and immaturity.
I feel like this line also speaks to picking your battles as well as not intentionally inciting conflicting (ie: trolling)
June 23rd: The Long Way Around
If life is about the journey and not the destination, why not take the long road and enjoy it? I think long term goals can help set us on our path, but can also distract us from the fantastic details, and opportunities along the journey. If we know we are on the right path we should take the extra time to really enjoy the journey. After all, getting to the finish line of your goal as fast as you can may just leave you exhausted and alone.
June 22nd: The Definition of Insanity
It is crazy to keep doing the same thing over and over again if you are not getting the result you want. This can be at odds with the old saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” From my perspective trying again doesn’t mean try the same exact thing over and over.
Fail. Learn. Adapat. Execute.
June 21st: Take a Walk
Getting outside (especially into the woods) is a great mental reset. Some research I found interesting indicates the visual complexity of a natural environment puts our brains into a neutral mode, allowing for a type of mental reset. Add the physical exertion and extra oxygen from some deep breathing and you are bound to find some positive rewards for the effort.
June 20th: Calm is Contagious
When we are calm in the face of stress it inspires others to follow suit. Unfortunately, chaos is also contagious and when we over react or let our emotional responses get the better of us we lose that infectious calm.
June 19th: Stay Focused on the Present
There has to be a balance between reflection, long term planning, and living in the moment. I would apply the 80/20 rule here… spend 10% of your time in reflection, 10% thinking about the future, and leave the 80% majority for the present moment.
June 18th: Prepared and Active
The combination of being prepared and being active is an effective way to increase your resiliency to hardship, confusion, change, and ambiguity.
Learning, training, and practicing the skills needed to be physically, mentally, and emotional prepared and then actively using those skills to keep them ready when they are most needed is the difference between just living and thriving.
June 17th: Offense or Defense
My high school basketball and football coach emphasized the importance of this decision by always reminding us that “offense sells tickets, but defense wins games.” I have found this to be true in many aspects of my life. You need to have a strong offense… but without defense you will be overwhelmed. by even the least capable adversary.
June 16th: No Shame In Needing Help
Needing help is not a weakness it is a universal standard. From the time we are born we rely on the assistance of others, and there is no shame… and in my opinion… there is power in being able to ask others for help to meet your goals.
I often find my greatest success are the result of the relationships I foster. By helping when and where I can… and in turn taking the help I need when it is willingly shared.. I can learn and grow faster and accomplish more then if I try to slog through life on my own.
June 14th: Try The Other Handle
Epictetus related life’s trials to ajar that has two handles, one that you an not use to lift the weight and the other which you can use to carry the burden.
How often do we put ourselves in a no win situation by thinking something like “my way or the high way” when in fact there is rarely only one way to solve a problem.
For me I think this is critical lesson in emotional response management. I need to taking a breath to gauge how others are reacting to my actions, decisions, and behaviors… before I commit myself to carrying something by the wrong handle.
June 15th: Listening Accomplishes More Than Speaking
I really believe this, and I simply need to get better at this.
What are some of your methods for keeping silent when you should be listening?
June 13th: War Is A Battlefield
We are involved in a constant state of struggle with ourselves, our environment, and even our own mind and bodies. We have to be prepared to win these battles. At it’ core that is what Mastery of Skill is about. Developing the Warrior, Scholar, and Monk abilities we need to win our battles and achieve our goals.
Jun 12th: A Trained Mind Is Better Than Any Script
How often to we stress and fret over not knowing every detail, or understanding 100% of what is, or will be happening? I know I can get this way when there are new changes underway. According to Epictetus, this is a sign of having a dependence on a mental script, or fixed play book… instead of training the mind to be adaptable.
Eisenhower had a similar outlook when he famously said the plan wasn’t as important as the planning. In this context he was talking about building an adaptable mind. One that didn’t get completely derailed by change or ambiguity.
June 11th: Just Don’t Make Things Worse
An overly emotional response wont help solve your problem. Today’s reading references the old adage that “if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging.” Anger, frustration, envy, guilt,,, even joy and happiness, can blind us to negative consequences of our actions and words if we let them run rampant. Gaining control of our emotional responses is the first step to tempering our behaviors so that we do not inadvertently start digging or keep digging ourselves into the ground.
June 10th: You Can Do It
Seeing others overcome challenges can either fuel our drive or send us into despair. You can either see their success as proof that you can also rise to the challenge, or you can beat yourself and them down by groveling in envy. We have the power to choose our perspective in these moments. I want to look towards those who succeed for motivation and inspiration, and strive to follow in their footsteps.
How do you keep a healthy perspective on the success of others?
June 9th: Solve Problems Early
The best time to engage a problem is at its onset, before it gains momentum are takes root. The old saying rings true that bad news doesn’t get better with time. Taking on problems early requires preparation now so you have the strength, knowledge, and grit to act as soon as you get the sense of a problem emerging.
June 8th: Brick by Boring Brick
Today’s reading from The Daily Stoic challenged me to shift my focus to the smaller tasks that are required to build the greater goal. It reminded me of something my friend Eric recently taught me… Processes don’t fail, people do. If you center your attention on the task at hand, and strive to complete the objective in front of you, then you can avoid being discouraged or distracted by how far away your long term goals is. Believe in the process and move from step to step to reach your goal.
This advice is applicable to many different areas of our lives. I think this was a great passage to start my journey towards emotional control. This is 365 day journey that if I hold to the course I will develop a greater control over the influence of my emotions. I have a process and I trust it will provide me with the desired effects on my life.