Attitude is Everything – Letter 34

In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In letter 34 Seneca discusses the importance of having the right attitude.

I can’t tell you how happy I am, its as though I’m young again! This is because of the wonderful progress you’re making. You’ve learnt faster and gone further than other people I know. You now surpass the average member of the public. As a teacher I’m happy that the efforts I made when you were younger have all paid off. In fact the more progress you make, then the better it makes me feel.
So then, what else is there to do? Have you made all the progress you’ll ever make? Maybe not. The desire to keep on improving has to be yours. The motivation has to emerge intrinsically. While I can encourage you, you have to want to change for the better. My efforts are only half of the story. The other half is what you choose to do, or not do, on your own. If you want to find out more about motivation, watch this video:

But I’m encouraged. I see in you a person who want to make changes for yourself. Your words, thoughts and actions all align and are all in harmony. If these three aspects of your character all align then your attitude will be virtuous. Attitudes are more important than de facto performed actions.
Speaking of attitudes, cultivate one of giving, receiving, and returning a benefit. All these involve a freedom of choice. For something to count as a benefit it must not be given, grudgingly, or in some other reluctant way; it must be given freely. Always remember this. If you need any inspiration, then watch this video:
Take care.

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.

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