3 Lessons from On the Shortness of Life (w/ Seneca)

Do you feel like you're just perpetually waiting for things to happen?

Then Stoicism is for you.

I recently read On the Shortness of Life, a passage on Stoicism. The writer and philosopher Seneca, wrote much about how people waste time on fruitless pursuits, or things that don't really add value to our lives.

1. "It's not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste much of it."

It's okay to not know what you want to do.

But you will get so much more purpose and vitality in life if you just choose something that you at least like to focus on. It gives you a reason to get up and tackle the day. Having a focus will lower the rate of you turning towards passive activities such as social media, video games, or movie binges.

Other symptoms of no focus:

  • You try to "kill time" before a certain event or date.
  • You feel fine sleeping in for a long time or find yourself just sleeping a lot.
  • You feel like the day is long and the hours pass slowly until dinner arrives.

"Killing time" actually sort of kills you inside just a little bit.

That's a couple of hours that you will never get back.

Whether it's purposeful work or purposeful leisure, do you spend your hours how you want to? Each hour lived without purpose is an hour lost forever.

2. "... the person who devotes every second of his time to his own needs and who organizes each day if it were a complete life neither longs for nor is afraid of the next day."

It's so easy to think that if things were like this, then you'd be happy.

But it all starts with the present. If you can't be satisfied with who you are, or what you're doing today on some level, then tomorrow won't be any better. You can start living in the present by taking ownership of your mistakes, being radically honest, and doing what you want and being unapologetic about it.

However, on the flip side:

3. Living in the present too much can be a sign that you're just too preoccupied with busywork.

Living solely in the present isn't optimal.

When you're preoccupied with things, you're a slave to your duties. You're pulled in so many different directions, that you have miss out on time to focus on yourself. So while you're acquiring all of these experiences in life, you're just letting them pass through a bucket with no base.

Reflecting on the past is what helps you connect the dots. It's what sets the base to the bucket. It's through this period of learning and understanding, that you build a greater sense of self and confidence. You wouldn't take a shot in basketball and not think about what you did and how you could improve.

Why not the same for everything else in your life?

Taking the time at least once a month to reflect on what you've accomplished leads to so many realizations about yourself. Most people never do this. They'll never have the patience to really try to understand who they are, what they've gone through, or how to think more sophisticated thoughts about how they felt after each experience.

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