If you’ve already signed up for our email series you know the importance of a morning ritual. Whether it is journaling or meditating or asking yourself difficult questions, having a morning ritual prepares you for the day. It allows you to begin and face what’s in front of you with a clear head and ready to act with a sense of purpose and direction.
This introspective work in the morning is crucial and we strongly encourage you to make the time. Yet it is understandable that not every morning we can do this work—we are busy and life can get in the way. We all have obligations. But even then, we can always take a second to look at a reminder, a short quote from the Stoics to reorient us and give us the right perspective no matter how busy things get.
Here are three reminders that you can incorporate in your mornings that will help you live with presence, prompt you to live by the standards you set for yourself and to help you see things more objectively throughout the day.
Live in the present moment. That is, don’t obsess over what has happened in the past or lose yourself in visions of the future. Focus on what is right here, right in front of you, today. Make the most of it, and enjoy yourself.
As Marcus Aurelius reminded himself:
“Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand.”
What matters right now is right now. What is your mission today? What tasks will help you move in the right direction? Catch yourself during the day when your mind drifts. Stick with the present moment.
Remind yourself of the person you have chosen as a role model. 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.”
So, who is it for you? Mentally list for yourself the standards you want to live by and work to make sure that is the case today.
Practice your “contemptuous expressions.” Contempt seems like a weird emotion to start your day with. But we give you Marcus Aurelius who once wrote:
“Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig. Perceptions like that—latching onto things and piercing through them, so we see what they really are. That’s what we need to do all the time.”
Don’t get distracted during the day by the trappings our society puts on things. Expensive food is still dead plants and animals. Fancy clothes are made in sweatshops by children. Rich people still go to the bathroom like everyone else. Strip things, as Marcus Aurelius also wrote, of the legend that encrusts them.
Go through your day with objectivity and see things as they are.
As a final parting thought, remember that we choose whether the day will be a good or a bad one. We choose whether everything is good or bad. As Seneca said, “a good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.”
Think of that quote in the morning because this is the attitude for success and optimism in all situations that you need to carry with you throughout the day. By controlling our perceptions, we create a reality in which every situation, no matter what it is, provides us with a positive, exposed benefit we can act on, if only we look for it.
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