“Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad.” — Seneca, On tranquility of mind, 12.5
Imagine a filmmaker making a movie whose ending he doesn’t know. Or a writer writing a book whose end she hasn’t yet decided. When J. K. Rowling started writing the Harry Potter books, she knew the exact ending before she finished the first book. And she knew she would write 7 of those books. Writing 7 books over the course of a decade is no easy task and yet she managed to do it and did it spectacularly. Perhaps it was the fact that she knew the ending of the saga that pushed her toward completing the story. She must have had days when she felt defeated by the blank page but maybe the ending that she could see at the horizon kept her going year after year. And that is an important lesson from the stoics as well. It is important to know the end because otherwise, we would find ourselves just running in circles. Every endeavor would feel like getting on a treadmill that we can’t get off of. Which makes me wonder what is the end of these daily articles that I’m writing? I intend to write 366 articles consistently for 366 days, no matter the circumstances. Is my aim to gain an audience from these articles? No. It might seem arbitrary but when I started this challenge for myself, my end was clear to me. I wanted to write 366 articles in 366 days to develop a habit of writing and to see what would happen if I could do one thing consistently every day. It is a challenge to myself to experiment with the power of consistency in my life. Without an end in mind, the mind falls into chaos because of ‘false conceptions’. Without an end, we won’t know when to stop or when to realize we have failed or when to rejoice in success. All our efforts would seem arbitrary and futile as if we are running toward a mirage in a desert; forever in reach yet never attainable. Having the idea of an end when we start would lead our mind, and our lives, away from chaos and toward order. And we will be able to know when to stop the treadmill.
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.