When I was in Grade 4, slam books were popular. It was a notebook comprised of page-full of personal questions that you ask your friends to answer. What is your name, birthday, favorite color, food, music, movie etc.
I enjoyed filling the blanks. It was like taking an exam which I knew almost all the answers. But there were 2 questions that I had trouble answering.
Who is your crush?
I left this blank because I never got attracted to anyone in school or maybe I did but, I was too shy to admit it. Until eventually, I met Aaron Carter (🎤 I want candy). I never left it blank since then.
What is your motto?
I had not idea what this meant. Even after searching the dictionary for its meaning,
– a short expression of a guiding principle
I still had no idea. What does a guiding principle mean?
I looked at the slam book pages of my classmates to see what they answered. A lot were left blank, some answers I did not understand and there was one that I remembered. It says, Love is Blind.
I was delighted. I understood what the words love and blind meant. The statement was short and simple. And I often hear adults say it, which sounded smart.
At age 9 I had my motto in life, Love is Blind.
As the years passed, I outgrew slam books. Life went on.
I graduated high school and got in to one of the top universities. I studied in the US for a semester and graduated college in 2009. Life was great. I was was accepted in my dream job. I did well in work and earned enough money to live on my own.
Until in 2013, I felt a hallow feeling of emptiness. No matter how busy I was with life – work, relationships, travels and parties, inside me was a void that never gets satisfied. On the outside, my life seemed great but inside, I found it meaningless.
“What to do with life?” What is the meaning of life?”, I asked Google. And it responded with a lot of answers.
I read blog posts, articles and books. I wrote about my thoughts and feelings in my journal. I pondered about it every time I was alone. I was curious to know, What is life about?
In 2014, my fiancé, Nicole, introduced me to the book “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William Irvine.
This book provided not just the answer about life’s meaning- that is to live in accordance to my virtue. But it also provided me with guiding principles on how to live a better life – a life of tranquility, joy and contentment.
Using his personal stories, psychological insights and practical techniques, William Irvine shows how the ancient Stoic Philosophy is still relevant in this modern world. He offers practical advice on how to live a better life by applying the same Stoic principles that ancient philosophers -Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca, used in their lives.
One of the core Stoic principles that has become one of my guiding principles, my motto in life, is:
Some things are within our control, some things are not. Focus on the things within our control and accept the things that are not.
A few months ago, I have conquered one of my biggest fears – taking a leap of faith.
In my context, this meant resigning from my 8-year job.
It took me a long time to come to that moment when I decided that it was time for me to move on. For months, even years, I was haunted with a great deal of negativity.
How will my boss take it? What will my boss’ boss say? How will officemates react? What will my family and friends think of me? What happens if I fail in my attempts? Will I still be able to get a job if I apply to work a year or so from now? And the list goes on.
All the negative outcomes that may happen paralyzed me. I felt out of control, trapped and incapable of changing my life.
But deep in me, I knew what I had to do – to take control of my life. I need to take this leap of faith – to give myself a chance to experiment.
Whereas postponing this for an indefinite later seemed viable before, now it is no longer an option. I will soon be getting married and having kids. It pains me to imagine not being able to look at my kids in their eyes and tell them to follow their dreams, if I have not dared to live that advise.
What is within my control?
I assessed the things that I worried about by asking, “Are these within my control?”
Realizing that I cannot control how people with react nor what will happen in the future woke me up from months of paralysis. Why am I wasting time and energy worrying about things that I have no control over?
What is within my control is what I do about my situation.
Clear with my purpose, I knew what I had to do – to share my story why I have come to such decision, to express my gratitude to the people who trusted me in this journey and to make the most out of each moment.
Shifting my focus on the things I can control shed light to the dark, cold and heavy world I created. I felt empowered realizing that there are many things that I can do.
As long as I act based on my values and to the best that I can, the outcome is secondary. How people with react, how the future with unfold, the consequences of my actions – these are things that I have no control over. I need to learn to accept them.
This core Stoic belief has been life changing for me. It enables me to look at situations in an objective lens, allowing me to make rational choices.
Whether I am running late for a flight because of traffic jam or facing a raging customer because of a late delivery or making a big decision in my life, I ask myself, “What is within my control?”