Is this of value?

One of my favorite quotes of all time by Marcus Aurelius is: 

“Look inward. Don’t let the true nature or value of anything elude you.”

In everything that we do, we’d be best served to heed to this sage advice.

How often during your waking hours do you unconsciously repeat the same handful of thoughts in your head that lead to feelings of stress and anxiety?

And on the flipside, how often are you fully enveloped and aware during the moments that you spend with your loved ones and while doing things that bring you joy? 

Unfortunately we spend way too much time in a thought loop that yields negative emotions and not enough time in the present, which is the path to bringing us the deepest sense of satisfaction.

One method that can be used to snap out of these negative self talk patterns as well as help us become more mindful during the precious moments in our lives is by asking yourself a simple question:

Is this of value?

Is this thought that came out of nowhere worth disrupting how I’m going to feel for the rest of the day, hour or even the next minute?

What is the true nature of this thought anyway?

It’s nothing more than an impression that has entered my consciousness. And just like the plethora of other thoughts that come and go throughout each day, I have the power to choose not to feed it more fuel through my attention.

If I don’t identify with it or accept it as truth, it will weaken in moments and the next batch of impressions will arise.

The same goes for vital moments in our lives. We’d do ourselves a major blessing if we could bring this question to mind as often as possible, especially when spending time with family or friends:

Is this of value?

We may be distracted by something that happened earlier that we keep replaying in our head, or consumed by our phones and the endless list of chores that have yet to be completed, but asking yourself this question allows us to snap out of our daydream and back into the present:

What is the true value of this situation right here and now?

What is this small amount of time that I get to spend with my loved ones worth?

These moments are arguably more important than almost anything else that life has to offer, so why not make it a priority to learn how to focus on them with intensity while they’re occurring so that you can develop a deeper sense of appreciation for them?

A primary objective in all of our lives must be to constantly analyze our state of mind, thoughts and emotions and relentlessly work to eliminate the trivial while enhancing what’s valuable. 

Just imagine the impact that could have in your life.

In everything that you do, think and say, question its true nature and value.

“By seeing things for what they are, I can use them for what they’re worth. Remember that nature has planted this power in you.” – Marcus Aurelius 

Remember that Nothing is Missing

In a podcast interview a few years ago, entrepreneur and modern day philosopher Naval Ravikant said something profound that has stuck with me ever since.

He said, “Happiness is really a default state. Happiness is there when you remove the sense of something missing in your life.”

We live in a society where social status and financial wealth dominate the majority of our thoughts.


We focus on achieving the next goal and attaining more possessions in hopes that they will bring us a new level of satisfaction that we currently believe we lack.

So much time is spent thinking about and putting into action what will help us get to the next step that the things we already have are put on the backburner.

Unfortunately this process is backwards in discovering happiness. 


It’s by spending time appreciating what we already have that joy can be felt and endured, not by accomplishments that typically bring a spark of excitement along with a fleeting sense of relief.

Just for a brief second, try to eliminate the feeling that something is missing in your life.

Right at this precise moment are you capable of feeling happy?

Can you steer your mind away from all of the lack, what you miss or regret and find within you an unadulterated sense of contentment? 

Think about all that you already have in your life that brings you an abundance of joy and imagine if your life was completely consumed by just this.

Practice this once or twice a day for a few moments by reminding yourself that nothing is missing.

This concept will help you feel happiness in the present moment, despite what is happening in your life at any given time.

Like a muscle, it takes consistent effort to strengthen your ability to do it with ease, but once you’re able to make a habit out of the practice you’ll develop a sense of joy that transcends achievements and circumstances.

“Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” – Naval Ravikant

You always own the option of having no opinion

Throughout a typical day there are countless events that unfold all on their own.

It’s inevitable that some of them are going to stir up emotions that we may not even realize have risen until it’s too late and we’re fully engulfed by the feeling.


For some of us this random occurrence could have a strong impact on the rest of our day, how we feel, think and act towards ourselves and others.

It’s easy to tell someone to just shrug it off when it’s not happening to you, but what do you do when it actually happens to yourself?


Marcus Aurelius said something nearly 2,000 years ago that is just as insightful today as it was back then, he said, “You always own the option of having no opinion.”

Someone may have said something unkind about you behind your back, a group of friends may be discussing a sensitive topic that has brought about a heated debate in the past, a driver may cut you off and almost make you get in an accident, the list goes on and on and on.

But what do all of these situations have in common, outside of being normal circumstances that nearly everyone deals with every so often?


They’re all out of your control.


You have no control over what others say about you, if friends want to talk about certain things or if someone wants to speed and drive recklessly. 


All of these scenarios rightfully evoke emotion, but are they worthy of it? Especially if it’s going to disrupt your tranquility and bring negativity to the rest of your day?

The next time a similar event occurs, bring to mind the insightful seed of wisdom that you have the power to choose not to have an opinion about what’s happening or has happened.

The situation itself does not have the ability to shape your decision about it, that is completely in your authority. You are the maker of your judgments, not the other way around. 


When you’re able to harness this concept and implement it into your life you’ll unlock access to a sense of freedom and peace that transcends the ebb and flow of everyday events that typically would jerk you and your emotions around like a puppet.  


Make the decision to not have any input on what happens next and see for yourself.


“You always own the option of having no opinion. Things you can’t control are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.

Tracing the Outline of Daily Living

While skimming through Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (the Gregory Hays edition) recently, as it so often happens with his ancient yet applicable wisdom, I came across a section that really struck me.

He says, “Always define whatever it is we perceive, to trace its outline, so we can see what it really is.” 


He goes on further to say, “What is it – this thing that now forces itself on my notice? What is it made up of? How long was it designed to last? And what qualities do I need to bring to bear on it?

This got me thinking.

What if we made an intentional effort to attempt to trace the outline of our daily living, both the positive and the negative?

For example, if you were to take a walk and a car zoomed by without letting you pass at a pedestrian crosswalk, your initial reaction may be to think that they’re an asshole leading to you feeling a bit frustrated or even upset.

We can utilize Marcus’s three questions to trace the outline of this scenario:

1 – What is it and what’s it made of? – It’s an impression, our recognition of the situation. It’s made of simply a thought in our mind and an opinion about what has just occurred.

2 – How long will it last? – This is totally up to us. Its impact can last for hours if we choose to allow it to, or it can be swept away in the wind just as quickly as it came to be.

3 – What qualities are needed to deal with it? – Present awareness of not only what happened but also our immediate impressions and impulses about it. Patience so that we take a moment before we react any further and do something we may regret. Compassion because we don’t know the person’s situation and why they did what they did, it’s possible they are dealing with an emergency or they are just an asshole, either way, you should feel sorry for them versus anger.

This “tracing the outline” exercise takes minimal effort and could be completed within just a few seconds of time if you develop the mindfulness to practice it in the moment.

Just imagine how much unnecessary aggravation and suffering you could save yourself in a circumstance such as the one detailed above or any other that brings about negativity. 

Aside from using it to deal with negativity, it can also be leveraged for positivity. Another example below.

You’re at a family gathering and all the people you love and care about are surrounding you. Everyone is smiling, eating, drinking and having great conversations. One of your family members comes up to hug you.

Marcus’s three questions can be used here to trace the outline of this scenario:

1 – What is it and what’s it made of? A gesture of love is happening, an emotion that can only be felt inside.


2 – How long will it last? The hug will last for no more than a few seconds, the feeling from the hug possibly a few minutes. Although, this could very well be the last time that person hugs you or you get to hug anyone.

3 – What qualities are needed to maximize it? Awareness of the moment. Appreciation for what is happening with the understanding of how fleeting it is. Expressing love for what you still have.

In what would typically be just another family gathering and a hug that you have received countless times before, by tracing its outline you can learn to recognize and strengthen the precious moments in life that really matter.


Give it a try and see what happens.

Are you the fish bowl or the water?

Let’s do a little visualizing for a moment.

Imagine the inside of a fish bowl with fish constantly floating around in the water amongst coral and other sea life swaying back and forth.

Your mind is just like the inside of this fish bowl, with thoughts constantly circling around in your head. If you don’t practice mindfulness and self awareness, you are fully identified with your thoughts and live within the limited boundary of your own mind’s fish bowl.

Now imagine taking a step back and actually looking at the fish bowl, not just what’s in it but the design and shape of the fish bowl, where it’s located and what it’s sitting on.

When you develop and strengthen your awareness, you’re able to expand your consciousness beyond simply identifying with your thoughts and emotions. In this state you can “see the fish bowl” and become aware of your thoughts as they arise, watch them float around in your mind as well as feel the emotions that are tied with them without necessarily being identified as them. 

Now visualize the fish bowl sitting at the bottom of the ocean with salt water completely surrounding it for endless miles in every direction. The salt water outside of the fish bowl moves in unison, flowing as nature decides.

When you take mindfulness a step further, you come to realize that beyond recognition of thought and emotion as they arise, your awareness of them is just another impression happening in the realm of consciousness. The same goes for the sensation that our thoughts are coming from behind our eyes or somewhere inside of our head. 

It’s all just happening in this precondition of consciousness, and when you are able to discover this for yourself you can transcend the shackles of living in or as the fish bowl and flow peacefully through life like water. 

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water” – Bruce Lee

Practicing The Skill Of Disconnecting

When was the last time you sat alone and did nothing?

No phone, TV, computer, nobody nearby to talk to, nothing but sit with your thoughts?

We rarely, if ever, give ourselves time to disconnect. We bounce around from one thing to the next.

The idea of sitting alone with our thoughts for most is cringeworthy. Who wants to do that? Who even has the time for it?

There’s always going to be a laundry list of excuses you can present to yourself on why you’re too busy to sit alone and do nothing. We love to convince ourselves that there’s always emergencies that must be dealt with, that our problems are the most important problems, etc.

Yet, when you give yourself some time away from everything to intentionally be bored, a rare and beautiful thing happens.

Peace can be found.

Give it a try (preferably outside) with the goal of not being hard on yourself regardless of the outcome.

At first your thoughts will consume you, jumping from cares and concerns to memories to planning.

This is completely normal, just let them run their course.

Watch as one thought or emotion is replaced with another just as quickly as it came about in the first place.

Each time you notice a new impression arise or take over your attention, try to simply become aware of it and bring your focus to your surroundings.

How your body feels in the moment, what noises you hear, use the senses to envelop yourself in the present moment.

Soon you’ll start to feel an inner sense of calm.

This enjoyable state is where you can let your mind and body relax and take a much needed break from the overstimulation of daily life.

As you practice this exercise, you’ll get more skilled at it over time.

The multitude of challenges you face will feel more manageable.

Stress and worry will be replaced with tranquility and clarity.

All from sitting alone and aiming to do nothing.

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” – Lao Tzu

Standing Guard at the Door of Your Mind

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Our lives are filled with stimulation. Each day we are bombarded with sensory and information overload.

Rampant thoughts and emotions internally, while dealing with others and various situations externally.

Amongst all of this chaos is an innate ability that most of us rarely exercise and use to our advantage, heck the majority of adults don’t even realize that they possess it.

It’s the capacity to not let anything disturb us.

No matter the circumstance that you find yourself in, nothing outside of you has any power over your mind. 

What bothers us isn’t the actual event that has taken place but rather our own interpretation of what is occurring, and that is something we can control.

Epictetus once said, “It isn’t the things themselves that disturb people, but the judgements that they form about them.”

How profound, right?

Things themselves don’t determine our reaction, we do, and this we can learn to work on and improve.

We do this by standing guard at the door of the mind.

Just like you’d never let a stranger walk into your home, why is it that we never learn to be strict and selective about what we permit to enter our mind?

When we become more aware and observant of our inner and outer environment, we can start to see how much junk is constantly competing for our attention and influencing us.

If we mindlessly allow these impressions to enter our brain, then we aren’t really living a life with intention and of our own design.

We must choose wisely what we allow to impact us and enter into the gates of our mind.

The bulk of our day to day existence is run on autopilot, with very few moments of lucidity and awareness of what we are ingesting mentally.

Invest the time into recognizing your everyday living patterns, and discover for yourself that nothing external holds any power over you or how you choose to view it. 

“Things wait outside us, hover at the door. They keep to themselves. Ask them who they are and they don’t know, they can give no account of themselves. What accounts for them? The mind does.” – Marcus Aurelius 

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Don’t believe everything you think

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I recently saw a bumper sticker that said “Don’t believe everything you think.”

It caught my attention and led me down a rabbit hole on its deeper meaning.

As we go throughout our typical day, we are constantly thinking and unconsciously accepting the bulk of whatever random thoughts come to mind as truth.

If you ever attempt to witness this process, you’ll notice just how incessant it is.

One moment you recognize a thought that has just popped up seemingly out of thin air, bringing with it whatever emotions that arise, the next second it has disappeared just as quickly as it came to be and you’re already three thoughts removed from it. 

I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve heard someone say something along the lines of “don’t believe everything you think”, but have you ever stopped and taken the point literally?

Let’s use an analogy to tie this together.

Think about two different types of people:

The first one being a person that watches the news and buys into, accepts and defends each and every bit of information that it televises, regardless of how preposterous it may be, without much introspection involved.

The second one being a person that watches the news, but takes a moment to observe and evaluate what is being televised based upon their system of beliefs, with the openness to changing their opinion if it logically makes sense to. 

Which one do you believe is set up to live a calmer and more peaceful existence?

Humans are like a TV news channel, each broadcasting out from within their own individual thoughts and views.

We were never taught in school to become mindful of our thinking patterns or learn how to distinguish between and focus on the thoughts that serve us rather than emphasize the ones that are harmful.

So instead of growing up and being able to mentally prepare for the onslaught of impressions that bombard us on a daily basis, being the inherently lazy species that we are, we take the route of simply believing most of what we think, leading to unnecessary suffering. 

We have tens of thousands of thoughts each day, most of them being recurring thoughts and many of them being negative based.

If we want to live happier and less stressful lives, it’s absolutely essential that we make it a habit to practice taking mental steps back and noticing the stream of thoughts that flow through our minds.

Every time you do so, you’re strengthening your ability to become aware of future thoughts. 

And as time goes on you can get to a place where you’ll start to catch yourself mid thought and internally think, I have the power to choose whether or not I succumb to and accept this thought. 

“Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts.” – Allan Lokos

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Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished

I first heard this quote “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” nearly ten years ago and it’s one that has stuck with me ever since.

Nature, being so massive and ubiquitous, having the ability to take its time and naturally achieve all it is meant precisely when it is meant to do so, it’s a fascinating concept to think about.

Whether we believe in fate, that our lives have already been predetermined and interwoven into the fabric of time way before we came into existence, or that everything is just random, there must be some form of magic permeating our universe that our brains simply cannot perceive or fathom.

As humans we are naturally wired to constantly focus on what’s next, using the present as a stepping stone rather than as a place to settle into.

We spend most of our time planning or rerunning variations of past situations in our mind.

We are always in a hurry, to finish whatever we are in the middle of doing, to grab our phones, to go down a rabbit hole of likely and unlikely scenarios, etc.

And yet, amongst all this rushing, we rarely feel like much of anything has been accomplished. 

So how do we go about extracting a sliver of Nature’s powers in order to slow down our lives yet still feel as though we are making strides? 

Is it possible for us to not only exist more fully in the moment but also feel a sense of certainty or faith, that all will be well one way or another?

I make it a habit to constantly return to the Stoic practice of the dichotomy of control, trying to separate in real time what is in our control versus what isn’t.

Nature seems to be a mysterious force that focuses on what it can do. 

Our minds are equally mystifying, but fortunately for us we have the ability to be conscious of our thoughts and actions.

We can practice becoming more mindful throughout each day, recognizing when we begin to speed up, when we start to talk negatively to ourselves and when we feel emotions that send us spiraling downwards.

We are capable of taking a mental step back and seeing the way we live our lives. Through this objective lens it’s possible to make the choice to not be so hard on ourselves and instead learn to exercise love and kindness. 

There’s nothing stopping us from becoming our own best friends, despite what may have happened in the past or the situation we find ourselves currently in.

It’s not something that will happen overnight. It cannot be rushed. 

But if we decide to make a small change today, a shift in mindset and perspective, the results will compound generously in a short period of time and you’ll discover the elusive realm where peace and fulfillment can be attained. 

Make the effort. Trust the process. 

The Lucky Accident of Life

We are alive, for now.

Most of us have our bodies, our minds, hopefully good health, and some family and friends to spend our time with.

It’s unfathomable to contemplate how many things had to go the exact way that they did in order for us to be right here, right now.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing is perfect and of course there are situations that we may look back on and only wish we could go back to fix.

But life doesn’t work like that and the more time we spend fixated on the past, the less time we have to appreciate or even recognize what’s right in front of us.

It’s truly a lucky and very fortunate accident that in this moment, we have what we do.

Out of the billions of people alive right now, many of them would risk it all to live the life we currently do.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

This isn’t to say that the problems and worries in our lives aren’t justified, but rather there’s always an opportunity to reframe our perspective. 

There’s never a better time than the present to take stock of our existence.

To take a mental step back, push all the bullshit aside, and notice just how much we have in our lives to be grateful for.

Ask yourself these two questions:

How much of what brings me peace and joy do I take for granted on a daily basis?

How devastating would it be to lose any of those things if it ended right now and I was never able to enjoy them again?

We must teach ourselves to catch these moments in the act and treasure them as the ultimate prize that life has to offer. 

Because for them to have ever occurred in the first place, and to still be fortunate enough to have them, is the lucky accident of life.

“We need to keep in mind that it is a lucky accident that we are enjoying whatever it is we are enjoying, that our enjoyment of it might end abruptly, and that we might never be able to enjoy it again.” – William B. Irvine