You Don’t Get Unlimited Lives

If there is one sublimated fantasy that video games fulfill it’s the ability to start over. You are doing poorly so you crash your car and start back at the beginning. Or your character is shot to pieces, but you have extra lives so you regenerate and are airdropped back into the “world” with full health. Or if all that fails, you can just hit pause and then reset the game.

It’s a tempting fantasy: that we can do whatever we want, make a big mistake, and then, boom, teleport back to life just as it was. That we have unlimited chances, unlimited days, unlimited life to make ourselves into the people we want to be. How many people live their lives as if they were in a video game? As if they had endless time or endless chances? As if they could hit the reset button or spectacularly fail but fix it by inserting a few more quarters.

Dangerous nonsense. Remember Marcus Aurelius’s line: “There is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself, it will be gone and never return.”

Life is not a video game. You don’t have unlimited lives. You have one. You are mortal. You cannot start over at the beginning. Get that through your head.

The only thing you can do—if you have been playing poorly, or damaged yourself terribly—is this: Start living better right now. You can’t start over, but you can go in a better direction.

But will you? Or are you going to crash into that wall again on purpose?

P.S. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.