True wisdom comes from giving…

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

Epictetus

This might be one of the best definitions of wisdom I have read in a long time. The wealthiest people I know are those who are satisfied with what they have. These same folks are the ones that always, and continually seek to find ways to serve more, do more, give more. They are indeed the wisest people that I know.

We all have the opportunity to give, serve, and help those that aren’t as blessed as we might be. At the end of my life, I would prefer the measure of my success here on this earth to be in what I have given to others, not gained for myself.  

Think. Plan. Act.

“Who exactly do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? What are your personal ideals? Whom do you admire? What are their special traits that you would make your own? It’s time to stop being vague. If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to become wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become. If you have a daybook, write down who you’re trying to be, so that you can refer to this self-determination. Precisely describe the demeanor you want to adopt so that you may preserve it when you are by yourself or with other people.”

Epictetus

Epictetus lived almost 2,000 years ago, yet this advice is just as relevant today as in the time it was written. In this one paragraph there is an incredible amount of wisdom that can and should be used as a guide for life.

What is intriguing to me is how few people do any type of exercise like this. In my conversations with friends, family and the people I interact with very few have a written plan for their lives. Itis the exception, not the rule, to meet someone who has invested the time and energy into defining their own future and creating the necessary actions to enable their plans.

Getting started can be overwhelming but from where I sit there are three key steps one must take to activate this wisdom in your own life.

First, simply answer the questions. Take the time to write out very specific and detailed answers.

Second, and I’ll bet this is where a significant amount of people fall short, is to create an action plan that enables you to bring the answers you have create to life.

Third, and this is where success or failure is defined, execute your plan. The investment of time and energy into the first two steps is wasted if you don’t do anything with the work.

Now that all sounds easy and simple, yet it is hard work to complete, and complete well. Personally I know I need to revisit my plan and make some changes to ensure that I am on track to become the person God created me to be.

If you want a good book with a great template for a planning exercise I highly recommend “Living Forward” by Dan Harkavy and Michael Hyatt. It can be a life changing experience.

Know thyself…

“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”

Epictetus

Who are you? Do you err to the side of pragmatism or sensationalism? Excitable or calm? Rational or emotional?

External stress can teach us a lot about ourselves, and once you know who you are, you can choose to make changes for the better…

Take great care of your garden…

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.“

Epictetus

Who are the people in your life that make you better? Who are the ones that drive and push you to be better than you would or could on your own? Do you intentionally create and foster these relationships? Do you seek out people that uplift you and prune out of your life those that hold you back?

Life is all about the relationships that we have with other people. We will be a product of the time we spend with them and they will have great influence over our actions and choices.

Think of the relationships you have as a well-designed garden. In order to maximize the beauty one must cultivate and care for the plants with great diligence. This means planting new ones and removing or pruning out the dead or dying plants. Are there certain relationships you need to nurture? How about pruning? Are there any you need to remove all together?

Make the best use…

“Make the best use of what’s in your power and take the rest as it happens.”

Epictetus

In today’s world it is so easy to get focused on what you don’t have, instead of what you do have. We get wrapped up in what we don’t control instead of focusing on what we do influence and control.

“Make the best use of what’s in your power.” How many of us can say that we truly do this? I know that I certainly don’t do it well day in and day out. There are always more gifts that God has given me that I have yet to discover or there are gifts that I have haven’t used to their maximum potential.

Focus on what’s in your power. As for the rest? Reflect on this verse, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬

Where should you focus?

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

Epictetus

It isn’t comfortable not being in control. If we aren’t careful we can drive ourselves crazy worrying about the things we can’t control instead of focusing our efforts and energy on those things that we can. Whenever I lose sight of this I find the following scripture both grounding and uplifting.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:6-9 ESV

At the end of the day I know that whatever it is that I am worrying about is far less impactful than the challenges and persecution faced by so many. When I spend my energy worrying I am putting my effort into things that don’t impact the lives of others and don’t honor my Savior and what he has blessed me with. When I remember to think and reflect on this, everything comes back into focus.

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