Moving Into Courage

Philosophy calls us to move into courage.  It calls on us to actively and consciously analyze the faulty reasoning we build our lives and identities on and then change it.  Philosophy points us to the things we are doing well, shines a light on the things we can improve and gives us the tools and a map to act.  It provides us with a way to create our life as we see fit.


It is easy to talk about philosophy.  Anyone can jabber on about the existence of God or freewill at Starbucks using their pseudo-intellectual powers to sound like they have life figured out.  Anyone can throw out quotes.  Anyone can act like they understand what the quotes mean.  It’s difficult to live philosophy.  It’s difficult to change the focus from others to yourself.  It’s difficult to admit what you are not doing as well as you could because it takes courage to look at yourself and say “I am not the person I want to be”.  It takes even more courage to say “I am not the person I want to be and I am going to change”.

I do not just talk philosophy, I live it. I live it with each struggle I encounter. And sometimes I fail to learn the lesson which life is giving. But, more often than not, I succeed. I succeed because of the lessons taught by the philosophers which came before me.

The philosophers wanted their students to succeed and their lessons are built to help all of us, not just certain “special” people or academics.

When I got out of the military I thought I knew everything about the world I wanted to inhabit and the life I wanted to build.  Within days of shedding that identity I faced the crushing fact that I was wrong. I had tried with all my might to create a perfect transition trip from the military into the “real world” and failed.  I came face to face with the faulty reasoning I had built my life on in the mirror of a hostile bathroom. I was not the person I wanted to be and it filled me with shame. Who the hell was I? What was I doing?  Why was I living like this? I had traveled to Maui to find paradise but instead I found the same hell I left behind on the mainland ( I did get a better tan which was a bonus).

What I understand now, which I did not understand then, is what I was doing was running away from the fire or the “Hell” I told myself life was back home. This instead of running towards what filled me.  There is a strange law of life; No matter where “Hell” is for you, unless you move towards what you love with integrity, you will find the same “Hell” wherever you go.  Running away doesn’t put out the fire, it allows it to grow unchecked.  Running towards it does. It is the only surefire way to put that fire out and get out of “Hell.”  Stoicism gave me this ability.

Actively working towards understanding what is in my control, what isn’t, and disregarding that which is not in my control is the first step. Letting go of aggravation and frustration toward other drivers on the road or the people I work with (still working on this one) is the second step. This gives me space and energy to focus on other, more important aspects of life. The third step: Accepting events as they happen, understanding they are impersonal and indifferent, creates further space for me to look at myself and address issues as they arise. This allowes me to discover who I am as a man and human, begin to explore the world and what it has to offer.

The Only Way is Through

Stoic View of Moving Through An Event

  • Nothing truly stops you.  Nothing truly holds you back.  For your will is always within your control.  Your will needn’t be affected by an incident unless you let it.  Remember this with everything that happens to you.
  • Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources.  The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths.
  • Prudent people look beyond the trial itself and seek to form the habit of putting it to good use.

Easy to say, difficult to do.  Not once in my time on this planet have I been able to put any of these aforementioned lessons into action to level that the mere words suggest. Nothing truly stops you? Show me one person who has not been stopped by something that has happened in their outer world. Yes on paper nothing should stop you because everything that happens to you is a way to grow, but try telling that to someone who is thrashing around facing something they never could have imagined.  

Maybe there is a better way to approach looking at the events taking place in your life and construct a way to move forward.  If you are diligent in your work, you will get through it. So in a sense it didn’t stop you, and yet it did for a time, but you moved through it.  

Instead of getting frustrated because you couldn’t move through the event immediately, Could you change your thinking from the thought “eventually I moved past this obstacle and now it is no longer stopping me”?  This is the single biggest recurring struggle I face when analyzing how I handle the events that come up in life. This is because I have read the word, studied the literature and I should magically be able to put it into action.  I can put it into action but often it takes weeks or months to do so. Letting go of the expectation to do everything instantaneously has given me a huge measure of peace in life.

It’s the same with every difficulty life presents us.  Very few of us have the ability to truly detach ourselves from something as it is happening and to think that we “should” be able to detach is doing ourselves an injustice.  Yes, I can detach myself from something I have experienced before much faster than a completely new experience, but there still is a period of time where I am to involved in the event to look at anything else.  This is the time where the rolling seas and the howling wind of whatever is happening are pounding me with everything they have. All I can do is hold on tightly and get through the event as best I can with the tools I have.  When the storm settles, which it always does, then I can go back and survey the damage.

How did this stop me?  What did it bring up? How can I build my character to help me see the storm sooner the next time it comes and protect myself a little more from the damage it can do?  If, like I do more often than I would like to admit, I am stuck seeing everything which was wrong in the way I handled the event or finding the faults in the tools I had, I miss the opportunity to learn what I can from the storm.  I miss the ability to see my strengths.

Then comes the best part: Putting what happened and what I learned from the event into something that I can use to help myself and others in the future.  This is something I do a day, a week, or a month after the event. It takes time to find perspective, to separate the emotions and see the event in an unbiased way.  Often the answers for what I need to do are right in front of me and the perspective and distance allows me to see them. Were the answers there when I was going through the event?  Probably. But sometimes I just can’t separate myself from it. I keep this easy part easy. What did I do right? What did I do that wasn’t so right? What can I do to change or reinforce these answers in the future?  I make a list, I think about it, then I put it away knowing that something similar will happen again and If I can remember just one thing and improve on it the next time I am ahead of the curve.

Talking about philosophy is easy.  Living philosophy is not so easy. But a life well lived was never meant to be easy, no matter how much I want it to be.