Longing

Longing for what?

Days gone by? That may or may not have been so great.

Or a future of greatness? That may or may not come true.

Too much of the first brings on depression of things you cannot change.

Too much of the second brings on anxiety of things you cannot control.

You need to let go of who you were so that you can become who you want to be.

Longing is not a bad thing. It can be the driver to make your life better.

It can be the driver to create the goals that move you forward in life.

Long to be better each day. Long to be more humble. Long to be more empathetic. Long to be more wise. Long to be more understanding.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be, be one.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, X.16

Focus on making your life better, by being better. Not on external factors that you cannot control.

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things that are beyond the power of our will.” – Epictetus, Enchidrion, 1

Single-mindedness of Purpose

Having a goal is important, but the execution for attaining that goal is more important. Can you keep your eye on the prize? Can you avoid the distractions of every day life to do the work that will get you your goal?

“Single-mindedness of purpose, total concentration on the goal, and the use of these qualities against people less focused, people in a state of distraction – such an arrow will find its mark every time and overwhelm the enemy.” – Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

It is easier to spread ourselves thin and not focus on what needs to be done to accomplish our goal. We identify goals, plural, that distract us from the hard work needed to accomplish what we really want.

“The fool flits from one person to another, believing that he will survive by spreading himself out. It is a corollary of the law of concentration, however, that much energy is saved, and more power is attained, by affixing yourself to a single, appropriate source of power.” – Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

Can you overcome the disappointment when you’re goal is delayed? It’s never denied unless you give up. Can you suppress your ego to learn why the goal is delayed?

“Persist and resist.” – Epictetus

If you do not you will be stuck where you are not accomplishing what you desire.

(Un)Precedented Times

How often over the last three years have we heard these are unprecedented times? Every day, multiple times a day. Part of the issue is we see ourselves as special. We are the only ones who have gone through times like these.

The Trump-Biden election was unprecedented. It seemed a lot like Bush-Gore, Hayes-Tilden (which is the subject of a wonderful book, To Rescue The Republic by Brett Baier, about Grant’s role in a smooth transition of power after the contested election), and Adams-Jefferson.

COVID-19 is not the first pandemic. There have been pandemics all throughout recorded history: the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Bubonic Plague (or Black Death) in the Middle Ages, the Antonine plague during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.

These facts don’t mean that these events aren’t traumatic. The civil unrest. The loss of life. These past three years have been trying to say the least.

However we are not special. These times are very much precedented. We are just more easily lead to believe we are special by social media and cable news.

We need to realize that by thinking we are special we are letting the situation control us. We are acting as if we are helpless.

We are not. We may not be able to control what happens to us. We can control how we react to what happens to us.

“It’s not what happens to you but how you react that matters.” -Epictetus

By complaining about unprecedented times we are relinquishing control of our response to outside forces we have no control over.

These times are difficult no doubt about it, but if we look back at history there were times just like these that can serve as a template for how we can respond to the difficult things around us. Do not relinquish control to outside forces.

Chicken Little Syndrome

If you remember the story, an acorn falls on Chicken Little’s head. She believes the sky is falling. She runs around the farm frantically.

She meets others along the way and convinces them the sky is falling. They must tell the king. Even though many question whether the sky is falling they continue on. Until they follow Chicken Little into being dinner for Mr. Fox.

Nowadays the sky always seems to be falling. It seems to be the default attitude of many. They convince others the sky is falling.

No one questions. People blindly follow, just like the others in the story of Chicken Little. Then when the crisis doesn’t happen. The Chicken Littles find a new crisis to cluck about.

“If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters – don’t wish to seem knowledgeable.” – Epictetus, Enchidrion, 13a.

We don’t need to be aware of every “crisis.” Some things are best ignored. Not everything is a crisis.

Some “crises” are not worth our time. If it is something that you are passionate about then learn about it deeply. Don’t blindly follow the social media influencer or cable news show that wants your attention by saying something shocking.

Go to the source. Read deeply about it. On the issue listen and/or read people who you disagree with. You may still not agree with them but you may learn something new.

You may find out the “crisis” you were so concerned about is no crisis at all. It is easy just to listen to sound bites or Tweets or Facebook posts and not really delve into the facts.

It is hard to dig into an issue completely. The alternative is much worse. Blindly following someone who “clucks” the loudest may mean you end up as someone else’s dinner.

Priority

Priority – a thing that is regarded as more important than another.

Can you have priorities? No. One thing will always be more important than another. You have to identify a priority. Priorities are an impossibility.

As we move into the New Year people all over the world are making resolutions, setting goals or identifying priorities But with priorities you are stretched too thin. What is most important to you?

In Greg McKeown’s essentialism 21 day challenge he asks that you ask yourself each day: “What is the most important thing I need to do today?” He wants you to identify what is your priority for the day. Shouldn’t we ask that same question for the week? The month? The year?

We should identify one priority, at work, at home, to work on. Keep working on that one priority until you have accomplished it.

My priority personally is to publish a blog once a week. If I want to be a writer, I need to write every day with the priority of publishing it for the world to read.

My priority professionally is to continue to study Stoicism and how it can help educational leaders deal with the hard times we are all going through right now. Many of my blog posts will be about this subject.

The hard part will be staying focused with the myriad distractions that come with every day life. Having a priority doesn’t mean that you can’t work on other things. It just means that the priority must take precedence.

I will keep you posted on how each priority is going.

“Don’t set your heart on so many things.” – Epictetus

Anger

I’m no raving lunatic. Don’t get me wrong. Especially in a professional setting I can hold it together. At some point though I can feel IT overtaking me. Once that happens I find it difficult to dial it back.

I don’t know when IT is going to happen. IT just happens. I wouldn’t say there is some special trigger. It can be anything. It can be an innocent comment that just hits me the wrong way.

Unfortunately at that moment I am prone to saying things that I regret. Then, after it’s all over, the guilt washes over me.

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” – Epictetus

How do I do better in the moment between stimulus and response? How do I stop anger from taking over me? Or how do I get better at controlling my anger and using it to my advantage?

Anger is an emotion like any other emotion. It is neither good nor bad. It can be unhealthy. It can also be unhealthy to hold it back and not express it. Anger has its place just like every other emotion.

“If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.” – Epictetus

On The Daily Stoic podcast, Ryan Holliday interviewed the author Robert Greene. One of the topics they discussed was harnessing your anger.

Ryan Holliday used the example of coaches who get angry to invigorate their team through a difficult time in a game or season. As a former coach I have seen this done very well, and I have seen it done very poorly.

Robert Greene discussed how whether it goes well or poorly depends on if the coach has self-control and self-awareness. Can they step back and analyze their anger? Can they use it strategically to get the results they are after?

He goes on to say that only those people, that can pause in the moment between stimulus and response to analyze their emotions, are able to get the results they want. Only those that can channel their anger productively after analyzing why they’re angry will get the results they are after.

I am by no means there yet. However this is one of the things that I am really working on. I am sure if you ask my family, friends, and colleagues they may say it is not going so well, but I am a work in progress.

I must be more cognizant of the space between stimulus and response. Not everything needs an immediate reaction. I need to take the time to analyze my anger to see if it is justified and then if it is use it productively.