Short Form: Enchiridion
The Enchiridion by Epictetus, 135AC lays out some useful frames on how to live, especially for managing one’s emotions. Epictetus was a philosopher of stoicism (I knew nothing about stoicism before reading The Enchiridion). If you read numbers 1 - 10 (of 50), that’s maybe 60% of the value for 20m of effort. H/t to A for the recommendation. As always, other’s hot-takes appreciated.
- One main idea is to only care about things in your control (your actions and feelings about events) instead of things out of your control (other’s actions, reputation, circumstances of your e.g. body and family). While this seems obvious as stated, the details of actually taking this serious are useful. Reputation is one interesting example. It feels like something we can control (by being awesome), but by focusing only on the actions (the being awesome) and not other’s beliefs, it can free us from unproductive worrying. Similarly, envy towards others is less productive than thinking about actions one wants to take. There’s an underlying theme in much of the work of trying to not care at all about other’s beliefs, which although hard to do in practice, seems useful to consider doing more of.
- I also liked thinking about what it’d be like to not care about other’s decisions. I have some strong beliefs about how people should pursue their lives, and I sometimes let myself worry about if my friends and loved ones are making all the decisions that I want them to. While it seems good to try to convince friends of things sometimes, I think it’s healthy to stay focused on “shooting one’s best shot” in trying to convince them, and then not worrying as much about the result. As with most “sales,” the first rule of sales is that deals fall through, and you have to learn to not get upset about that.
- I liked the analogy of living life as if you were at a dinner party, esepcially the bit about not stretching for things that have not come yet. I have lots of goals in life, and so it’s easy for me to spend a bunch of cycles worrying about accomplishing those goals. I think it’s healthier to internalize realisitic time frames of when things will get done by, and to not spend too much time yearning for things that realistically can’t be accomplished very quickly.
- Another useful thing that I’m going to try: thinking about what you want out of an environment to focus on keeping those things even if you get disrupted. E.g. when I go to sit at my desk to work, I want to be in a state of flow/ focused work, and sometimes when I’m tired or get interrupted, I end up being distracted for a long time. Focusing on the goal of the environment seems plausibly useful to do more of the good.
More rapid fire:
- Stay focused on the ship even during side quests, else you’ll get swept up in them. Useful to keep as many cycles on the most important things as possible.
- “I have returned it” is a powerful frame on loss – the mistake people make is that they take the people and things they have in their life for granted, whereas “I have returned it” makes the fleeting nature more clear. This made me think about my grandma’s memoir, which says a lot of similar things that were really useful for me in thinking about “loss.” In particular, I like framing the overwhelming emotion of loss as “thank you for those great experiences” than “sad that I don’t get them anymore.”
- Be wary of “If I neglect my affairs, I will have no income” —> better to give it up and not be concerned. It’s easy to let us make excuses about the things we “have to do,” but it can be liberating to not force ourselves to do those things, and to take bigger risks for bigger rewards.
- “You have your role, act it.” I believe in my own potential to do things, but I also have to be honest with myself about what I’m good at so that I can best accomplish my goals.
- “Don’t hand mind to others.” Esepcially when I’m angry, I “hand my mind to others” in that I let myself get carried away in thinking about them. I like that frame for trying not to spend as much time worrying about disputes.
Overall: I definitely recommend reading, and it’s a quick read (although sometimes hard to parse). I think there is a lot of good “mental jijitsu” in how to reframe problems to not let them take up unproductive cycles.