Mid-Week Meditations: Ancient Philosophy for a Modern World

When It Comes to Focus, Use It or Lose It

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. This week’s selection comes from Epictetus and his Discourses. In book four, chapter 12, he tells us that our attention is something easily lost if we’re not careful: “When you have remitted your attention for a short time, do not imagine this, that you will recover it when you choose; but let this thought be present to you, that

Great Success Comes at a High Cost

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. This week’s selection comes from Lucius Annaeus Seneca in his enlightening essay On the Shortness of Life. He suggests you be wary of unchecked ambition and the endless pursuit of success: “So, when you see a man repeatedly taking up the robe of office, or a name well known in public, don’t envy him: those trappings are bought at th

You Only Need to Focus on the Present

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. This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations. He recommends you focus not on the past or future, but the present alone: “Do not let the panorama of your life oppress you, do not dwell on all the various troubles which may have occurred in the past or may occur in the future. Just ask yourself in each instance

If You Want Love, Give Love

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. This week’s selection comes from the early stoic Hecato of Rhodes. Very little is known of his life, but he was oft quoted by others, like in this excerpt from Seneca’s Moral Letters to Lucilius (IX): If you ask how one can make oneself a friend quickly, I will tell you, provided we are agreed that I may pay my debt at once and square

Don't Pray for Outcomes, Ask for Strength

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. This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius. In Meditations, 9.40, he suggests we stop praying for the things we want to happen, and work our problems from a different angle: Try praying differently, and see what happens: Instead of asking for ‘a way to sleep with her,’ try asking for ‘a way to stop desiring to sleep with her.’

Stop Studying for the Test

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. This week’s selection comes from Seneca. In his Moral Letters (88.7), he describes the real lessons to be learned from Homer’s The Odyssey: Do you raise the question, “Through what regions did Ulysses stray?” instead of trying to prevent ourselves from going astray at all times? We have no leisure to hear lectures on the question wh

You Can't Take Back What You've Already Said

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. This week’s selection comes from Zeno of Citium, as quoted by Diogenes Laertius. He reminds us that words can’t be unsaid: If you trip with your feet, you can get back up again and carry on business as usual. We all make mistakes like this sometimes. It might be embarrassing, but only if you care greatly about the opinions of others

Walk a Mile in Your Wrongdoer's Shoes

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. This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius. He asks that you shift your perspective before getting angry with others’ actions: “Whenever someone has done wrong by you, immediately consider what notion of good or evil they had in doing it. For when you see that, you’ll feel compassion, instead of astonishment or rage. For you m

Don't Get Stuck in the Cookie Jar

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. This week’s selection comes from Epictetus. He has a lesson for those who seem to “want it all”: People want so much that they often don’t end up getting anything at all, then they spend their lives complaining about it. If they’d only let go of a few wants, they’d be able to focus and have something they truly care about. Basically

When You're Sick, Bravery Is the Best Medicine

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. This week’s selection comes from Seneca. I was very sick yesterday, so I decided to find some stoic wisdom on enduring illness. Here are Seneca’s thoughts: I should prefer to be free from torture; but if the time comes when it must be endured, I shall desire that I may conduct myself therein with bravery, honour, and courage. Of cou

Opinions Are Optional

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. This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius’s personal notes. He highlights an important truth about the nature of opinions: You do not need to have an opinion on anything. Divisive issues that are out of your control will continue to exist whether you support them or tear them down, discuss them or hide them, love them or hate

Don't Believe Everything You See

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. This week’s selection comes from Diogenes Laërtius, a biographer of the great Greek philosophers. He references a quote from Heraclitus about how we can’t always trust our own senses: We all suffer from the brain’s ability to trick us into believing things that aren’t true. Our own eyesight, the sense that guides us as we move about

Protect Your Mind as Much as You Protect Your Body

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. This week’s selection comes from Epictetus in Enchiridion (28). He asks why we don’t value our mind’s protection the same as our body’s: This question that Epictetus asks is in the form of a mini thought experiment. If you were walking along and somebody took your body and did whatever they liked with it, you’d be angry, right? So y

Change Isn't Good or Bad, It Just Is

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. This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, 4.42. He comments on the true nature of change: Change, in any of its forms, is not a good thing or a bad thing. It just is. Your opinions and how you react to change is where those labels come in. Abandon those notions. There’s no need to fear change, and there’s no re

Break Bad Habits With a Counter-Intuitive Approach

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. This week’s selection comes from Epictetus in his Discourses. He suggests breaking habits sometimes requires adverse actions: If you want to break a bad habit, try doing something new or develop a new good habit that contradicts your bad habit. Or better yet, try an approach that is the opposite of what you’d normally do. My favorit

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. 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 e

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. This week’s selection comes from Epictetus and his Discourses. In book three, chapter 23, he suggests that ethical improvement is not a cake walk—and it’s not supposed to be: Ethical philosophy is not meant to be fun. The study and application of virtuous thought stings. You’re being confronted with concepts that may radically oppos

Train Your Mind for Constructive Thinking

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. This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations book five, section 16. He encourages the practice of thinking good, positive thoughts regularly: Your mind will take on the aspect of the thoughts you have on a regular basis. Your soul, your consciousness, the “you” inside of your vessel, is shaped by those thoughts. So

You Can Always Do Something to Improve Your Circumstances

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. This week’s selection comes from Seneca’s On the Tranquility of the Mind. In chapter 10, he suggests that you can find a way to improve any situation with the power of reason and clever thinking: No situation is so bad that a smart, level-headed person can’t find a way to make the best of it. For example, even the smallest of spaces

You Should Do the Right Thing Because It's the Right Thing to Do

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. This week’s selection comes from Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations, book seven. Far along the book, in paragraph 73, he chastises those who want or expect more when they’ve done a good deed: There are only two things that matter when it comes to doing good unto others: you doing the good deed, and another person benefitting from that
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