Building Virtue With Marcus Aurelius: Part 3—Temperance

Building Virtue With Marcus Aurelius: Part 3—Temperance

“You will give your mind relief if you perform every action of your life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason. And all hypocrisy and self-love and discontent with the portion which has been given to you. You see how few things a man needs to lay hold of in order to be able to live a life that flows in quiet and is like the existence of the gods.”

You’re too busy. Too distracted. You procrastinate and barely make deadlines—if you make them at all. You don’t have time to do the things you REALLY want and need to do. You’re out of shape and tired all the time. You lack temperance.

Some people will tell you this is just part of living in the 21st century. But you know what the problem is. It’s you.

You have little to no control over the present culture and only slightly more control over the future of the culture at large.

All you can control is how you respond to it. But can you even control yourself?

How did we get here?

The vices opposite the virtue of Temperance are the enemy of your peace of mind and progress toward becoming the man you were created to be. Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Envy, Sloth will consume you if you let them. How? Indulgence.

Gluttony: Binging on food, drink, or even Netflix. Will it make you truly happy or will it just leave you with a deeper sense of regret.

Greed: if you just have more stuff, you’ll be happy. Right?

Lust: Seeking pleasure for pleasure sake in the immediate, you pay for it in the long term.

Envy: You’ll be happy if you have what they have, right? Or is there always going to be someone else who you want to be?

Sloth: Whether it’s lazy self-indulgence or the deep depression that comes from recognizing your failure to achieve your goals, this what the ultimate destination is if you aren’t practicing virtue.

Every new attachment you add to your list is another weight for you to carry. Aren’t you carrying enough yet?

All the devices, all the toys, all the subscriptions, all the clothes, all the “experiences.” Do you own them? Or do they own you?

Do you find the more you try to find peace and happiness by adding “things,” the more stressed and overwhelmed you become? It’s because you’re seeking to fill a void with something that widens it. And you are paying dearly to maintain it.

So how do you get back on track?

  • Purge your notifications. Do you really need to know about every ESPN free agent signing update?
  • Purge your apps. Only the most necessary survive.
  • Purge your subscriptions. This will save you money and free up time.
  • Turn off the TV and Radio. Leave yourself some space for quiet.
  • Get rid of the stuff you don’t need. Sell it, give it away, trash it. But get rid of it.
  • Organize what’s left and make it work for you.
  • Plan your time. Schedule your day from start to finish and do the same for your week.
  • Plan time in silence, prayer, or meditation.
  • Write the thoughts that come to you so you can begin to organize them.
  • Set goals and prioritize. Figure out where you want to go and plot a course.

Embrace the virtue of Temperance and begin to gain the peace that you seek in all these “things.”

When you let your possessions possess you, you end up being led to the destination someone else has designed for you. The algorithms that determine what content, ads, and suggestions get placed in front of you are designed to lead you to a destination that serves the best interests of the owners of those algorithms.

If you want to avoid ending up in whatever meta hell they have planned for you, you need to disengage as much as possible and spend some time in silence really listening and thinking about where YOU want to end up, and then designing your best path to get there.

Temperance will keep you focused on the summit you’re climbing to and will keep you from being pulled off course by distractions, attachments, and vice.

Making Temperance a habit

It may not necessarily be easy, but it is simple. At every opportunity, practice self-denial.

You want to be shredded? Don’t eat that handful of Oreos. Turn off the TV so you can be in the gym first thing in the morning.

You want to get rid of your debt and start saving for your future? Don’t buy anything you don’t absolutely need if it isn’t MAKING you money or saving you time.

You want to write more? Create more? Build more? Whenever you find yourself going to your phone or your TV to kill time, stop yourself. Use that impulse to write, create, build or whatever it is that you know you’ll be beating yourself up about later.

Self-destruction is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. The more we engage in self-destructive behavior, the more we regret it and regret NOT doing what we know will get us closer to our goals and create the fulfillment we are seeking.

The more we sense this regret, the more we are tempted to indulge in more self-destructive habits as a coping mechanism. And the cycle repeats until it either kills us or nearly kills us with a rock-bottom, near death experience.

Practicing Temperance

Practicing self-denial and temperance is the answer to this cycle. It’s the best way to break yourself out of self-destructive habits and build a lasting foundation of virtue, productivity, and achievement.

It is the key to finding the peace and fulfillment all men are seeking. When you want every shiny new thing, you’ll never be satisfied because there will always be a shiny new thing you don’t have.

When you practice in not wanting these fleeting things and focus instead on building virtue and creating, you will find the satisfaction of a job well done—a satisfaction a man can only experience when he does what he was created to do.

Part 1

Part 2

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