In this publication I translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In Letter 16, he discussed the importance of regular contemplation. Then acting on what these reveal.
“One of the saddest things in life, is the things one remembers.” ― Agatha Christie
It’s important to have a lifelong passion for improving yourself. Contemplation each day on your actions and behaviours, while important, is not as critical as actually making positive changes. Do this daily until it becomes a habit. Make sure that this contemplation drives improvements. It’s not just something to keep you occupied or amused.
Benefits of Contemplation
Contemplation helps you to receive the following benefits:
Contemplation on the things, you did right, on your successes, which allows you to celebrate every little success. It allows you to realise how much you’ve done right, the good things you’ve done in your life. Without contemplation, it’s too easy to forget these things, and focus instead on our failures.
It gives you perspective
Often, we are caught up in the troubles or busyness of our daily lives. A mistake or a high-pressure project or something like that can seem like it means all the world. It can overwhelm us sometimes. But if we take a minute to step back, and spend time on contemplation on these problems, and how in the grand scheme of things they don’t mean all that much, it can calm us down and lower our stress levels. We gain perspective, and that’s a good thing.
Contemplation on the present
Now that you’ve spent time on contemplation on the past, realise that the past is over. It isn’t happening anymore, except in your mind. And that causes problems — unhappiness and stress. Instead, bring your focus back to the present moment. What are you doing now? What joy can you find in what is happening right now? Find the joy in life now, as it happens, and stop reliving the past. You will inevitably start thinking about the past, but just acknowledge that, and gently bring yourself back to the present moment.
Our sense of self-worth
From whether we take care of ourselves with good habits to how we are in relationships to how much confidence we have at work. Contemplation of your biggest difficulties (other than problems at a national or global level) … how many of them could be resolved if you had an unshakable confidence in your self-worth? If you felt whole, complete, and incredibly worthy?
This all comes from contemplation of our self-worth.
But we are taught from an early age to get our sense of self-worth externally:
- Praise or validation from others
- Likes and comments to validate us on social media
- Accomplishments, awards, rewards
- Success, wealth, a nice house, pleasant things
- Nice clothes, things that make us feel attractive or cool
- People wanting to spend time with us, showing an interest in us
- And so on. The problem with this kind of external validation of our worth is that it is fleeting. Sometimes we’ll get it and feel good about ourselves, and many times we won’t get it and will feel discouraged, rejected, miserable. And then we’ll seek more of the external validation because that’s what we know to do when we need to feel better about ourselves.
So … what can we do? We can seek to find our self-worth from within.
Contemplation and Control
Now you may say, why should I bother to do this. If I can’t control the way events in the universe unfold? Remember that you have a choice — you can control your own judgements. Even if you don’t believe this, what is true is that the striving for personal excellence is worthwhile and helps you to get through life.
In signing off I’ll leave you with this thought. If you are content with what you’ve got, as opposed to what think you should have, then you’ll never be unhappy. Not only that but appreciate that if you strive for riches then once you’ve got them then you’ll only want more. It’s a never-ending cycle. It’s a little like setting off to travel somewhere, without a specific destination in mind. You’ll never actually reach where you’re going. You’ll keep on going forever which is a guarantee for frustration and unhappiness.