A Stoical New Year.

Rather than setting a dozen or more resolutions for the new year, instead I prefer to set myself one big thing to focus on.

For 2019, I’ve been influenced by the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus and in particular this quote:

“In a word, neither death, nor exile, nor pain, nor anything of this kind is the real cause of our doing or not doing any action, but our inward opinions and principles.”

I find that when reading ancient philosophy, I’m often reminded of the teachings of Stephen Covey and in this instance a particular quote from ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ came to mind: “The way we see the problem is the problem.”

This insight translates into three specific actions I’ll be consciously taking and offer them to you to consider as well:

1. In our increasingly fast, loud and judgemental world, ask “is the (insert problem) really an issue at all?” I find that many quite trivial things are elevated by volume, repetition and angry delivery to appear important when in fact they’re not. My new habit will be to ask: “Does this warrant my time and energy?” and then either deal with the issue or ignore it.

2. Experience tells me there are at least two sides of every story and that too many “facts” are actually opinions, hearsay or outright lies. I’ve resolved not to pass any judgement until I’ve properly diagnosed an issue – if this results in a delay so be it, better to take time to make the right decision than be pressed into making a quick one that will be regretted later.

3. When making a decision I’ve resolved to check my “paradigms” by asking, “to what extent am I wanting this to be true/not true?” To assist me I’ve created a new “I” (past and future four-i’s address the concept of “Multiple-Is”), which I’m calling “Being-Mr. Spock-I” where I’ll adopt a Spock-like approach of seeking the logic/fact rather than the emotion/opinion to guide my decision making.

In light of the changes/challenges/opportunities we will experience in 2019 I feel it’s perhaps more important than ever to have as clear a mind as possible when making decisions and to filter out all the unhelpful influences, in particular those we’ve accumulated over many years.

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