Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker's weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and a guide to using its waters to reflect on and improve your life.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
This week's selection comes from Zeno, as quoted by Diogenes Laertius. He believes it's the little things in life that matter most:
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, 7.1.26
What It Means
Happiness, or a general state of contentedness, is a lofty goal, and not always an easy one to achieve. It requires you take "small steps" that accumulate over time and gradually shape your character and predicament. There are no shortcuts, tricks or overnight metamorphoses. It's something you develop within yourself throughout your entire life, not something you find in a moment of happenstance, like loose change on a footpath.
What to Take From It
Your pinnacle of contentedness resembles a home made of bricks, and each brick in this structure is a tiny symbol of happiness, a little thing that makes you smile, that makes you feel safe and warm. A brick can be anything - your family, your friends, finishing a task at the office, choosing to stay home instead of going out, a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning, a joke that makes you laugh, the feeling you get when you kick off your shoes after a long day at work, the way the light hits a particular patch of leaves... anything. Some bricks are found through gratitude and appreciation, while others must be earned through work, discipline and passion. Finding your state of perfect well-being requires you collect and build with them all in a style of your choosing.
But do not feel downtrodden as you build. Remember, it takes time to construct your contentedness, which is "truly no small thing". Wake up each day ready to take those "small steps" toward your happiness, and recognise that it will always be a work in progress. Take good actions, no matter how small; make beneficial choices, no matter how simple; and show gratitude for what you have, no matter how basic. In time, the small things will add up to a genuinely great thing.