“There is nothing permanent except change.”
“Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.”
About 2500 years ago there lived a man named Heraclitus in the city of Ephesus in Greece.
He lived a lonely life, created his own cryptic philosophy and wasn’t that fond of humanity. Still, he became a big influence on famous stoics like Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca.
And he had a few really good words of wisdom that I would like to share today.
1. Envy is a really good way to hurt yourself.
“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.”
Happiness often seems to be fleeting. But people can hold onto envy and make it even stronger over the course of many years.
But how can you become less envious? Three of my favorite tips are:
Stop comparing yourself to others.
Comparing what you have to what others have is a good way to make yourself miserable. It feeds your ego when you buy a nicer car or get a better job than someone else. You feel great for a while. But this mindset and the focus on comparing always winds up in you noticing someone that has more than you. That someone has an even better job or car than you. And so you don’t feel so good anymore.
A more useful way to compare is to just compare yourself to yourself. Look at how you have grown and what you have achieved. Appreciate what you have done and what you have, how far you have come and what you are planning to do.
Think about what’s in it for you.
I have found this to be helpful in many cases when I have negative thoughts or when I’m behaving in a less than useful way. Basically, I ask myself: “What’s in it for me?” And each time I fall back into that negative headspace and behaviour I remind myself of this question and the answer.
This reinforces to me the pointlessness of what I’m thinking. And often I just think to myself: “Oh, I’m being stupid again. Time to focus on something useful/fun/positive instead.”
Asking yourself what is in it for you is a good way to find distance from your thoughts and behaviour and to motivate yourself to just drop the less useful thoughts whenever you can.
Think about what your envy is telling you.
What you think and feel about the world can often tell you quite a bit about yourself.
So thinking about what your envy tells you about yourself can help you to learn more about yourself, what you fear and how you may be fooling yourself. Think about what is reflected when you feel envious of someone else.
Is it a fear of rejection? Of not being good enough?
Or a fear that you will lose something/someone/some part of yourself you feel very attached to? If so, why are you feeling so attached?
Try to find a solution or help – from books, people, the internet etc. – for whatever fear or belief within you that you think is making you feel the envy. Ask yourself: “What can the envy reveal about me?”
2. Understanding can not be found in books.
“Much learning does not teach understanding.”
When you read a lot you may think that you understand things. But you never really understand anything until your experience it. Yes, knowledge can help you to avoid pitfalls and improve quicker. But it can’t relate how it feels to experience something. And it can’t relate how you experience something since we are all a bit different from each other.
So you have to take action and do things. And when you start doing things you might also discover that things are often a bit more messy in real life than in books where it may seem like you only have to follow a clean ten step method to get the results you want. But that’s part of the fun of living life rather than just thinking and reading about it.
3. Be like the child again.
“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.”
When you were a kid and were playing you were totally focused on what you were doing. You were curious rather than filled with fear. There were no worries about tomorrow or yesterday. You weren’t lost in endless looping thoughts. You were just in the moment.
You tried to learn to ride your first bike. You fell, scraped your knee, got up again. And again. And again. Until you could do it. Failure was just a temporary annoyance, not a reason to give up.
It is a bit funny and at the same time a bit sad how much of what one may strive for through personal development that is about being like a child again.
Because it’s about living in the moment. About not being bogged down by constant, often kinda pointless thoughts that just produce negative emotions within and outside of you. It’s about being open and curious and not getting trapped in your comfort zone or fear.
So I guess that personal growth may not be so much about adding new layers to yourself but to shed some those that you have gained over the last few decades.
All that positive stuff was there in the beginning. You may still reconnect with it from time to time. And you can learn to spend even more time in that wonderful headspace where you are present, positive, open, kind and curious. While still being a responsible adult.
And if you are looking for a good place to start with this, I would recommend to learn to spend more time in the present moment again.
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