Tag Archives: clarity

Daily StoicI suspect I am not the only self-employed person who finds focus and discipline significant challenges at times. This summer, I turned for assistance to “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living,” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. If “stoic” only makes you think of unemotional endurance, read this. It’s actually a complete philosophy that has tremendous relevance for us right now.

Divided into three disciplines—perception, action, and will—the book offers a daily quotation from a stoic philosopher such as Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, or Epictetus, then gives a paragraph or so exploring how the text relates to our lives and our work.

I’m using these short daily readings to ground myself and start the day well. I’m flagging the meditations that I really like, but I’m happy to know that I’ll come back around to all of them next year.

Here are portions from some selections that resonated strongly with me.

Love the Humble Art

“Love the humble art you have learned, and take rest in it. Pass through the remainder of your days as one who whole-heartedly entrusts all possessions to the gods, making yourself neither a tyrant nor a slave to any person.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.31

Are you making time to practice what’s really important to you? Love the craft; be a craftsman.

Take Charge and End Your Troubles

“You’ve endured countless troubles—all from not letting your ruling reason do the work it was made for—enough already!” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.26

How often does what we fear actually come to pass? How often have we let jealousy, frustration, or greed lead us down the wrong path? Let reason rule—it will save so much trouble. Your brain can separate what is important from what is senseless.

Corralling the Unnecessary

“Do what you must and as required of a rational being created for public life. This brings not only the peace of mind of doing few things, but the greater peace of doing them well. … We shouldn’t forget at each moment to ask, is this one of the unnecessary things?” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.24

Ruthlessly expunge the non-essential from your life—what vanity, greed, poor discipline, or lack of  courage add to our lists. All of this we must cut.

Preparing on the Sunny Day

“Take part of a week in which you have only the most meager and cheap food, dress scantily in shabbly clothes, and ask yourself is this is really the worst that you feared. It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for tougher times ahead.” Seneca, Moral Letters, 18.5-6

Practice potential misfortunes—a broken hot water heater, a stolen wallet, not having a car. Don’t just think about them, live them, and do it now, while things are good. This will teach us that these things are not as scary as we imagine.

I woke up irritable. Just toe-stubbing, spoon-flinging, muttering-under-my-breath grouchy. My mind was churning with difficulties on current projects, worrisome gaps in my work schedule, how to start personal writing plans The Right Way, and a general sense of post-holiday disorganization and let-down. I was unsettled. I was crabby.

I’d spent the previous day overcoming this inner turmoil (or so I thought) by working up a big new schedule, both daily and weekly, relating to developing clients and moving myself forward—in a determined and positive way. Those were going to be my 2016 watchwords: determined and positive. I wrote them on a Post-it and stuck it to the edge of my monitor. All was well, right?

DogsWalkingCome the morning, not so much. I felt the big new schedule looming over me, and I felt neither determined nor positive. Fortunately, life stepped in. Saving me from my new plan was the deadline that trumps all others: the daily clock of the dogs. Every single morning, come sweltering humidity or driving sleet, the dogs must walk. They wait impatiently while I drink a little coffee, then off we go.

That day, in the chilly dampness of January, on familiar paths in the suburban semi-quiet, the ordinary magic happened. My brain churn slowly settled itself and a glimpse of clarity emerged.

This is one of the main reasons I have dogs. Certainly, I adore dogs. They make me feel more secure at home, they provide affection and furriness and humor—they are the best. But the fact is that I am lazy and sorely lacking in motivation when it comes to taking care of myself. I have to build into my life an ironclad requirement for exercise that I cannot ignore. That would be dogs.

But it’s more than the exercise. I gain tremendous benefits from stopping my work and going outside, with no conversation, no music, no podcast. Just me and the dogs and the weather and my own mind.

We know that getting outdoors is beneficial, of course.

Walking also does a body good (big news flash).

And regular, long walks without purpose are really, really good for us.

When a funk hits, I turn to walking (thanks, dogs) and making big schedules, but here are some other ways to improve your state of mind.

What works best for you to clear your mind and improve your outlook?