”There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”
The Matrix, Morpheus to Neo
“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us.”
“Take the case of one whose task it is to shoot a spear or arrow straight at some target. One’s ultimate aim is to do all in one’s power to shoot straight, and the same applies with our ultimate goal. In this kind of example, it is to shoot straight that one must do all one can; none the less, it is to do all one can to accomplish the task that is really the ultimate aim. It is just the same with what we call the supreme good in life. To actually hit the target is, as we say, to be selected but not sought.”
One of the harder lessons I have learned as a Stoic is what happiness means, why modern society’s definition is a significant contributor to the malaise which so many suffer from, and what I can do to be truly happy.
Society, especially the western consumer-driven one I live in, defines happiness in terms of externalities: the new car, the job promotion, the bigger house, the beautiful spouse. However, as I have learned and work to adopt in my daily life, true happiness comes not from the results of my actions, but rather from the deliberation and work to perform the actions themselves, especially those which are aligned with my values.
As long as I tie my emotional wagon to “getting”, my happiness will be a roller coaster, as I have ultimately have little to no control over the outcomes of my actions. What I have total control over are the actions themselves, “doing”, what I choose to do, and what I actually do.
If those actions and the choices that drove them are aligned with a virtuous set of values, then my happiness is totally under my control. By striving to be consistent in my choices and actions (not an easy task!), I have enjoyed much more happiness in my life, than when I made it my emotional goal to achieve certain outcomes.