“First tell yourself what kind of person you want to be, then do what you have to do. For in nearly every pursuit we see this to be the case. Those in athletic pursuit first choose the sport they want, and then do the work.” — Epictetus, Discourses, 3.23.1–2a
So often in life, we spend our time on things that don’t take us closer to our goal. And usually, the main reason behind this is that we don’t have a clear goal in mind. We spend hours training with a football, only to find out that we are actually supposed to play basketball. Even though we worked hard in those hours, that is time wasted because we are nowhere closer to our goal. And now, we have less time. Why did I start this Stoic Musings challenge for myself? Why did I decide that I will write one article a day for 366 days? The main goal is not to have 366 articles in a year. The main goal is to build a habit. The main goal is to see what happens when you do something consistently. Why build this habit? I am training myself to write a book. And you can’t write a book if you can’t even write a 500-word article. You can’t win a tournament if you can’t even show up for practice. The main metric for success here is not to actually write these articles every day for 366 days because then I can only evaluate if I succeeded a year from now. No. The main metric for success (by my own definition in this context) is that I show up every day. No matter how tired I may be. No matter if I have to sacrifice going to a party or watching a movie for this. I must show up. That is the challenge. I may not do this for a year if I realize I have built a habit in 2 months or 3 months. Or maybe I do end up doing this for a year. And that is the point. It is important to have a goal in mind before you start and then also be flexible about it. As we move forward, we learn more information, and hence, maybe we feel like we need to change our direction a little bit. This is what Epictetus reminds us. That we must pick our game first, and then work on it. So pick your sport. And train for it. Period.
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.