We all innately seek out to feel certain emotions.
Joy, gratitude, success, peace, contentment, humility, fulfillment, a sense of meaning and purpose, contribution, etc.
But how come so few of us actually succeed in attaining these feelings consistently over the long term?
How come instead of bathing in them on a daily basis, we live our lives chasing after them and typically come up partially or completely empty handed?
It’s my belief that the reason we lack the ability to feel these emotions on command is for the simple fact that we were never taught how to do so.
And because we never learned this skill, the majority of us mindlessly wander through life struggling to truly feel alive.
Despite age or circumstance you can acquire the competency necessary to taking more control of your life and mastering the emotions you want to feel each day.
A Philosophy of Life
It all starts here.
The foundation which your life is built upon.
The detailed roadmap that paves the path for you so that you can succeed at life.
One of the main reasons we typically feel a nagging sense of discontentment is for the fact that we are deep into the game of life without having ever learned the rules to winning.
A philosophy of life holds the key and provides you with the necessary guidelines to follow.
So what is a philosophy of life?
It could be a religion or an actual philosophy that has different modes of thinking that if followed enables one to have certain perspectives, as well as more clarity on what is important in life.
For example sake, and because I have a philosophy of life that I practice, we will go with the Stoicism philosophy.
Below are some of Stoicisms most important perspectives/lessons:
-Life is impermanent, which means that we can lose anything and everything in our lives at any moment. Because of this, we must cultivate gratitude and appreciation for the present moment at all times since the “now” is all we truly have.
-There are a lot more things that we cannot control in life than there are things that we can control. Instead of spending most of our time focusing on what’s out of our control, which typically leads to the arising of negative emotions, we should work on what is in our power, such as our character.
-Focus on what you do have (your body/health, food/shelter, family/friends, etc) and not what you lack (material possessions, status, etc).
-Take time to think about what can (and in some cases will) go wrong in life and use it to increase your capacity to appreciate, as well as better prepare yourself for when it does happen.
The above are a few of the Stoic guiding principles that are of the utmost importance to me and absolute top priorities that I fully believe in and practice each and every day.
You must find your philosophy of life that speaks to your soul.
But finding it is just one thing.
Actually implementing its principles into your life is another story.
So how does one become more grateful.
How does one strengthen their character and become successful in life?
This is achieved through mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the answer
By practicing meditation, you can start to “awaken” to the incredible and unique human ability to closely monitor and observe your mind.
Instead of being fully engulfed and identified through every single thought, you can take a step back in your mind and simply notice them arise and fall.
This strategy leads to becoming much more aware of your daily thoughts, emotions, impulses, opinions and beliefs.
The benefit of this is that it allows you to not just recognize, but also slowly begin to take conscious control of the dominating forces that are incessantly churning in your head.
With enough practice, you can stop being a servant to your mind and actually take over the reins as the master of your mind.
Attaining this superpower helps you steer those forces into alignment with your principles.
Asking yourself the important question
So instead of asking yourself the conventional question, “what do you want to achieve in life”?, instead ask yourself “who do you want to become”?
What principles from your philosophy of life do you want to embody?
Daily seeds of reminders
With increased awareness through meditation, you’ve become more conscious of what is going on in your mind.
Now it’s possible to begin chipping away at the old and outdated habits and beliefs, the negative thoughts and judgements and emotions that arise, etc.
You essentially can start to optimize your mind into focusing on, thinking and feeling the way you want it to (according to your principles).
This is done by planting tiny seeds of reminders throughout your daily routine.
In doing so, your ideal identity begins to take sprout.
There are a multitude of ways to remind yourself to do these rituals, so it really comes down to preference and whichever is most effective for you.
A few examples include:
-habit stacking – adding them to a habit that you already do each day, such as when you brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, take a sip of coffee, etc,
-adding them to your phone’s calendar for a certain time of the day so that your phone notifies you of when to do it,
-using a habit app that sends you a push notification to remind you to perform it
For increasing gratitude
Because gratitude is a major part of the philosophy of Stoicism, I’ve made it a priority of mine to practice ways to become more grateful for my life. This focus of attention has literally rewired my brain, enabling it to consciously pick up on new things to be grateful for throughout my day to day of living that I never would’ve recognized prior. With enough consistency and time, you can train your brain to do the same!
The most important thing you can do is begin a Gratitude Journal. Each morning I think of three new things that I’m grateful for, ponder over them, as well as write them down in my journal.
Below are a handful of other smaller seeds that I ensure to sprinkle throughout my days. Some are quotes or tiny reminders that I simply take the time to bring into my center of attention and experience in the present:
-“Do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life.”
-“You can die at any moment, let that determine what you do, say and think.”
-Take brief moments to sit back in the mind and pay attention to my thoughts
-Look at life from someone else’s perspective.
-Don’t judge anyone or anything today
-Remember yourself: Try to simply remember yourself as often as possible, so that you can become aware of the present moment, your thoughts, the way you feel, etc. (We can not control when we are conscious but we can wire our minds/thoughts to focus on and bring about consciousness by directing it to what they’d experience during being conscious. Be more aware of yourself.”)
-What are the qualities in those you love/care about that you admire most about them?
-External considering: put yourself in another person’s shoes so that you can see yourself from another’s objective perspective.
-Prospective retrospection: thinking about this moment right now from the perspective of your future/older self, reminding yourself that right now you are living a life that your future self will miss and wish they can re-experience and live back in.
-Negative visualization: thinking about losing the things that are most important to you in your life, experiencing them in vivid detail, and then realizing how much you appreciate them in your life right now.
Others I try to remind myself of when I am in the midst of experiencing a certain trigger of emotion or impulse:
-“Coping calmly with this inconvenience is the price I pay for my inner serenity, for freedom from perturbation; you don’t get something for nothing.”
-Recognize incoming impulses, label them, try to not let their emotions take over, try to understand why they exist, and in that moment use your clear headed reasoning to make the decision not to allow them to disrupt your tranquility.
-What would Marcus Aurelius think or do?
-What would someone who has much more humility than me think?
-What’s great about this situation?
-How can I use this situation to my advantage in the future?
For becoming successful in life and the person you want to be
Because character building is a major pillar of Stoicism, being a virtuous person that lives with integrity is an ongoing life goal of mine.
By asking yourself questions like the few below, you can begin to paint a clear picture of who you genuinely want to be and provide yourself with a blueprint to follow.
-How does the person you want to be live on a daily basis?
-What kind of emotions do you want to feel each day?
-What states of mind do you want to experience and how do you know if/when you’re experiencing them?
To wrap things up
As you go through the process of determining your philosophy of life and the principles that are most important to you, as well as begin to meditate and plant the daily seeds of reminders into your mind, your capacity to experience all of the emotions and states of mind that you want to feel will naturally expand.
Prior, your mind would have been filled with static, having no real awareness or control over your life and living off of your conditioned impulses and habits. But now, similar to an antenna seeking to pick up a clear signal, having achieved mastery of your mind, you’ll be perfectly tuned into this new frequency and opportunities in your life will be bountiful.
At this stage in the game of life, what more could we possibly want?
It’s possible that the sense of fulfillment and contentment we feel within by living according to our philosophy of life’s principles are what we all truly seek in our lives that no other accomplishment can ever come close to matching.
The only way to find out for certain is to give it a try and find out for yourself.
“Your principles have life in them. For how can they perish, unless the ideas that correspond to them are extinguished? And it is up to you to be constantly fanning them into new flame.” – Marcus Aurelius