I believe in self-help; in accepting responsibility for our ongoing personal development. As human beings with endless potential, we should never stop learning and growing, and becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be. The humanist psychologists, such as Abraham Maslow, espoused the process of self-actualization, or directing the progression of our lives toward realizing our fullest talents and potential. Let me start here.
People make New Year’s Resolutions often because they feel they have f*#cked up and disappointed themselves in some way during the previous year. But consider that each year as a classroom of your life, with several lessons that you aced, and a number of lessons that you-I-we all—need to put more effort into until we get them right. And we do have the ability to get them right. We need only look back to our past “successes”, to the times when we felt proud of an accomplishment we achieved, for the gratitude we received for having helped someone, or for having survived a most difficult, even traumatic challenge that life hurled at us.
This year, regardless of whether you plotted out specific New Year’s resolutions, I want you to now plot out your past personal triumphs. Doing this invites what Albert Bandura called self-efficacy or a belief in your ability to succeed in the tasks you now wish to accomplish. Read through your list of personal triumphs often and let them inspire you, and give you the confidence and motivation to achieve the goals that are rooted in your personal values and priorities.
Beyond that, I would like to share what I often turn to for additional inspiration—the ancient wisdom of the ages. Ancient Roman and Ancient Greek philosophies produced two major perspectives; both of which have important implications for contemporary living and can be useful for us to be aware of. Epicurean philosophy espouses the value of focusing on everyday pleasures in order to live tranquilly; and Stoicism embraces living in harmony with reality.
Both of these perspectives make sense. When we are feeling bad about something, often just switching our focus onto what makes us happy, can turn our mood around and give us joy. But on the same token, realizing that we cannot control or deny certain things that bring us pain, it is important to recognize the value in facing life’s battles with courage and resilience. We must make changes where we can (either to a situation or to our reaction to that situation), and also, whenever we can, refocus our energy on the daily gifts that each day bestows on us. Simple moments of potential happiness often go unnoticed.
Now to what I promised: Here are a few pearls of ancient wisdom that inspire me, with hopes that sharing them might also be useful for you.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, Dear Friends. May you have a most amazing 2023!
The Wisdom of Marcus Aurelius (From Meditations)
- Every moment think steadily as a Roman(…)do what thou hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity and feeling of affection and freedom and justice and to give thyself relief from all other thoughts.
- Take away thy opinion and then there is taken away the complaining, for example: Take away the complaint “I have been harmed,” and the harm is taken away.
The Wisdom of Marcus Tullius Cicero (On How to Grow Old)
- Old age, far from being feeble and sluggish, can be very active, always doing and engaged in something..
- Never stop learning
The Wisdom of Horace (How to Be Content)
- Strive for “ataraxia”(freedom from disturbance), for example escaping daily pressures of a busy life by experiencing the tranquility of nature
- “Life’s small sum forbids us to start up long hopes”. Don’t ignore the gifts inherent in today.
The Wisdom of Seneca (Life is Long if You Know How to Use It)
- The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.
- Every individual can make himself happy
The Wisdom of Leonardo (The Notebooks)
- Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without a rudder or compass..)
- Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve.
©Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D. 2023