My New Year's Self-Change Project
I'm busy slowly reading Seneca's Moral Letters and so I thought I'd combine a New Year's Self-Change Project with a renewed interest I have in journaling...in a consistent manner. (I'm a real on again / off again journalist.)
I've heard a couple of podcast interviews with the author Ryan Holiday and I like what he had to say. He seems well-grounded in Stoicism. So I bought his book as a Kindle download. Then I'll copy and paste each day into the journaling app: Day One https://dayoneapp.com/.
I know it sounds a little kludgy getting the text of the book into the app, but having a writing prompt helps me quite a bit. I need something to think about and "write against."
Here's the 01 January page from Holiday's book, with a quote from a Stoic Philosopher and a bit of the author's commentary:
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.5.4– 5
The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t. What we have influence over and what we do not. A flight is delayed because of weather— no amount of yelling at an airline representative will end a storm. No amount of wishing will make you taller or shorter or born in a different country. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make someone like you. And on top of that, time spent hurling yourself at these immovable objects is time not spent on the things we can change. The recovery community practices something called the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Addicts cannot change the abuse suffered in childhood. They cannot undo the choices they have made or the hurt they have caused. But they can change the future— through the power they have in the present moment. As Epictetus said, they can control the choices they make right now. The same is true for us today. If we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier,
Holiday, Ryan; Hanselman, Stephen (2016-10-18). The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living (p. 9). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
If you are, like me, not a really creative journalist and need a writing prompt to keep journaling, you could do the same type of thing with any of the many, many Daily Devotional works out there dealing with all sorts of subjects: faith, quotations, bedtime stories, poetry.
Pick a field and start (or start back) journaling in the New Year.