“Those who receive the bare theories immediately want to spew them, as an upset stomach does its food. First digest your theories and you won’t throw them up. Otherwise, they will be raw, spoiled, and not nourishing. After you’ve digested them, show us the changes in your reasoned choices, just like the shoulders of gymnasts display their diet and training, and as the craft of artisans show in what they’ve learned.” — Epictetus, Discourses, 3.21.1–3
How often do we simply tell people that we’re going to do something, and then we don’t? Just the thought that people know about what we are up to gives us enough of a dopamine hit that we end up not doing the actual thing. “I’m gonna join the gym and workout every day”, we say and the other person is impressed by us. We feel superior and good about ourselves and then we never set foot in the gym. Or we go for a day or two, and then let it go. How often do we say “Oh I love reading” and then when we actually think about it, it turns out we have read only 2 books in the past year? We all do such things. And every time we set a goal and don’t complete it, we are just adding to our list of personal failures. Here’s a better strategy, for you and for me. Stop talking about what you’re going to do, and actually go do it. That is what stoicism is about as well. It is not about preaching and dropping mind-bending quotes at the dinner party to impress others. It is about learning these principles and applying them in our lives. It is okay to start small. It is okay to do little things every day. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Actions. Not words.
This article is a part of my Stoic Musings challenge, inspired by the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, where I take a quote from the book and reflect on it, every day.
After 34 days, I decided to stop this challenge. Why? Part of it is that I failed. And part of it is that I decided to try writing more long form and better essays instead of a daily short article. Writing these daily short articles on stoicism has been helpful but I realized I was not practicing what I was preaching. My words and my actions did not match. Hence, I decided to stop and recalibrate my goals and direction. Hopefully, I will get back on track soon. Actions. Not words.