In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English.
Letter 20. Model the Way
Let your actions speak louder than words when you are on your journey to becoming the best possible person you can be.
Don’t get grumpy by, what in the grand scheme of things, are trivialities. If you do then this is just a reflection of the mood you’re in. Some of the time minor things will bother you, other times they won’t. When you don’t get flustered, think about why that is? I’m guessing it’s because you’re focused on the bigger picture?
So, it’s clear that you have to set these day-to-day frustrations in the context of our lives as whole. And this is easily done if you have a clear and purpose in life. Overcoming the occasional barrier is normal, and something we should accept this.
To find your purpose in life, determine your values. When you act and live in accordance with these then your happiness will improve. Your values should be congruent with one another, they shouldn’t oppose each other. If they do then you’ll subject yourself to a degree of cognitive dissonance. Of course, there may be slight changes to your values over time. If you’ve devoted enough effort to developing them in the first place then there shouldn’t be many major deviations.
Now, I’m not saying living in complete harmony with your stated values will be easy, few people can do this. But what is important is that you have a clear direction then you’ll know when you’ve deviated from this path. It’s a little like reading a map. You’ll have a destination and you’ll know the route you need to take. On occasion you’ll need to look at the map to see if you’re off course. If you are then you’ll need to take action to get yourself back on course, heading in the right direction. Perhaps your original route isn’t relevant anymore? This is why you’ll need time to reflect.
You have to model the way. Titles are granted, but it’s you behaviour that wins respect. Your deeds are far more important than your words and your words and deeds must be consistent.
Look around at what you have, or what is in the world already. Be content with this. This is what is means to be rich. In fact, not having a lot of money means that the people who rely on you, have to learn to rely on themselves. And finally, remember what I’ve said about preparation: practice hardship to prepare yourself in case it happens to you.
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.