Letters from a Stoic

I read this book a while back, following Tim Ferriss' recommendation. But I kept thinking about it recently, while spending a week offline (well, mostly offline) doing my best not to think about work, money or planning for the future.

Letters from a Stoic is a collection of letters written by Seneca to his disciples. While often disconnected (different disciples, different times), it's easy to see the patterns and tendencies of stoicism in his communications.

Some passages that were particularly relevant to me during my days off:

Nothing is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man's ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.

I'm well aware of this, both on myself and on others. I enjoy solitude, but on my daily life fall into the modern trap of FOMO, feeling I need to be constantly online to be happy.

When was the last time you sat down to do nothing? No internet, no book, no nothing. Just sit and breathe, not planning, not strategizing, just letting time pass by.

A delight in busting about is not industry - it is only the restless energy of a haunted mind.

Oh boy. If Seneca is right, I am a thoroughly tormented man.

I often forget to ask myself: why am I busy right now? Why do I “need” to do this at this particular moment? Am I truly accomplishing something worthy, or am I moving about because I just want to keep pushing the cart - or even worse, because I cannot sit still?

The life of folly is empty of gratitude, full of anxiety, it is focused wholly on the future

A thought has begun to appear in my mind on occassion: “I made it”. Just a few days ago, sitting in the sun by the river, with my family around me, zero worries and fully enjoying our time, it’s hard not to feel a profound sense of achievement.

Now, there is of course much I would like to accomplish in the future. I’m nowhere near done leaving my mark in this planet. Yet, being too busy planning the future leaves me no time, no mental capacity, no mindful silence to embrace the wonderful life I already have.

Now, there are a few efforts I'm trying to make, which I believe help me lead a more mindful and thankful life:

  • I try to turn off devices well before going to bed, to allow my brain to shut down and to better enjoy sleep.
  • I put devices away when I’m with my kids. No tweet or message or email is worth taking my attention away from my wonderful children. Nothing is more valuable.
  • I try a mindful meditation in the mornings, to help set the tone for the day.
  • I do my absolute best not to let work bleed into the evening and weekends. This is my family time, and it’s priceless.
  • I take spurs of delegating work and saying “no”, just because I can. It reminds me that I don’t have to do everything I’m asked, and that I don’t have to do everything myself.

What about you? what do you do to slow down and re-focus?