Sometimes You Have To Walk A Long Way In The Wrong Direction To get Where You Are Going

What I am slowly and somewhat clumsily gleaning from my time on this planet, in very simple this.
Keep shit real…live realistically, with purpose and for god sake don’t take life too seriously.
Treat other people the way you would hope to be treated.
Forgive yourself…that shit is in the past.
Be sober and avoid the nose candy…nuff said.
Understand that discipline is freedom.
Responsibility means being response-abled. 
Keep it simple….reduce the clutter and noise in your life, hack away at the unessential.
Practice kindness everyday…by the way you look after yourself and others…make it a habit 
Practice and learn to love quality quiet alone time, to be still and reflect.
Practice daily to master your mind, the quality of your thoughts and your internal dialogue.
Master your sleep, rest and recover the best you can.
Eat the best you can…learn what works for you and don’t eat too much.
Move, and remain strong as long as you can…do activities you love and do it till it kills you.
Spend time outdoors and relish regular opportunities to be in nature.
And remind yourself daily that every small choice, and tiny matter is an opportunity to practice these larger principles.

If we can mindfully structure our days in an attempt to practice the above, to install a daily process whereby we soberly focus on the macros of life… plus have healthy consistent poos of course…then life will be…not necessarily easier, but most definitely more fulfilling and enjoyable…and to follow the poo-theme on more step…the reason why you’re feeling fulfilled and joyful is because you’ve mastered one of life’s great skills…you don’t give a shit. 
Not in a flippant or obtuse way, but by being disciplined and freed-up, with the ability to clearly differentiate what is in your control, and relinquishing everything that is not, and by doing so, your life opens up, your life slows down, and your ability to focus on the essentials of life is joyfully heightened. 

“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. 

Where will I find good and bad? 

In me, in my choices.”

– Epictetus

You Choose…
We ultimately decide our own problems.
When you pursue activities and lifestyle choices for your betterment – you are then, by default, choosing the problems associated with your desired self-improvement. Alternatively, choosing to live distracted, consumed by the bollocks of modern living and the stresses and compulsive behaviours that come with it… you’ll find your precious time is then wasted dealing with all the nasty-arse problems that arise from your distracted life-choices and compulsive over-consumption and over-thinking.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions,
but in having few wants”

– Epictetus

As Mihaly Cskszentmihalyi says in his terrific book “Flow” (I’ve paraphrased)…Without consciousness/sentience, we all still ‘know’, but our ability to react and respond is mostly by instinct and reflex. 
Being conscious/sentient we can deliberately weigh what the senses tell us and respond accordingly.
If we take no time for self-reflection, to “know-thyself” , then load additional lifestyle pressures such as poor diet, reliance on alcohol, no exercise etc, we are going to be much more inclined to react with impulse, reflex and instinct, rather than have the capacity to deliberately weigh what the senses tell us, and then respond accordingly.

Being sentient also means we have a tremendous capacity to make-shit-up, to create scenarios and information that purely does not exist: it is only because we have consciousness that we can daydream, make up lies, write beautiful poems and songs and develop scientific theories. 
We have the enlightened, and equally cursed ability to make ourselves happy or as miserable as we like, often regardless of what is happening in our environment.
We are all aware of individuals who can transform their lives after catastrophic situations and challenges, just through the force of their personalities.
Our ability to exhibit grit, to persevere despite obstacles and setback is the quality we most admire in others – and it’s this important trait for not only succeeding in life, but breeding fulfillment as well.

“It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
– Epictetus

And this is where philosophy can help…

I believe, as individuals, we must, must find, develop, bespoke and practice daily our own personal toolkits to survive and thrive.
We need to learn what works for us, and what does not…if it does not work…then at least you now know.
The reality is, and this is something we never prepare ourselves for, is that more often than not things won’t work out the first, second or third time.
Maybe we should actually change the narrative and prepare for failure every time?
If we did so, do you think we’d be better prepared, more resolute, more optimistic and be more resilient?…
Our own successes are born from failures and missteps, not from reaching ‘the goal’,  it is only by working through or around an obstacle do we have an opportunity learn something, and this is called the ‘process’.

When we learn to focus on and embrace the process of experiencing life,
Whether we’re working toward a personal aspiration or working
through a difficult time, we begin to free ourselves from the stress
and anxiety that are born out of our attachment to our goals,
our sense that “I can’t feel happiness until I reach my goal.”

This “goal” always takes the form of someplace we have not yet reached,
something we don’t yet have but will at some point, and then,
we believe, all will be right in our life.

When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process
of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill.
And once mastered, it is a magical and incredibly empowering.

We describe those who demonstrate this “skill” as possessing such
qualities as self-discipline, focus, patience and self-awareness.

And we recognise that these all-important virtues are interwoven threads
on the fabric of true inner peace in life, And without it, we are victims of our
own unfocused and constantly changing efforts, desires and directions.

-The Practicing Mind. Thomas M Strerner

These personal-toolkits must include lifestyle habits and actions that will help us foster the human we innately want to be, and can be.
If our daily actions, our self-care, our personal kindness does not propagate the best physiological and psychological outcomes for us, then, again I believe, our ability to improve our self-awareness, to look within and strengthen our inner-citadel will always be compromised.
If you want the power to be ‘happy’, ‘fulfilled’, ‘content’, ‘healthy’ etc ect…then you have to assume the responsibility of your daily actions to make that happen…isn’t it? (hat-tip Sadhguru)

Learn to fall in the love with the process and the results will come 
So…why Philosophy??
As part of my own personal daily ‘process’ and ‘disciplines’ I relish seeking new information that may help me along with my own discoveries. So, every day I actively seek and read (amongst other things) both Eastern and Western philosophy, sources of spiritual advice and guidance from a number of nondenominational spiritual leaders, gurus & yogi’s, plus the odd Dan Brown or Lee Child novel to take the edge off all that spiritual shelf-helpnonsense.

Now I’m a bit of a ‘thickie’ and a realist (not sure if that’s a dangerous combination or not..) so I need my philosophical and spiritual sources to be joyful and humorous (I turn off if there no self-deprecating humour or laughter), I also need a clear and succinct message,  and the narrative to be firmly in the land of the living, with both feet on the ground …realistic, purposeful, pragmatic with real-world application.
What i’m not looking for, or needing at this time, is any ethereal, knit your-own-kimchi underpants, woo-woo advice. (though I have to say I am regularly teased by some close-friends, as I profess to be anti-woo-woo, yet I read and glean lots of advice and guidance from the likes of Sadhguru, Radhanath Swami and Eckhart Tolle…you know who you are😉)

As for Stoicism…
So for me, and like many folks these days, Stoicism offers a wealth of practical, real-world advice and meditations about how best to train, reset and reframe your mindset so that it works for you, rather than against you. For me, reading stoicism every morning provides me a meditation to focus on each day.
“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority,
but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

– Marcus Aurelius
The word ‘Stoic’ has been a little misinterpreted over the centuries. When we say someone is stoic, the usual modern connotation is being void of reaction, facing problems/ life etc with little of no emotion.
In fact stoicism, amongst other things,  is primarily about clearly defining and understanding what is in your sphere of choice and what is not.
It’s about identifying and responding, or not responding, to the stimulus in and around your environment.
It’s about stillness and creating that gap between stimulus and reaction, for its within that gap, that space we can afford ourselves, that we truly find out who we are (to paraphrase Viktor Frankl)
“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”
– Marcus Aurelius
One thing that has come abundantly clear during my studies, after reading western and eastern philosophies, spiritual guidance, psychology, ‘some’ organised religious text and even Lee Child’s character Jack Reacher* mercifully and repeatedly punch someone, they all, and I mean ALL advocate reflection, quiet time, meditation, prayer…to actively pursue alone-time to foster reflection and self-awareness.
So, there must something in it…right!?
(*Jack Reacher is a 6’5″ ex-Military police loner, he roams the US, on foot, and punches bad dudes…a lot.
Not to be mistaken for Tom Cruise’s impersonation.)
So, quickly…What is Stoicism?
This is great little 5min video on The Philosophy of Stoicism

Some Key Stoic Figures
Zeno – founder and CEO. He died, apparently from suicide (the death du jour for leading Stoics it seams), after he tripped over and broke his toe (bit dramatic). Lying on the ground, he quoted a line ” I come of my own accord…blah blah blah” then strangled himself (you can’t make this shit up)
Seneca* – he was the Bill Gates of his time. Regularly ridiculed for being both a Stoic and rich as god. Calmly committed suicide when ordered to do so by Emperor Nero (the nutter)
Marcus Aurelius* – that dude from ‘Gladiator’. He was totes cool, and died peacefully and when it suited him. No one puts Marcus in a corner.
Cato – didn’t want to hang out with Julius Caesar, so committed suicide…not very stoic in my book but 10 out 10 for sticking to his principles.
Epictetus* – a slave, who was given permission by his ‘owner’ to study philosophy. He was a slave so no one cared when or how he died…there’s no record of his death (booooring!)

(*Considered the 3 most important Stoic philosophers)

Books on Stoicism I recommend.

The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness by Donald Robertson

Just like vanilla ice cream isn’t everyones favourite, Stoicism also isn’t for everyone…however I bet there is a philosophy out there that does resonate with you.
And here’s the rub… (oooh massage?!)
Ultimately all I am encouraging everyone to do is keep ‘seeking’, keep challenging your belief systems and never trust what your brain tells you.
I can guarantee that for all of us, our belief systems are based upon what we perceived and interpreted (aka not real) as ‘the truth’ when we were growing up…or during ‘our domestication” as Don Miguel Ruiz’s book  The Four Agreements beautifully explains it.

We were told our rights and wrongs from our parents, peers, teachers and priests…who the hell said what they told us is the truth?. I’m not saying for one minute that these people consciously and deviously misled us. They were only passing on what they knew and perceived was right and wrong from their own domestication via their own parents, teachers, peers and priests.
Don’t believe anyone, find out for yourself.
Be careful…your parents can f**** you up
– David Bowie

As Sadhguru says is this 3min video Stop believing, start seeking
He also makes, in my opinion, the valid observation that you’ll aways find ‘believers’ in groups, and ‘seekers’ on their own.
Apply a seeking, growth mindset to your career, health, fitness, spiritual growth, mindfulness, kindness etc…though I wouldn’t suggest seeking as a relationship tool 🙄

Finding a philosophy that resonates with you, that you can adopt and bespoke, that provides you a supporting narrative that helps reconfigure your neural pathways and internal dialogue, will only enhance your ability to engage and sustain a lifestyle process that challenges and ultimately improves your life-trajectory.