It’s easy to get busy and get pulled off course by life. The emails come in and you get distracted. You’re in the middle of a big, long project and other parts of your routine suffer. The mood and the actions of the crowd can seduce and tempt us—we are all influenced by the tempo of our times.
So it’s key then, if you want to be good and do good, that you have a kind of North Star in your life that keeps you centered. A role model who draws you back on course when the events of life or the drift of inertia subtly misdirect you.
As Seneca wrote to a friend who’d asked for advice:
Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won’t make crooked straight.
Who is your North Star? Who is the ruler you measure yourself against?
This is an urgent question that must be answered. And when you have a name, the next question is how are you reminding yourself of their example, how are you keeping their memory and inspiration alive to you on a constant basis? Because it should be something—a tattoo, a photo, a statue displayed on your desk. Whatever.
You must always be pointing them out to yourself, as Seneca said. You must always be asking yourself how they would behave, what they would expect of you. You must strive and struggle to live up to their standard.
It won’t be easy, but it’s better and safer than drifting. The stakes are too high to wing it.