Park Further Away to Achieve Enlightenment

 

As someone who reads a whole lot, I’m constantly discovering that there are very few new ideas, and most of the ones that claim to be original are really just derivatives of old ones with a new label slapped on them.

A personal philosophy that I’ve been working on for about 10 years involves the tolerance of hardship in order to achieve greater happiness. Wouldn’t you know that the first time I told someone about it, they thought I was talking about a school of philosophical thought that has been around for about 2000 years. The early bird gets the worm, I suppose.

Regardless of who invented Stoicism, there is a lot to be gleaned from its lessons, even if you don’t buy into the philosophy wholesale. The idea is that you can make the extremely painful aspects of life less painful by taking on hardships (and in many cases seeking them out) and overcoming them.

A good example of this would be a man who has survived a catastrophic train collision. Do you think he’ll be too terribly concerned about taking a slightly more dangerous route to work or by an awkward social situation after all that? It’s doubtful. These situations that would be terrifying to some would be but a drop of water compared to the ocean of hardships he has already overcome.

So how do you apply this practice to everyday life? I’m definitely not suggesting you crash your car or set yourself on fire or anything extreme like that. But maybe you should take a cold shower in the morning (as Carl over at Slacker Reform suggests) or park in the furthest spot from the door of the grocery store the next time you go shopping. Both of these activities ostensibly have value to you physically, but they also mentally prepare you for additional hardships you might face that day.

Will you really care if someone cuts you off after you wore leg weights to the mall? I doubt it. You’re way too hard core to even notice them.

Consider this (truncated) quote from The Encheiridion (by Epictetus, the historical force behind Stoicism):

“Keep before your eyes by day death, and exile, and everything that seems terrible, but most of all death; and then you will never have any abject thought, nor will you yearn for anything beyond measure.”

In essence, be prepared for the worst so that you might enjoy what comes, even if it IS the worst possible scenario. Consider that even if something really bad happens, you’ll gain something from it, and if something really bad doesn’t happen, well, what a pleasant surprise! Even better than if you had been expecting it! Booya!

At the end of the day, you can’t control what happens, but you can control your attitude toward what happens. I believe, and so did Epictetus, Zeno, Cicero, and all the other Stoic all-stars, that a happy life is preferable over a life spent worrying about the bad things that could happen. So why not have one?

How do you assure yourself a happy life? Any philosophical outlooks or tricks that work particularly well for you? Share them in the comment section below!

15 comments

  1. Are the sketches at the beginning of each post new work? I like the style!

    After reading this, I started thinking about all the hardships I experienced as a seasoned hiker/mountaineer. Knowing that I can sustain energy during an 18-hour adventure race, for instance, gives me the strength to get through the trivial issues of everyday life.

    I’ve never read any Stoicism philosophy, but it seems like something that would be interesting. As for cold showers…ehhh?

  2. Are the sketches at the beginning of each post new work? I like the style!

    After reading this, I started thinking about all the hardships I experienced as a seasoned hiker/mountaineer. Knowing that I can sustain energy during an 18-hour adventure race, for instance, gives me the strength to get through the trivial issues of everyday life.

    I’ve never read any Stoicism philosophy, but it seems like something that would be interesting. As for cold showers…ehhh?

  3. Hey @Alan-

    The sketches on all of my posts are mine, though the ones I’m using right now are from an old catalog of images I created for a project a year or so ago called Circadian 3 (where I created a sketch, a photograph and a piece of short writing every day for a year). That site is now defunct, so I thought I would make use of the illustrations…recycle them, if you will. I’m glad you like them!

    I’m sure something like adventure racing would prepare you to take on a lot of life’s day-to-day things, not to mention some of the larger ones!

    I think most people (especially those who are lifestyle design / self-improvement enthusiasts) could get into aspects of Stoicism pretty quickly…it offers a lot of insight into dealing with life without breaking down and achieving happiness without having to stab anyone in the back. Browse around and see what you find and let me know what you think!

    Thanks for the comment!

    I

  4. Hey @Alan-

    The sketches on all of my posts are mine, though the ones I’m using right now are from an old catalog of images I created for a project a year or so ago called Circadian 3 (where I created a sketch, a photograph and a piece of short writing every day for a year). That site is now defunct, so I thought I would make use of the illustrations…recycle them, if you will. I’m glad you like them!

    I’m sure something like adventure racing would prepare you to take on a lot of life’s day-to-day things, not to mention some of the larger ones!

    I think most people (especially those who are lifestyle design / self-improvement enthusiasts) could get into aspects of Stoicism pretty quickly…it offers a lot of insight into dealing with life without breaking down and achieving happiness without having to stab anyone in the back. Browse around and see what you find and let me know what you think!

    Thanks for the comment!

    I

  5. It’s a good reminder to selectively raise your frustration tolerance and it’s not what happens to you, but what you make of it. Might as well make the most of it.

    When I end up in the worst scenarios, I try to find my best play from a bunch of options, and then, even if it still sucks, I find solace in the fact I made my best play.

    Even if there was nothing new, sometimes I hear an old song a new way, or a new version that improves it, or sometimes it’s great just to hear an old, familiar song. I think life is a mash up of old and new, and since life’s not static, even the old need help fitting into the evolving landscape.

  6. It’s a good reminder to selectively raise your frustration tolerance and it’s not what happens to you, but what you make of it. Might as well make the most of it.

    When I end up in the worst scenarios, I try to find my best play from a bunch of options, and then, even if it still sucks, I find solace in the fact I made my best play.

    Even if there was nothing new, sometimes I hear an old song a new way, or a new version that improves it, or sometimes it’s great just to hear an old, familiar song. I think life is a mash up of old and new, and since life’s not static, even the old need help fitting into the evolving landscape.

  7. @J.D.: Very good points. I find, too, that if I really put my best foot forward and through everything into something but STILL fail, then I can take comfort in the exhaustion and what I’ve learned, two things that will allow me to do it better next time (and as many times as necessary until I succeed)!

  8. @J.D.: Very good points. I find, too, that if I really put my best foot forward and through everything into something but STILL fail, then I can take comfort in the exhaustion and what I’ve learned, two things that will allow me to do it better next time (and as many times as necessary until I succeed)!

  9. As so ofetn, you are so right! As a child, my family were very poor (post war years) when you have known real hunger, food becomes a daily joy, and the privilege of new shoes when you’ve walked in shoes with cardboard insoles in the snow is quite aphrodisiac!

    If you’re looking back to old philosophies re-awakened, you might find ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran interesting, poetic common sense! I especially love what he says about freedom ;o)

  10. As so ofetn, you are so right! As a child, my family were very poor (post war years) when you have known real hunger, food becomes a daily joy, and the privilege of new shoes when you’ve walked in shoes with cardboard insoles in the snow is quite aphrodisiac!

    If you’re looking back to old philosophies re-awakened, you might find ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran interesting, poetic common sense! I especially love what he says about freedom ;o)

  11. As I prepare to break free into a life of locational independence later this month, starting with a bicycle ride from Boulder to Nelson, British Columbia, people keep reminding me how hard it’s going to be and that it’s up hill! I embrace it, even if it take some getting used to. I’ve been training in the gym working out with weights and doing hour long jogs and this post reminds me of the weight lifting principle: You break the muscles down and a week later it comes back stronger. That same last set on the bench press that almost sank you a week before somehow feels lighter! Hardship has produced strength. Thanks Colin!

  12. As I prepare to break free into a life of locational independence later this month, starting with a bicycle ride from Boulder to Nelson, British Columbia, people keep reminding me how hard it’s going to be and that it’s up hill! I embrace it, even if it take some getting used to. I’ve been training in the gym working out with weights and doing hour long jogs and this post reminds me of the weight lifting principle: You break the muscles down and a week later it comes back stronger. That same last set on the bench press that almost sank you a week before somehow feels lighter! Hardship has produced strength. Thanks Colin!

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  15. Make that big white whale the first thing you do when you get to work. Whether or not you can get it done, or even moving, is irrelevant.

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