28. Daily Practice

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”
Florence Nightingale

On starting your day remember that each day is precious. None of us knows when we will die or what disasters may strike us. We know on waking only that for this day alone, we are alive able to act in such a way as to benefit our families and our communities. Therefore, start each day as recommended by the Stoics bring to your mind the realisation that ‘today you may die or be ruined and that what matters is if you live today well or not’. Try to make this a habit each and every morning. Take a moment to think of where you failed the day before and how you can do better today.

Remember that death is inevitable, and for all, we know final and eternal, this life is all we have, and our families’ welfare is all that matters. Keep this always before you and when you find yourself tempted to waste time excessively on games or entertainments remind yourself of the shortness of the longest life and how even tomorrow is not promised to us. Remind yourself of the virtues which you aim for and how you can practice them.

As you go about your day, keep the Purpose to which you strive before you. Remind yourself how your work provides for your children, or how you contribute to your community’s welfare. Ask yourself, does this act help or harm my family or community. Keep your honour in mind and seek to exercises the virtues.

When things don’t go as you had hoped (as they will) remind yourself of all the other things which could have gone wrong and didn’t. It is a natural part of the human psyche to notice those occurrences which are unfortunate or unpleasant and yet fail to observe the more dire events which do not happen, yet which could have.

Did your work go poorly today? Remind yourself that you are alive and could not have been. Remind yourself that your car started so you could get to work, that you did not have a car accident on the way to work. That you have a job and are not unemployed, that you enjoy peace when you could be afflicted by war.

Did you fight with your partner? Remind yourself that you and they are alive when you and they could be dead. Remind yourself that you had the good fortune of finding a partner in the first place when you could be alone. Remind yourself of the virtues which they have, which they could not have had or the vices which they do not have which they could have had.

Are you sick? Remind yourself that you are alive still when you could have been dead. Remind yourself that you were healthy when you could have been ill. That you could have had something worse than you have.

Has a loved one died? Remind yourself that they could have died earlier, that they could have suffered more. Remind yourself that as great as their loss is it could have been greater, or sooner or at a worse time.

In short, seek to bring to mind whenever you are disturbed by the appearance of misfortune that it is generally not as bad as it could have been, that the misfortune could have been greater. That the time you enjoyed the favour of fortune could have been less. This world is governed by random chance or for the more romantically inclined the caprice of fortune. Try as we will we are but at the mercy of chance.

Try to do as Epictetus suggests in the Enchiridion ‘Never say of Anything “I have lost it”; but instead say, I had it. Have you lost a job? Do not say I have lost it say instead that you had it and think of how fortunate you were to have it for so long. Your health is going do not say you have lost it instead focus on how long you had it for. The key is to recognise that as when you flip a coin heads or tails equally may appear. So, in life, every moment, fortune can go well or ill. Be happy when things go your way and remember that they could just as easily have gone otherwise.

At the end of the day, devote a few moments to reflecting on the day. Remind yourself that this could have been your last day, and you do not know what tomorrow may bring. Reflect on your successes and failures and determine how you could have done better. A good mantra which I use is a variation of the morning projection.

Each night before I go to sleep, I say to myself “tonight I may die, tomorrow I might be ruined. What matters is that I lived today well”. I then ask myself “did I live well today? Where did I do well and where did I fail?” This evening reflection takes just a few moments. But I find it to be invaluable in keeping my focus on the Purpose and in clearing my mind before sleep. Experiment with what works for you. Some people find that keeping a Journal of these reflections can help to keep them accountable. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what words or process you use just so long as you take that moment to reflect on your day seeking to see where you acted virtuously and where you could have done better.

If you do these things and if you embrace your true Purpose you will discover as I did that not only will you gain the peace which comes with surety the knowledge of what is right and wrong, the possession of Purpose and the confidence which comes when you are sure of acting correctly. You will discover that the long sort but often transient thing we call happiness will make its self at home. The truth about happiness is simply this ‘happiness is not something which can be found it is a by-product of a life lived well and in accordance with virtue and what is right’.

It is my hope that this work will prove enlightening or at least useful to you in your search for the truth. In any rate, I wish you and everyone who reads this work the best fortune in their search. If you found this book helpful share it with those, who may benefit as well. If you believe I erred feel free to reach out to me and offer your critique. Life is a journey, and it is up to each one of us to chart our own path. Use your wisdom and intellect to seek for yourself the truth and always remember as George Herbert is credited as saying ‘aim for the moon for even if you miss you may land amongst the stars’. Therefore, do you best always and if you fail, pick yourself up and try again.

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