Book cover of 'A Guide to the Good Life'

A Guide to the Good Life

#books / non-fiction · 4/5

Those who possess self-discipline have the ability to determine what they do with their life. Those who lack self-discipline will have the path they take through life determined by someone or something else, and as a result, there is a very real danger that they will mislive.

By William B. Irvine

Notes

The easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.


Set internal rather than external goals. Thus, his goal in playing tennis will not be to win a match (external, partial control) but to play to the best of his ability in the match (internal, complete control).


We must learn to adapt ourselves to the environment into which fate has places us and do our best to love the people with whom fate has surrounded us.


Not needing wealth is more valuable than wealth itself is.


To endure and even thrive in exile a person must keep in mind that his happiness depends more on his values than on where he resides.


Thus, the proximity of death, rather than depressing us, can be turned to our advantage. In our youth, because we assumed that we would live forever, we took our days for granted and as a result wasted many of them. In our old age, however, waking up each morning can be a cause for celebration. As Seneca notes, “If God is pleased to add another day, we should welcome it with glad hearts.”


Someone who thinks he will live forever is far more likely to waste his days than someone who fully understands that his days are numbered.


Although it indeed takes effort to practice Stoicism, it will require more effort not to practice it.


Musonius goes on to suggest that we would also be better off if, instead of working hard to become wealthy, we trained ourselves to be satisfied with what we have; if, instead of seeking fame, we overcame our craving for the admiration of others; if, instead of spending time scheming to harm someone we envy, we spent that time overcoming our feelings of envy; and if, instead of knocking ourselves out trying to become popular, we worked to maintain and improve our relationships with those we knew to be true friends.


We need to learn how to enjoy things without feeling entitled to them and without clinging to them.


Because they have learned to enjoy things that are easily obtainable or that can’t be taken from them, Stoics will find much in life to enjoy. They might, as a result, discover that they enjoy being the person they are, living the life they are living, in the universe they happen to inhabit.


If you consider yourself a victim, you are not going to have a good life; if, however, you refuse to think of yourself as a victim—if you refuse to let your inner self be conquered by your external circumstances—you are likely to have a good life, no matter what turn your external circumstances take.


Others may have it in their power to affect how and even whether you live, but they do not have it in their power to ruin your life. Only you can ruin it, by failing to live in accordance with the correct values.


“Nothing is worth doing pointlessly.”


Those who possess self-discipline have the ability to determine what they do with their life. Those who lack self-discipline will have the path they take through life determined by someone or something else, and as a result, there is a very real danger that they will mislive.


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