“We are like actors. We have been assigned our roles in life without being consulted first. Some of us will act in short dramas, others in a longer one. We might be given the role of a poor person, a disabled person, a celebrity or public leader, or an ordinary person.”
“While we can’t control the role we are given, it must be our business to act our given role as best we can. Wherever you find yourself and in whatever performance, give an impeccable performance.”
“If you are supposed to be a reader, read; if you are supposed to be a writer, write.”
Accepting anything less than our true roles in life creates friction that will continue to build until it turns into a raging fire that threatens to burn down everything you have created in the world. If you don’t believe me, look at suburbia or the corporate work world. You won’t have to look hard to find people who are dealing with the fallout of not looking for their deeper roles in life. The friction in their lives manifest through addictions, obesity, poor relationships, sickness, and early death. Cardiac disease kills more people than anything else. It is as if people are literally dying of broken hearts. Broken hearts brought on by not finding their true roles in the world and the peace and contentment that comes with them.
Unlike Rome 2,000 years ago where a person was born with their role set in stone, the roles we are given now are fluid and adaptable. We might be born poor, with low socioeconomic or personal status, but with hard work and searching for our role in the world, there is a chance, even if it is small, to become wealthy and have an abundance of resources. Resources that go far beyond just monetary means, but include the quality of our relationships, the joy we find in life, and the wealth of our own contentment and the community we live in. No matter what our path is currently, each of us has the opportunity to change directions at any time and find another path to pursue. We aren’t born into slavery nor are we born into a class system that has no overlap or communication. In short, our excuses for not reaching our potential are much less than they have ever been before.
It is easier to find a role in the world by attaching ourselves to an identity and place others have found success with than it is to sit in the uncertainty of finding our own unique role and the great joy that comes with it. The reward of facing this uncertainty and finding our own unique role allows us to bring meaning to everything we do in the world. We are no longer burdened by the incessant feeling that we aren’t living up to our full potential. Instead we are filled with the joy and wonder that comes with exploring our roles in life! The uncertainty and self-doubt is erased. We are able to let go and fully inhabit the role we are in with a clear mind and open heart. We no longer feel the need to do drugs, drink, or numb ourselves in other ways to try and forget what we aren’t doing. How we aren’t living.
I asked myself a few questions when the nagging in the back of mind started again a few months back. I looked actively and tirelessly for my own answers. Here are a few of the questions I asked myself:
- What are my talents and passions?
- What do I believe about myself?
- What do I believe about the world?
- What brings me joy and excitement in life?
- What am I inexplicably attracted to in the world? For work? For play? For purpose?
- What do I want my life to look like?
- What kind of person do I want to be?
- What character traits would I like to have?
- What am I doing right now that does not support me or the type of person I want to be?
- Are there other places I could go in the world that would support what I want to become?
I would work on one or two questions a day, or maybe a week before moving on. I think everytime I asked myself one of these questions I was filled with a feeling of unknowing. At first this was disconcerting, but as I actively worked on find some answers I was able to see that what I needed was time. Time to let the questions sit in my mind and time to let the world open up and start to provide me answers.
So moving forward, I now understand my role. It is to write the story of my life and help others do the same. It does not matter how many different roles I need to take on or places I need to go to do this. Stoicism helped me to see this and the control over where I was and what I was doing in my life was entirely up to me. Exploring the roles I have available to me has shown me that as much as I love sitting back and reading a great story about someone achieving their full potential, my assigned role is to go out and write the story.. I really hope you can find your role in this lesson in Stoicism and apply it into your life however best serves you.
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