The Only Thing Keeping You From Improving Is You

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.

Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbera

Finding Your Moral Compass Hurts

'.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..'

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This week's selection comes from Roman philosopher Gaius Musonius Rufus. In his ninth lecture, he talks about how not even exile from your homeland can stop you from gaining knowledge:

Furthermore, how should exile be an obstacle to the cultivation of the things that are one's own and to the acquisition of virtue, when no one was ever hindered from the knowledge and practice of what is needful because of exile?

What It Means

How does exile keep you from learning and becoming a better person? It doesn't. No one was ever blocked from doing the work they needed to do because of such challenging scenarios. No difficult situations can or should stop you from self-improvement and getting things done.

What to Take From It

Rufus was exiled three separate times in his life, yet he still studied philosophy and found ways to become more knowledgeable. Being displaced or looked down upon never stopped him from doing what he needed to do. In fact, he discusses how it's ridiculous to even think that such things should affect you:

Therefore, just as a man who was living in his own country but in a different house from the one where he was born would be thought silly and an object of laughter if he should weep and wail because of this, so whoever considers it a misfortune because he is living in another city and not the one where he happens to have been born would rightly be considered foolish and stupid.

To him, being somewhere else, or being in a different situation, doesn't change a thing. It shouldn't for you either.

Remember, it doesn't matter where you are, or what's happened to you. You're still you, with work to be done and aspirations to be fulfilled. You may have new limits forced upon you - your own version of exile - but there's always a way to work within them. So get to it. Exile is no reason to give up and do nothing.


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