As I do every year, I’ve started re-reading The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness by Sharon Labell. This modern interpretation of the works of Epictetus is probably the most well read book in my library.
Not only do I read it every year (or throughout every year) it’s also a book that I have lent out to nearly everyone I have struck up a conversation with on philosophy, life, self help or self discovery. If you haven’t read it, and you enjoy philosophy, or self help, I would suggest that you pick this book up, or borrow it from me.
The section I have been mulling over is the first page I opened to on the first day of the new year. “Learn to distinguish what you can and cannot control.” The premise of this section is that we can control our thoughts and our opinions and how we react to the world. We cannot control what other people or society want or think of us.
He tells us that when we focus on what others think or what society thinks we should do then we be consumed with worry and might I add anxiety. Epictetus believes that the path to enlightenment, the path to freedom and peace of mind is started by differentiating between what you have control over and what you don’t, and then focusing on what you can control and then making the necessary changes.
First of all, how appropriate for me.
Then today I came across this article on Huffington Post. Entitled “How to find clarity in the face of life’s biggest questions” it talks about stepping away from the herd (society, family, friends) and making decisions and resolutions that fit you as a person, not the person you think the world is expecting you to be.
Am I the only one who still struggles with what I want out of life and the expectations that I think others have for me? These two pieces of writing imply that I’m not unique, and that’s both encouraging and discouraging all at the same time.
The thought that we move within this herd mentality and struggle to step out of the path made by those before us, put life into perspective for me. I don’t want to be a sheep, or an elephant, or a wildebeest. I don’t want to be consumed with the worry of what should be or where I should be in life.
I want to be that free spirit who roams the world like a fearless unicorn or some other utterly unique and beautiful being who is consumed by nothing but what will inspire me and bring me happiness. I want to be confident in myself and my choices……
The article on Huffington Post also talks about making a set of personal values to help you determine your priorities in the next year as opposed to making resolutions or goals. Now I’ve already made my ‘goals’ for this year but as an exercise in flexibility here are my values for 2015.
In 2015 I will place value on
1. A healthy work/life harmony
2. Family relationships
3. Inspirational Friendships
4. Focus in all that I do, work, writing, cleaning……
5. My health, not just physical health but mental and emotional health as well.