I recently read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and decided to write my own…
These are generally things I have read, I implement some but not others (e.g. the career ones, I do aspire to achieve/do most of them though) .
I see a lot of nice, ‘well brought up’ people with depression and one of the main reasons is that they’ve been brought up to do good, to share, to think of others, and this is not how 80% of the world works, especially the working-world. Stoic philosophy helps best with this issue, I don’t think that there is one quick fix…
- You reap what you sow – if you are constantly complaining about people, treating people with contempt and being bad tempered, you will angry, unhappy and low spirited. I don’t believe 100% in karma, but I do think your words, actions & thoughts are all related
- Take 100% of responsibility for your actions; it’s rare that you are the victim of circumstance & there’s never a time where you can blame other people for your actions. Attributing all of your problems and flaws to external forces such as bad luck, your wife, parents etc. leads to depression and learned helplessness.Rather than complaining, take ownership, analyse and make sure you make better decisions going forwards. Avoid saying “I haven’t got time” and “I have to…”. Blaming others leads to a victim mentality. So does blaming lack of time and money.
e.g. If someone asks you to go on a lads holiday, you might say “I’d love to, but I’d prefer to spend the money on my university books”, rather than “I can’t afford it”.
Saying “I can’t afford it” is logical in many instances, but it really helps to reframe the phrase.If you fall out with someone, or something goes wrong in work – focus on what you could have done differently, rather than what others did wrong. E.g. If you’re a project manager a someone doesn’t tell you about a mistake, you can analyse your own communication skills and approachability.
See Jocko Willink’s ‘Extreme Ownership’ Ted Talk.
- Thoughts of the self create much suffering:
e.g. concerns regarding appearance, self worth, importance, how you are perceived etc
True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself, less. Don’t flatter yourself by thinking people give you a second thought.
- Thank people for criticism and use it objectively to improve. Defensiveness is usually a sign of insecurity and is the cause of most arguments
- If you are made angry by something or someone, then it has beaten you. Laugh smile and be flexible in mindset. Prisoners of war survived the Nazi concentration camps by having a sense of humour, so don’t allow small problems & trivial insults overcome you
- Beware of the narrative in your mind – “You are not your thoughts”. Don’t be ‘in’ your thoughts, observe them. It is okay to have jealous, aggressive thoughts, as long as you don’t speak or act upon them. “Automatic thoughts” are often negative & aggressive, acknowledge them, disassociate from them, and replace with rational, nice thoughts!
- Perfectionism is an illness. Strive to improve, not to be perfect or the best.
- Don’t Be a Harsh Judge or Critic – you force yourself to take life a little more seriously each time you do. For example if you criticise someone for having a cheap car, you’ll make yourself and those around you more anxious about the state of your/their car.
- Be organised, to allow mindfulness – have a ‘To Do list’ in work and at home. This helps you to be mindful, rather than scanning our mind for things you may have forgotten.
- You are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. Avoid negative and superficial people. Don’t judge them, they are just on a different path in life and unaware how they effect others.
- Attachment is the cause of all suffering – especially to possessions. Take care of things, but don’t invest emotions in them.
- Acceptance is important. Resisting ‘what is’ makes it infinitely worse.
- Life is all about good experiences, interesting & fun experiences can happen anywhere like work, in a traffic jam, anywhere if you can learn to laugh and have fun. You don’t need to be on an expensive holiday to have a good experience.
- Avoid hate, jealousy and bitterness. Life is just a random cluster of events, full of inconveniences & injustices that must be laughed at. Acceptance is key for happiness when you literally can’t change something.
- Everyone needs a hobby & a passion. Ideally one which gets you in ‘flow state’ and builds social connections with ‘nice’ people. Remember to put your family before your passion however…
- Type A Personality – If you have one – highly competitive and short tempered – don’t make the mistake of expecting everyone else to be a highly motivated Type A like you – the world would be a very stressful and unhappy place if this was the case. Your judging will lead to narcissism, which will lead to entitlement, which leads to anger and further frustration.
- Happiness has a ripple effect
“Capitalizing on the Happiness Advantage does more than solely benefit us. Research into social networks has shown that behavior is literally contagious, good or bad. Our attitudes and behaviors infect the people we work with directly, but also spread to the people they interact with. This is called the ripple effect” (p.201)
The Happiness Advantage
- Peace begins with a smile
- Flexible people are the happiest – be flexible in terms of plans, set backs etc. Adapt, change & chuckle
- Write down 3 good things which have happened each day
- Write down a negative thought, then write down 4 positives. e.g. work is boring – positives – I don’t have to work shifts, I don’t have to travel to a city centre, I don’t have to deal with angry customers, I work with nice people
- Find the positive in the negative whenever possible. e.g. I lost my job but have learnt massive amounts about careers & life that I can pass onto my children.
see the Zen Farmer – bad luck can be good luck:
- Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk – Once a milk bottle is smashed and milk goes down the drain, no complaining or whining will bring it back. Deal with it and clean up the mess.
- According to Jonathan Haidt, suffering can lead to happiness if you respond positively and adapt
- Happiness is not an Entitlement – Many people have to work at it, by giving gratitude everyday, meditating, exercising and eating good clean foods.
Citizenship & Social Skills
- Be kind, you can make or break someone’s day and people hold grudges for decades – so be nice to everyone
- Only hold aggressive opinions about things you have researched completely and deem as highly important. Whilst discussing politics, pretend you are interviewing someone rather than arguing with them
- Don’t Expect People to Make an Effort with You – people will never really know what to say to a ‘new’ person. Smile and make an effort but don’t worry too much if they don’t fall head over heals to welcome you to a new team or job etc
- Popularity is not important
- Love & care for your family, friends and local community. See Dunbar’s number. Your brain isn’t designed to care about 7 billion people. If you care for the entire world’s population you may begin to suffer from stress and depression. You can do the right thing to help them, donate money etc but try not to invest too much emotion.
- Speaking of Community – Everyone needs to be in one. We’re social and tribal animals and we need a sense of belonging, this is often cited as a reason for Crossfit being so successful! Crossfit, Church, Football, the pub – whatever it is, you need to be part of one (obvs stay away from dodgy cults and political groups though).
- Never say “I hate people”. Focus on those you love, not those you don’t enjoy the company of. Focus on what is good about people not there 1 or 2 flaws. Don’t judge, everyone starts off as a happy baby and is shaped by their environment (and genes).
- People Will Always Pick on Those They Perceive as Weak or Naive. Try your best to say things with confidence and stand tall etc. Easier said than done!
- Never ‘tut’!
- Say “you’re right” instead of “I know” and you’ll appear much nicer.
- Never Expect Gratitude. It’s a bonus rather than an entitlement for someone to say thanks
- Say nice things about those you don’t like – It will sometimes get back to them that you’ve said something nice, and will seem like a sincere compliment coming via someone else
Money & Career
- Adverts (& the news) use negativity, fear & comparisons to sell you things. Don’t buy something because of an advert. It’s like a game to get you to part with your money.
Beware of social proofing, loss aversion, the law of reciprocity and the power of authority – all used in marketing. Know the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’.
- Business is always mixed with politics, don’t let it bother you. Read The Prince, The 48 Laws of Power and How to Win Friends & Influence People, this makes you revel in the politics rather than hate it. I used to get angry about work-politics but it comes with the territory, especially at bigger companies.
- It’s better to have a small house and disposable income, than a large house and concerns about money. Be aware of the hedonic treadmill.
- Buy investments not liabilities. In the book ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ the author describes how poorer people tend to buy ‘liabilities’ that decrease in value like cars, whilst the rich look first to buy assets (things that increase in value) like properties, currencies, gold etc. For both assets and liabilities, make sure you can afford them!
- Move to get Promoted – When you’re single if you can buy a house, rent it out, then move anywhere in the world (literally) for a job that’s senior to your current position. Obviously the ‘buy a house’ bit only works if you work hard/get lucky to begin with and get a good job! The principle remains the same if you don’t have a house though, you just don’t have an investment to fall back on. I didn’t do this, I was too much of a pansy and came home after 3 months in America.
- Set up an Online Business – Get Paid in Sterling or US Dollars and live like a king on bahts in Thailand.
- Learn to entertain yourself for free or on a low budget. e.g. hiking, camping. Those who need expensive holidays to be entertained usually find it hard to be happy day to day and are often skint.
- “Don’t outshine the master” pretend your life and your knowledge is slightly inferior to your boss’s
- Meditate – meditation is all about not judging thoughts. Therefore it helps hugely if day to day you don’t judge people.
- It’s good to have rubbish employment at some stage in your life. You’ll appreciate a better job later in life eg. I don’t let boredom effect me, after working in a call centre getting verbally abused all day. Boredom is good.
- Social intelligence & confidence is just as important as knowledge when it comes to your career. (Perhaps different if you’re a highly skilled doctor or engineer)
- Have a Stop – Loss Formula – Set a limit so you never risk more than you can afford
- Experience is much more Important than Qualifications – Do unpaid work or start your own business if you have to, in order to get some experience.
- If you work in an office, have a cold shower twice a week and engage in intense exercise at least once a week. Otherwise your body and immune system are likely to become weak.
- If you are unable to rid yourself of anger – use it to motivate yourself. For example, gain new and better skills to move to a different job.
Learning New Skills
- It takes 10,000 hours to become a master, 20 hours to become ‘good’ at something. When learning new skills, learn the basics and then practice, gain feedback, adjust, then practice again, gain feedback, adjust, etc. Don’t read and read about how to do something, you need to practice it
- Set Monthly personal development goals such as reading books, going out of your comfort zone, or building character e.g. Take a cold shower each morning, speak to 2 new people each day
- Growth mindset – never be afraid to learn new things – never say “I can’t do it”, you can’t do it yet.
- You don’t need much money to be happy, but you do need sleep. Aim for ‘fuck you money’ – have enough money to say no to jobs etc you don’t want to do. Things don’t make you happy, other than food & shelter
- Cheerfulness is always the best approach to problems and day to day issues.
- ‘Start with “why?”’ when trying to motivate and persuade people
- Do everything with enthusiasm
- Treat repetitive tasks like meditation. 1 thing/item at a time, don’t think about the past or present, just what you are doing, 1 at a time.
- Never be afraid to fail. You win or you learn.
- Low energy can be mental or physical but normally both
Address both potential issues with diet & exercise for physical, reading, CBT and meditation for the mental.
Diet – probiotics, fermented foods, high omega 3, low omega 6, low/no sugar
- Feedback is crucial when learning new skills – perfect practice makes perfect. Video yourself is required.
- The Goal Posts Move – Once you’ve learnt a new skill, keep up to date, or you’re skills will become out of date.
- All great men and leaders in history preach ‘a mild temper’ (see above photo)
- Don’t procrastinate for 1 moment – as this is the beginning of the biggest delays. Make a decision and do it straight away.
- Beware the power of Intermittent Positive Reinforcement. See Skinner’s experiments. Gambling is addictive because of intermittent reinforcement, as is social media
- What you criticise represents your own insecurities. e.g people’s appearance
- Beware of all the cognitive biases – self-serving, confirmation bias, etc. Learn more here. These are crucial and should be taught in school!
For example – Self Serving Bias:
The self–serving bias is people’s tendency to attribute positive events to their own character but attribute negative events to external factors. It’s a common type of cognitive bias that has been extensively studied in social psychology
- Be aware of ‘Faulty Thinking’ in CBT – for example, Mental filtering whereby people disregard the positives and focus on the negatives. e.g. when you focus on the one thing that went wrong in a presentation. More info here.
- Don’t build huge expectations in children. Telling them they’ll be a dentist or a great football player when they grow up, may upset them if they end up working nights in a factory – not that there’s anything wrong with this.
- For every person that says ‘never give up on your dreams’ there’s another 100 people that didn’t and never made it. Beware ‘survivor bias’
- Reward effort, not outcome. Say ‘well done, you must have worked really hard!’ ‘instead of well done, you must be really talented/clever’.
- Don’t personalise anything other than direct personal criticism. If someone is blunt, miserable etc, it’s generally nothing to do with you
- Love imperfections for their quirks – they give things and people character
- Don’t eat in front of the TV – you will eat ‘mindlessly’ and not appreciate the food or even register it going in
- Have a preference for how people behave, but not a demand. e,g. it’s nice if people say thank you, but don’t expect it
- Awkwardness – ‘move into it’, don’t be afraid of it – it can be used to manipulate you
- You can Meditate doing any task – Be mindful when driving by constantly focusing on the road immediately ahead & bringing your thoughts back to the road, be mindful when walking by focusing on the sensations of touch and movement -such as the feeling of the wind on your face & the feeling of your feet pressing onto & driving off the floor, then be mindful of all the sounds you can hear
- Everyone started off a smiling baby, people are a product of their environment & genetics. Had Gandhi been born in Nazi Germang, he would have likely been a Nazi, not a spiritual leader. Remember this when trying not to judge others.
- Expect shit to happen & don’t be dramatic – The world and the universe is in perpetual chaos and gives zero fcuks about you. Just because you live in a comfy house and work a set rota, doesn’t mean random stuff and hassle won’t happen. Expect hassles like stuff breaking and just get on with fixing it.
- Life is hard for everyone. Get on with it with a chuckle & less drama
- Never be unhappy or angry about your lot in life. Others will always have more.
- Change a negative inner narrative by listening to and repeating positive affirmations.
- Sometimes you’ll do nothing wrong and get told off anyway. No dramas.
- You Learn by Mistakes – but they don’t have to be yours – learn by reading.
- Magnesium is a powerful muscle relaxant, great for headaches & sleep
- “All disease starts in the gut” Hippocrates. If you have an inflamed gut, you will struggle to feel good regardless of how much you read and meditate. The gut directly impacts the brain and mood. Have a read up on leaky gut and the FODMAP diet
- Power corrupts virtually everyone, don’t be surprised or upset by greed etc, all large organisations appear to have at least an element of corruption too.
- Risk to Reward ratio – Only take high risks if the rewards are really high. Is it worth doing an exercise in the gym that might make you more powerful but could dislocate your shoulder if you get the technique slightly wrong?
- I wish someone had of explained ‘banter’ to me earlier in life – possibly a British thing, whereby you exchange witty insults and the person who gets upset first is the loser
- Resilience is related to flexibility. If you’re plans and ideals are flexible and ‘changeable’ then you will be more resilient than someone who is very fixed ideals and plans.
- Guy Ritchie said (to paraphrase) on the Joe Rogan Podcast – there’s 2 worlds, an inner one and an outer one. You don’t need the outer world to validate who you are or your worth.
- Don’t take life or yourself too seriously and remember that having a sense of humour & being cheerful is always the best way to cope
- Always pick out the positives. Bad luck often makes you appreciate specific things or people or often turns into good luck if handled correctly
- Don’t be duped by the system, which wants you to compare yourself to others, feel negative and buy things
- Learn something from everyone – people don’t have to be role models, they can also be hideous warnings
- Don’t judge your thoughts or other people if you want to be mindful
- Be nice & don’t insult people unnecessarily – they’ll hold a grudge for decades
Tips to Avoid Early-Midlife Bitterness
- Don’t compare yourself to your friends or others
- Take complete ownership of your career – don’t blame others for decision that you made and ‘wrong turns’ that you took
- Don’t be judgemental. All the most miserable people I know, are constantly judging others (not that I’m judging them for judging).
- Never be angry with your lot in life because someone had it easier or handed to them on a plate. Get on with what you have.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff don’t be offended by anything other than a serious threat, don’t have a nervy B if a household appliance breaks or your car gets scratched.
- Eat well and consider natural adaptogen
“Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.”
Epictetus, The Art of Living
Experience is the best form of knowledge, reading is different but still highly valuable. I try and read books when I can, but I listen to audio books more nowadays and watch animated book summaries (or just listen to them in work if I’m doing something dull).