Happiness and freedom

What about accepting fate, autonomy towards others and ruling out emotion in our own decision making processes? Let's implement stoic wisdom from Epictetus, once a slave and influencer of emperor Marcus Aurelius.

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In his ‘Dialogues’ Seneca identifies three obstacles between a man and wisdom. At first, very much in line with Epictetus, the understanding that we have to accept fate – or if you will ‘the will of the Gods’ – for what it is: a given. In essence we cannot ‘make’ life. I think this is very clearly underlined by a question I once heart ask: “Hey buddy, where did you choose to be born……?”.

Secondly, it is our challenge to be autonomous, in the sense of being independent of the judgement of, or even the unjust done to us by, others. Very much in line with accepting faith for what it is, also the behavior of others is something we cannot control.

Which brings Seneca to the third challenge for a wise man, to rule out anger or even emotion in your judgement and decisions. Very often it will be emotion that drives the judgement of others towards you. Be autonomous to that. But obviously also and more difficult in my experience, be autonomous to emotion in your own judgement and decision making.

Bringing the three (accepting fate, autonomy towards others and rule out emotion in our own decision making) into practise will make you a better person and our world a better place to life in. Not easy, I admit, nevertheless …..

Both Epictetus’ lectures and Seneca’s dialogues are very good reads and a great help. However you need to set back your emotion when it comes to their views on women, which are very different to what we know is just today.

1 Response

  1. This article was first published on LinkedIn. Below some reactions.

    Robert Jan Wekking
    Managing Partner at Enigma Consulting

    Hi Jeroen, good reflection on a very recognisable situation. How different the world could be. Their wisdom is centuries old, but still valid. And their view about women is spoiled by the time they lived in, hence we could learn from the past, but we should continuously adapt to the society we live in. Being equal should be the starting point of modern society, it is so difficult to see that even after these years we still struggle to do it right.

    Hans Croon
    Online marketeer, writer, musician and manager

    Nice reflection Jeroen. As my dad was a teacher and expert on classic history, the applicability of classic thoughts on modern life interests me a lot. I tend to agree that good judgment is obstructed by anger. However, to rule out any emotion before coming to a decision doesn’t seem to be very realistic nor practicable. Could be that Seneca was never confronted by a lion, but even wise men would start running out of fear, and that would probably the best decision. Just kidding of course, careful and rational consideration is almost always the best way to deal with any situation :-).

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