“You could be good today, but instead you choose tomorrow.”
The times may have changed, but the words of the late Marcus Aurelius still rings true to this day. In a world where everything known to man is accessible at our fingertips, we are still plagued by the human conditions that our ancestors struggled to reconcile.
During last night’s meditations, I came across this quote from Marcus Aurelius along with a paraphrased version:
“You could be happy today, but instead you choose tomorrow.”
These words struck a chord deep within me as I meditated on the events of the day and I came upon a realization.
How often do we tell ourselves, “When I achieve this or that, then I will be happy”? How many nights do we lay our heads on our pillow and think, “Once I attain that raise at work, I will be happy” or “Once I get my weight down to my ideal level, I will be content.”
Do you not see your folly?
What will become of you if you never attain that which you strive for day after day?
What if the rewards you seek are never realized and you live the rest of your days without seeing them come to fruition?
Will you thus never be happy or content?
Will you, by the very criteria you laid out for yourself, lead a life of misery because you do not have that which you wish to own?
“Of course not,” you may say. “I will not wallow in discontentment my entire life simply because I did not get the recognition I wanted or attain my desired level of fitness. It would be silly to darken the rest of the days of my life over such trivial shortcomings.”
To such a response I would agree. However, I must then ask another question…
“Then why are you letting your shortcomings darken today?”
What is your life other than an indeterminable number of “todays” for we do not know when we shall breathe our last and to spend any amount of that time which God has blessed us with on this Earth in self-imposed misery is a tragedy.
Some may scoff at the advice I am offering, claiming I am telling you to abandon any ambitions and live a life of passivity, but that simply is not true. Rather than altering your goals, I encourage you to shift your focus onto the things you can control:
Your attitude and your actions.
Our outlook on life and what we choose to do in response to said outlook are the only two things we have complete control over. Everything else is out of our control so why would we allow such things to determine how we feel about ourselves?
For example, do not tell yourself “I will be happy when I have lost weight and become stronger.” for do you control how your body will respond to exercise and what you eat? Can you will your body to gain more muscle or to lose fat? No. You can only perform the actions that lead to such outcomes. Therefore, take not contentment in the destination, but on the journey itself.
Tell yourself, “I ate a balanced diet today and challenged my body through physical exertion, thus I am content with my efforts. Tomorrow, I shall strive to build upon the successes of today.”
Any reasonable man can see the benefit of approaching their lives in this manner and how their overall contentment will be drastically raised. I encourage you to adopt and practice this principle every day in everything that you do. Performing this, along with meditating on the events of the day before you retire for the night, will most certainly improve your outlook on not only your day, but on your life as a whole.
You can find Jacob on Twitter @TheGentlemanJak