“Those obsessed with glory attach their well-being to the regard of others, those who love pleasure tie it to feelings, but the one with true understanding seeks it only in their own actions… Think on the character of the people one wishes to please, the possessions one means to gain, and the tactics one employs to such ends. How quickly time erases such things, and how many has it wiped away already.”MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6:51, 59
So many people tie their happiness to things that are well beyond their control. They “attach their well-being” to the approval of others, which is fickle by nature. Or they attach it to external events, which can’t be guaranteed nor even predicted with any reliability. And they cling to these opinions and events with desperation, hoping that they shake out in the way they’d like, and which they think will make them happy.
It’s a road that almost always ends in frustration and sadness. It’s because happiness, like all good things, comes from within of course. It comes from your own actions, not from external events that you have no control over. You set the terms for your own personal contentment, and only you pull the strings that will bring you there (or not). This is what The Daily Stoic book teaches us in today’s entry.
Realizing that you have to reach out and get the good things in life from yourself will strip away the illusions that so many unfortunately carry throughout their entire lives. Don’t seek the favor of people who are never going to provide it. Don’t wait for the dominoes all to fall in a very specific sequence — how can you ensure that? You can’t.
The only way to ensure your happiness is to realize it comes from your actions. It comes from your choices and what you choose to focus on, to work on. Pleasure comes from virtue, not external events. The good news is that it is within your control. Now take that wisdom and run with it.