The Secret Power of Reflection – Letter 22



In this publication I translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In Letter 22, he discusses reflection. Why nothing is more important than using reflection and planning. While remaining flexible and being able to set events into context.

Reflection and planning


To doubt everything, or, to believe everything, are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection. Henri Poincare

You understand by now that it’s important to spend time reflecting on your purpose in life, your values, and what matters. From this reflection should come plans.

Reflection also helps you learn from your mistakes. If we don’t reflect on our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them.

It gives you great ideas: reflect on things that I’m doing or that are going on in life. It makes you happier. If you reflect on the things you did right, on your successes, that allows you to celebrate every little success.

It allows you to realize how much you’ve done right, the good things you’ve done in your life. Without reflection, it’s too easy to forget these things, and focus instead on our failures.

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is no intent on arriving. ~Lao Tzu

The importance of perspective

Reflection 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 reflect 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.

So, reflection is critical. But beware: don’t make these plans too fixed.

We think we can do so much each day, and so we over plan. People fill our plans with so much, confident we can do it all, ignoring the evidence of the past when most plans didn’t get done and most things didn’t get crossed off as hoped.

We believe that, sure, we might have failed to meet our expectations in the past, but this time will be different! This time, we will do better. This time, we will be disciplined and productive and get more done.

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. Thomas Paine

Nothing but dynamic planning

Plans need to be dynamic enough to flex and respond to changing situations and day-to-day events. Reflection allows you to look at how things are unfolding, avoid emotional reactions, and take stock on how you can best react. To do this demands that you are present and mindful. Mindfulness also helps to address the fact there isn’t a prescribed way of living. Each day unfolds differently. You won’t find predetermined recipes about what you should to do in all circumstances.

Also, don’t do too much reflection, you’ll have to take decisive and appropriate action at some point, even if you have a slim chance of success. Tenacity in the face of adversity is what causes a person to grow in character. This demands that you should take responsibility for your chosen course of action. Don’t blame others, you have it in your own power to change direction. In other words, you’re in the driving seat of your own life and not someone else.

A desired way of living

Try to ease yourself into this desired way of living. But if you don’t think this is possible then go for an all or nothing approach. It’ll be better to give it your all then do something in half-hearted way. Even if nothing comes of it.

Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people. Albert Einstein

I’ve also got some comments about your career. Taking a break from your job is only possible if you decide that it doesn’t offer you attractive rewards. People tend to love what employment brings them, but not the job itself. You must question your underlying motives here. In a way you’ve enslaved yourself, even though choosing your employer was a voluntary choice.

To escape, you must decide that you don’t need these trappings; that you need nothing really. Once you’re clear in your own mind about this then you’ll be able to move on from this self-imposed bondage.

Signing off

In signing off I’ll leave you with a thought. You should leave life, as you entered it. You never had any cares when you were born, nor should you when you die. Don’t have any fear of death. Of course, we have an in-built fear of dying and want to live as long as possible but it’s not so much how long you live but how well you live.

If you live life which is true to your values, then it won’t matter that you haven’t achieved everything you wanted to. If you have upheld your moral and ethical principles, then your life will be an echo of your values. I ask you, what more can you do? Probably nothing. You’ve lived a life which is true to yourself. And remember, you will soon be at peace.

Take care.

%d bloggers like this: