Skip to main content

Ian O'Byrne

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. - Viktor E. Frankl In issue of my newsletter. Subscribe at http://wiobyrne.com/tldr/ #life

#117

Ian O'Byrne

You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm. - Sam Harris In issue of the TL;DR Newsletter. Subscribe at http://wiobyrne.com/tldr/ #power

#116

Ian O'Byrne

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. - Kofi Annan

Ian O'Byrne

How to have a good life and be happy

2 min read

On the fourth day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to clarify our selection of vritues in our life and actions. The handbook and daily prompts are available here.

Today's reflection comes from Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 3.6:

If you find anything in human life better than justice, truthfulness, self-control, courage... turn to it with all your heart and enjoy the supreme good that you have found...but if you find all other things to be trivial and value less in comparison with virtue give no room to anything else, since once you turn towards that and divert from your proper path, you will no longer be able without inner conflict to give the highest honour to that which is properly good. It is not right to set up as a rival to the rational and social good [virtue] anything alien its nature, such as the praise of the many or positions of power, wealth or enjoyment of pleasures.

In this he is suggesting that philosophy, or the love of wisdom, primarily centers on the core virtues of wisdom, justice, moderation, and courage. We should value these virtues in our own behaviors and those of others. 

We only need to focus on these aspects to have a good life, and experience genuine fulfillment. In short, to have a good life, be a good person.

You might ask yourself about the other things we use to measure how good and happy we are. What about health, family, personal wealth, and property? Surely the new phone, or a shiny car will improve my quality of life.

The stoics believe that the four virtues are a complimentary set that allow us to live well, deal with others, manage emotions and desires. These four virtues are:

  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Justice
  • Temperance

These four virtues are an ideal and something we should strive for each day. If you have focus on these four in your interactions throughout the day, and your life, everything else will work itself out. 

 

Image Credit

Ian O'Byrne

Examining your impressions

2 min read

On the third day of Stoic Week 2016, we were asked to develop a stoic approach by self-monitoring and focusing on mindfulness throughout the day. The handbook and daily prompts are available here.

The reflection of the day is from Epictetus, Handbook, 1.5:

Practise, then, from the very beginning to say to every rough impression, ‘You’re an impression and not at all what you appear to be.’ Then examine it and test it by the standards that you have, and first and foremost by this one, whether the impression relates to those things which are within our power or those which aren’t up to us; and if it relates to those things which aren’t within our power, be ready to reply, ‘That’s nothing to me’.

In this Epictetus is suggesting that we train ourselves to avoid being carried away in our own thoughts and feelings. Once again, we see this sentiment that something is "nothing to me."

To achieve this balance and avoid errors in our judgement, it is suggested that we "examine our imporessions." That is to say that we should examine and problematize our impressions, or thoughts, feelings, and sensations. In short, routinely problematize your perceptions about the world and your place in it.

To make this happen, it may help to employ some aspect of "cognitive distancing." In this psychological strategy you need to step back from your own reality, and examine your life and world from a distance.

We see this at times from great athletes or military figures that indicate that they can mentally step back from the field and see all of the pawns on the board and how they intersect. I believe this mental strategy may come with time, experience, and self-efficacy.

In this we have an opportunity to challenge negative patterns of thinking and the socially constructed narratives that we set for ourselves. By examining our impressions, we can regularly interrogate our own thinking and perspectives to ensure that we're experiencing reality.

 

Image Credits

Ian O'Byrne

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. - Muhammad Ali

Ian O'Byrne

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. - Aristotle

2 min read

In our lives, the number one priority should be the expansion of our own self awareness. We need to become aware, accept, and in some cases adjust the truth about our selves and our world.

To examine this narrative and build self-confidence, we have the possibility of reversing that narrative and speak from expertise as the person we would like to believe that we are. We are who we think that we are.

We can achieve this through the following:

  • Cease automatically and arbitrarily defending your own viewpoints as being binary (i.e., right/wrong, or black/white). This relentless attack/defense stops us from receiving new ideas.
  • Problematize and reassess your concepts, values, belief systems, assumptions, defenses, goals, hopes, and truths.
  • Understand, evaluate, and revise your real needs and motivations.
  • Learn to trust your intution. 
  • Observe your mistakes and try to correct them. we learn more about ourselves through this process.
  • Love yourself and others.
  • Listen without prejudice and evaluation. Train yourself to listen to WHAT someone is saying without auditing their expressions.
  • Recognize what you are defending most of the time.
  • Understanding that the end result and your unlocked awareness will provide the means and motivation needed to enact further change in your life.

Ian O'Byrne

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival. - Aristotle

2 min read

In consideration of our present levels of awareness, we often have difficulty idenifying and becoming aware of these perspectives. Furthermore, it serves as an impediment and blocks us from making advancements in our own lives.

There are several reasons why we find this to be difficult.

  • What we picture or imagine about the world is based on our beliefs and perceptions about truth. This version of truth may be faulty or distorted, but our minds control our actions and reactions informed by this perception of truth.
  • It is easier to give reasons for not changing, or vouch for what it is not possible to change, as opposed to making the change. Making the change is harder than simply making excuses.
  • In our daily interactions and decisions, we seek out experiences that support our values systems and perceptions of truth. We ignore, reject, or forcibly avoid beliefs, perceptions, or behaviors that are inconsistent with our narratives of the world.
  • We have built and programmed our minds and bodily systems to respond on ways that react and reify to the truth and perspectives we've developed. We have conditioned ourselves to feel, act, and react to the narratives that we've established for ourselves.

Through conditioning of our mind and body, and as informed by sociocultural perspectives, we've created these narratives that we cannot break out of. Many of us cannot recognize or identify the narrative in the first place. For those of us that do recognize the narrative and try to problematize it, this process seems unhealthy and harmful to our very being.