In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English.
Letter 13. Trust your own judgment
The difficulties that life throws at us gives us the opportunity to deal with our thoughts in a rational way. Thoughts are the only things we can control. We can’t control the external event itself, just how label and react to it. These challenges increase our resilience and promote improvement. Resilience is something you can’t learn from a book, you have to learn by doing.
Often we worry and awfulize things which have either happened (so we can’t change them) or may never happen. Both of these are indifferent as there is nothing much we can do about them. Try to be content and focus your attention on the present moment. The best you can do is to live a good life and seek happiness in the here and now.
Some more advice: I recommend that you don’t listen to others who tell you why they think things are terrible. The only person you should listen to is you, your own thoughts. Don’t rely on the thoughts of other people who say a situation isn’t great until you alone conclude this. If you don’t do this then you are in danger of being influenced by others. Perhaps the thing of concern is bad for them but not for you? If you believe that your understanding and knowledge is lacking before you come to a conclusion, then ask someone who you can trust. You have to decide who this person is. So, in a similar way to resilience you should monitor situations and your reactions to them. Practice separating the thoughts of others from your own.
I’ll leave you with this thought. Don’t wait until you’re old before you follow your passion. Live the life you want to while you still have time on your side.
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.