Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker’s regular dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and a guide to using its waters to reflect on and improve your life.
Today’s selection comes from Socrates, by way of the stoic philosopher Epictetus. In Epictetus’s Discourses (3.5), he shares a timeless quote about the importance of self-improvement:
“But what does Socrates say? ‘Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.'”
What It Means
This one is pretty straightforward, but that’s what makes it so great. Socrates is saying that while others enjoy improving the things they own every day, he enjoys improving himself. It’s worth pointing out that he’s not saying that it’s “important” to improve oneself — that’s obvious — but that he takes “delight” in the process.
What to Take From It
The truth is, we like to improve things. It’s in our nature. But what we prioritise and choose to spend our time improving is often skewed. People invest a great amount of time, energy, and resources into improving their home, car, property, or business.
And while there’s no doubt that a nice home, decent car, and successful career can certainly make life more comfortable, it’s still important to give yourself the time, energy, and resources needed to grow into who you want to be.
Then there are the false improvements we should be wary of. Many of us choose to improve things that aren’t real — they’re virtual. Think of the hours people have spent levelling up imaginary characters, tending to make-believe farms, or organising the perfect fantasy team.
There’s room for those things in moderation, of course, and there’s nothing wrong with a little fun, but we sometimes allow them to take precedence in our lives. The more time we’re making false improvements, the less time we have to make real ones.
To find the joy in self-improvement, you have to put it in the forefront of your mind. What I suggest is, each day, before you do anything else, take a little time to craft a brief daily self-improvement plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated:
- Pick a time to exercise.
- Think about your meals in relation to your diet.
- Schedule some fun time with friends or alone.
- Squeeze in an opportunity to learn something.
- Ensure you’re getting plenty of rest.
Do that and you’ll soon find the same “delight in attending to your own improvement,” as Socrates put it. You’ll want to improve yourself first, then focus on the rest later.
Friends, take care of your health, maintain solid relationships, quench your thirst for knowledge, and never stop trying to level yourself up. One day, you’ll be out of time, and when that day comes you’ll regret what you didn’t accomplish, not the mistakes you made.
You might as well make you as great as you can be. After all, your body and mind are the two things you’re guaranteed to be stuck with.