The day has finished. We have spent today thinking about the following question:
If I am to leave life at this exact moment, what would I regret?
It has been well said, at one point or another in your life, whether by a friend or family member, that at any moment, you could step outside and be hit by a car, or a bus, or a [fill this in with a any other heavy piece of machinery].
But why is this so important?
Because death creates life.
It is death, the end of something that brings the beauty to the world we live in. It brings an understanding that everything is finite, whether it is the tree outside your window, or your own life. It is the scarcity that brings life to the forefront of our mind and heart.
So if life is so short, or fleeting, then why live with regrets?
I think the Daily Stoic said it best:
Marcus Aurelius was emperor of Rome. His untitled writing, commonly known as Meditations is an important source of Stoic philosophy.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
He means that everything, no matter whether it is good or bad is an opportunity to practice virtue.
Don’t be surprised by failure, expect it, in fact, embrace it and seek after obstacles in your life which seem uncomfortable.
It is here where your character will be tested and most importantly moulded and developed.
The Stoics called negative visualisations the premeditation of evils. The idea is to envision the worst possible scenario. An example could be twisting your ankle before you run.
Assimilate this idea into your daily actions and you will be rewarded.
Epictetus is famous for what he called the dichotomy of control which describes what is in our control.
We can apply this to failure.
The moment you start to regret something in the past you’re fundamentally acting against something which is out of your control and so there’s no practical reward from doing so only frustration and anger.
We should learn from the past and our failures, but to regret, to ponder and to revisit our previous attempts and then look at present with disdain is a crime to your character.
Therefore, we cannot live our lives with regret towards the past. Nor can we live with fear of the future. We must push on as if today is the last day we have.
As Seneca reminds us:
“No man can have a peaceful life who thinks too much about lengthening it … Most men ebb and flow in wretchedness between the fear of death and the hardships of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet they do not know how to die.”
We must learn to therefore live. We spend too much of our time wasting our lives, worrying about things that never even come to fruition. Seneca even remarks as such saying:
“There are more things, Lucilius, likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality… What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come… Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.”
Live today without regrets. Do not fear what may never come. Remove emotion from decisions and realize today may very well be your last. How would you want to live it?
Meditations -Marcus Aurelius
The Daily Stoic – Ryan Holiday
The Tao of Seneca – Volume I – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
The Tao of Seneca – Volume II – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
The Tao of Seneca – Volume III – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
Letters from a Stoic – Seneca the Younger
On the Shortness of Life – Seneca the Younger
How have we grown from this? Did we execute any differently today because of this? Do you feel that you have new tools to accomplish tomorrow?