A few days ago I discovered an old note-book containing ‘thinks’ from my early 30s. Inside the cover I had clipped a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Epitetus, a former slave whose teachings focus on the path to happiness – through learning to accept one’s fate and letting go of negative ‘judgements’ which can lead to disappointment. Here’s what it read:
Behave in life as you would at a banquet. As something is passed around, it comes to you; stretch out your hand, take a portion of it politely. It passes on; do not detain it. Or it has not come to you yet; do not project your desire to meet it, but wait until it comes in front of you. So act toward children, so towards a wife, so towards office, so towards wealth.
The Enchiridion, By Epitetus (born 50AD)
On re-reading, I realised how pertinent these words were to me….how often do I want some new success right now, yet fail to reflect on how far I’ve come; how often do I fail to appreciate the simple moments of pleasure and contentment, as I’m too busy moving onto some new quest for fulfilment; how often am I too eager to please others and equally, too susceptible to disappointment if my plans fail to come to fruition?
So I’m going to try change my mindset as Epitetus suggests: I shall enjoy positive feedback about my work, whilst being more pragmatic about business endeavours, and embrace the love and friendship that I am lucky to be surrounded with. I will also try to accept the ‘place’ I’m in right now, albeit putting in place stepping-stones towards a new arrangement. For therein lies the key to happiness.