Just start with being good

“your purpose is to be a good human being” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.5

We’ve all got a lot going on and it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important.

It’s easy to get caught up in politics, in deadlines, in family spats and forget that everything should start from a single point: be a good person.

If we don’t start there, the rest just doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter what else you’re contributing if you’re an arsehole while doing it. You’re netting out any benefit by being a dick – and the world has quite enough dicks at the moment.

Start with being good – not just as a guide, but as your primary purpose.

Make it your mission, your raison d’être.

Because if we don’t intentionally work at being good – we won’t be.

If we don’t put it at the centre of what we do, then good will fall by the wayside.

We’ll focus on being right, or fast, or cheap, or done.

They might be important, but they’re not fundamental.

They’re not good.

Good is too important to be a tertiary concern.

Good should be our first principle.

If you want full power to the engines: drop your shields

space-ship-shields

When we’re being sincere and authentic, we’ve got access to all our most powerful functions.

Authenticity allows our truest feelings and intentions to come to the front and have the benefit of our full focus and attention.

But this focus and power comes at the expense of our defences.

When we’re authentic and sincere, our shields are down. We’ve put all our energy into the engines and we’re not draining our batteries by powering defensive systems concerned with worrying about what others will think.

We can certainly feel exposed when we do this, but it comes with 2 massive upsides:

  1. We get the primary benefit of the authentic action. Authenticity springs from purpose, so when we’re being authentic and sincere, we’re fulfilling a purpose. And there is huge value in this.
  2. The more we operate in this mode, the more we realise just how unnecessary the shields are in the first place. The more authentic we are, the more we see that nothing that our shields appear to stop, can actually harm us anyway.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“We do not recognize any injury that does not harm virtue. If I deserve these names there is no insult, it is justice; if I don’t deserve them, it is he who does the injustice that deserves to blush. Where is the insult? That I am bald or have weak eyes or thin legs? Can it be an insult to be told what is evident?”

– Seneca

Both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca illustrate how much of the injury we experience comes from our “sense” of being hurt. That we can only be harmed by others when we chose to feel harmed – when we acknowledge that they have done us harm.

So turn your your shields off and power your engines up.

Don’t worry about what the others think, they won’t be able to catch you anyway.

How to hack waking up

Have trouble waking up when you want? Yeah, me too.

When I set the alarm, my brain is like Mr Spock – full of logic, reasoning and good intentions. I’ll get up early because it makes sense and will be good in the long run.

When the alarm goes off, I’m in Homer Simpson mode and I become a lazy, snooze-button-hitting, hedonist.

In a situation like this, it’s good to have a few tools to hand. At the very least, I like to have a carrot and a stick.

My carrot is a great little trick which I embarrassingly can’t cite (if you know where is comes from, ping me and I’ll update the post), but which is amazingly effective.

“You can’t make any decisions whilst lying down”.

That’s it.

It sounds nuts, but it really works. Want to sleep in? Sure thing, but in order to make that decision, you have to get out of bed and stand up first.

Once you’re actually out of bed, you can generate a little more momentum (make a coffee, wash your face) and then staying up is easier, no matter what the time.

It’s a nice little hack which acknowledges that you’re not likely to be in the best decision making mode when horizontal.

If that doesn’t work (and it does 90% of the time) then, I tend to deploy the stick of shame.

For waking up, it comes in the form of this quote from Marcus Aurelius who, when he wrote it, was probably the most powerful man in the world. It’s from the Gregory Hay’s translation of Meditations and was probably written by Marcus Aurelius, in his tent while on military campaign.

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’

If the leader of the world can get himself out of bed to fight Goths in a cold, wet, field – then surely I can get up to make coffee.

If that 2000 year-old stick doesn’t work, then you can always got to Defcon 1 and set a super-loud, back-up alarm that will wake up your partner, and place it in the next room. But then you’re risking all manner of hell and not being able to wake up is going to be the least of your issues.