QUESTIONS FROM A NATURAL-BORN STOIC
Back when I was a child, my mother got a call from my school psychologist. She wanted to understand my attitude in class regarding my classmates and teachers. It was not because of fights or arguments; it was quite the opposite.
I did not react to the stimuli of youth, and they wanted to know why.
At the end of the meeting with the psychologist, I asked my mother why I was like that. She replied; my son, you are a natural-born stoic and I want you to continue being that way all your life.
Then, went on to tell me that when I was a baby; she bathed me in milk because she wanted me to first absorb and nourish myself with the important things in life.
My mother also told me that after bathing me in milk, she would immerse me in olive oil because she wanted the trifles of life not to affect me
She ended up telling me, “I don’t want you to go through life worrying about what you shouldn’t worry about. I want you to go through life taking the best of it so that you are the best version of yourself.”
This short fictional story of which half of it is true (I will not say which half) I bring up to share with you several questions that I have asked myself for a long time.
Some of these questions are from my childhood and others I made as an adult.
These questions have supported the wonderful teachings that my mother left me before she died and today I want you to ask them too.
The purpose of all these questions is for you to understand what you should value. When you know what is important, it becomes easier to ignore what is worthless and so you can focus on the path to your goals.
What does your ideal day look like?
“Every day can look like your ideal day if you do something ideal.”
― Richie Norton
This question has to do with the concept of goals and objectives in life.
For some, an ideal day may mean making more money, for others gaining more power, or it may simply be a day of doing nothing.
I cannot judge what is right or wrong for you, but I can say that an ideal day brings you closer to what you want to be.
It is a day that brings you closer to that goal or aim that you have.
Is your time alive or dead?
There is a Catholic proverb that says, “Lost time is mourned by the saints”
Are you going to use every minute you have for your goals or are you going to spend it complaining, arguing, or being unproductive?
Not all the time can be productive, but we must strive to make it so.
It is up to you to give that value to time because, as this is a finite resource, you must apply the greatest amount of your energy to eliminate passivity and be able to carry out things.
Think, how are you going to remember your past?
Did you take advantage of that time to achieve your goals? Are you going to be satisfied with what you did? Or are you going to mourn for not having taken advantage of it?
Seneca says, “life is not short, we just waste a lot of it”.
You kill time as time kills you.
We all can seize the moments, but we don’t use that ability.
Does anything matter?
Many of the things that you worry about or that you fight for are not worth it.
Neither for you nor others and even then you dedicate energy and effort to them. Why?
Because you dedicate yourself to the details and not to the big plan; Marco Aurelio would say to you “Is this essential?”.
You wear yourself out on the trivial things in life and lose focus on who you are. A Buddhist monk who has no belongings does not waste his energy on the trivialities of the West. He focuses only on what matters to him, which is his spiritual evolution.
When you eliminate what is not essential in life, you can focus on what does matter and find what truly is meaningful.
Ask yourself, is this that important that it will change my course or it will simply wear me out and deviate from my goals?
You are what matters, your family, and what you love to do.
Is this who I want to be?
When you do things, ask yourself, is this representative of what I want to be? Of my character? My priorities? My values?
Is this representative of the person who I think I am or want to be?
If your answer is no, then stop doing it. Change and focus on what you want to be.
Remember, your goal always comes first, but distractions make you lose sight of where you want to go.
Who are you spending time with?
Jim Rohn talks about how we are the average of the 5 people we surround ourselves with, although in reality, we are the average of all the people we surround ourselves with.
The important idea here is if you are surrounding yourself with people who are averaging you towards where you want to go or if they are taking you away from your goals.
That is what you should think of.
This is a question that will lead you to make big decisions, cut ties of years and look for new people.
I take the example of who was my best friend for the last 25 years.
He recently cut ties with me and with our entire social group. He feels that none of us are bringing anything new to his life, especially since he became a conspiracy maniac, and I, as a good stoic, have nothing to do with ideas of that type, ideas of which I have no control.
He decided and although I miss him a lot; I understand I cannot be part of his path.
Is this in my control?
For Epictetus, this is the fundamental question for a Stoic.
This question will lead you to separate the things that depend on you and those that do not.
You spent much of your energy on things that are beyond your control and thus you will waste your time fighting for or against that.
Going back to my friend, he cannot control whether a shady organization does something. It is an unnecessary waste of energy because no matter how much it bothers him, he cannot do anything to control it.
What you can do is take control of your decisions, your thinking, and your actions.
What is the meaning of life?
This is a question that you do not ask yourself.
Life asks you and it is your actions and decisions that answer the question.
The meaning of life is to give life meaning.
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We all look for answers, but it is the questions that teach us the most in life. A question at the right time can change the direction of your path.
Question yourself all the time and keep going. Never stop.
Your life and your path should only depend on you and your decisions.