In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English.
Letter 16. Reflect and act
It’s important to have a lifelong passion for improving yourself. Reflecting each day on your actions and behaviours, while important, is not as critical as actually making positive changes. Do this daily until it becomes a habit. Ensure that this reflection drives improvements. Its not just something to keep you occupied or amused.
Now you may say, why should I bother to do this if I can’t control the way events in the universe unfold? Remember that you have a choice – you can control your own judgments. Even if you don’t believe this, what is true is that the striving for personal excellence is worthwhile and helps you to get through life.
In signing off I’ll leave you with this thought. If you are content with what you’ve got, as opposed to what think you should have, then you’ll never be unhappy. Appreciate that if you strive for riches then once you’ve got them then you’ll only want more. It’s a never ending cycle. It’s a little like setting off to travel somewhere, without a specific destination in mind. You’ll never actually reach where you’re going. You’ll keep on going forever which is a guarantee for frustration and unhappiness.
Read the original text here.
I recommend you read all of the most influential Letters in this new Penguin Classic book. It is the best translation, in my opinion, because it captures Seneca’s humour and style. It is also the easiest to read. My copy is full of highlighted lines, margin notes and tabs. A treasure chest of profound, practical advice which you can apply immediately.
Warning: this is not an academic text; it describes a hands-on philosophy of life. Discover powerful, instantly helpful wisdom. The complete guide to improving your day-to-day activities, thoughts and actions.