Strive Every Day

The Stoics were not perfect. Nothing illustrates this more than Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Why would Marcus have to write reminders about not losing your temper or not wasting your time if he was not guilty of those very things? Why would he remind himself that the people he was going to deal with that day would be meddling, ungrateful and dishonest if he didn’t struggle dealing with those types of people? Why did he have to remind himself that doing the right thing was better than trying to be remembered? Would he remind himself of the importance of discipline if it came naturally to him?

He wouldn’t! He cataloged these reminders because he fell short of the principles and virtues they embody…quite regularly, in fact. It’s not an admission of guilt, it’s an admission of humanity.

It’s important we realize that Stoicism isn’t about being a saint, or trying to become one. The standard to which a Stoic holds themselves isn’t whether or not they always focus on things in their control…because no one has ever managed to successfully pull that off. The standard, the thing that makes you a Stoic, is what you do when you’ve slipped, when no one is looking. Do you try to focus on what’s in your control more often than not? Even when it doesn’t obviously benefit you? Even when it’s hard and focusing on the things you don’t control seems easier? Do you put in the work to be present more often than not? To be kind? Ethical? Virtuous?

That is really what Stoicism is about. And the fact of the matter is that most people aren’t even trying. And the ones who are, they’re not very good at it. So if you can consistently, regularly, even on average, manage to put some of these Stoic practices to work in your life? Then you are crushing it. More often than not, *if you can do the kind, ethical, virtuous thing *‘more often than not’…then you are in very elite company.

We don’t despair of a goal because we’re not perfect, Epictetus said. We strive to get closer to it each day. We strive to get better each day. This, as Marcus might have written to himself, is your reminder.

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