The Stoic's Guide to 2017
Starting a New Year is filled with anticipatory anxiety. Who will die this year? Will I lose the weight this year? Will I find the perfect lover? Will I clear out the junk drawer? So many expectations and yet so many surprises come and smash us in the face year after year and we're in shock. This wasn't on the "To-Do list," we moan. Of course, it wasn't on any list, no one writes down:
- Bury Dad
- Find lump
- Attempt suicide
- Have car crash
- Get robbed.
I find standard goal setting is futile in an uncertain world. My 2016 was better because I had no idea what my year would look like, instead, I just worked hard on myself and stayed open to opportunities, and I certainly didn't have any presumptions about what the year was supposed to bring me. I am not #blessed, as some like to write on Instagram. As though they were chosen above all other to have such bliss enter their life. I am not blessed. And for the record neither are you.
I have experienced two years of drama, and every time another blow came, I just shook it off and kept going. Not because I am so amazing but because I didn't have a choice.
So, if I have learned anything from my two years of cataclysm and calamity, it is simply that you cannot predict an outcome, you can only control your role in the process and nothing more.
This week, I spoke to a friend whose child is undergoing serious and potentially life ending treatment for cancer.
"Stoicism wins the day. You can control your part of the process in your son's life but nothing more. Stay centered and process driven. 🏹🏆"
Now here is my list on how to set goals like a Stoic and be a process driven machine.
- Write down what you want to do.
- Assess the current state of your situation.
- Where are your weaknesses?
- Where do you need to improve?
- What can you do to turn the weaknesses into strengths?
- How will your life have to change?
- What will you do when people question or even mock you?
- And finally, how will achieving this goal push you towards being the person you want to be?
Let's look at this in relation to a real goal.
Perhaps your goal is to have a book published.
If you are setting stoic goals, the goal would be not to be published but instead, the noble goal of bringing you closer to your fated self. To write something that you are proud of, that you hope will help people or bring enjoyment to others.
To write something that is the result of you pushing yourself to become a better writer with each draft, to assess your writing, and your process and see where it can improve.
Take a writing course, read more, make more time to do both of these, so perhaps you have to give up watching television two nights of the week. Will your loved ones support you in this? Will they step up to help you reach the goals of becoming a focused, principled, learned writer?
And will this bring you to the initial, naive goal of being published? Who knows? If the Fates allow, but that's not the point, is it? The point is- make the goal noble, make the process stringent, and change your life to support this. The rest is up to destiny, and after the clusterfuck of 2016 we have learned that life turns on a dime and the best we can do is just make progress however we can, with harm to none and the hope that we will be closer to our true selves by the end of 2017.
Peace to you and may 2017 bring you to your best self.