“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton
Truer words have never been spoken. One of my "pillar mentors" - the late Bill Bonnstetter - co-founder of TTI Success Insights used to say with enthusiasm mixed with conviction, "The best is yet to come."
I can still hear Bill say it. "The best is yet to come."
And Bill meant it.
I have come to know with every ounce of my being that the single most powerful asset I have - that any of us has - is my mindset - the way in which I choose to view the world around me. My mindset shapes my trajectory.
If you know me well, you know I do not believe in "Happy Talk". I am not a blind believer. I require data and proven methods. In my pursuit of such, I have studied Stoicism - particularly through the writings of Ryan Holiday.
"Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them," Epictetus told us millennia ago. His words remain relevant. Adopt a mindset of perpetual optimism and gratitude. Marry this to the Stoic notion of reality.
Perpetual Optimism: Your Fuel
"Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking," Marcus Aurelius reminds us. Perpetual optimism is more than a fleeting feeling. It is an internal combustion engine. Endless fuel. Do not mistake it for blindness to life’s obstacles. It is your resilience mechanism.
And if that is not enough for you, consider the miracle of your existence. Because it is.
Gratitude: Your North Star
Epictetus states, "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." Gratitude is not mere thankfulness. It is a compass AND a standard of thinking. Orient yourself towards acknowledging the positive. This is not a luxury; it is a necessity. A grateful mindset magnifies optimism and shrinks despair.
Stoic Realism: Your Anchor
"Objective judgment, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now, at this very moment—of all external events,” instructs Marcus Aurelius. The Stoics understood that life is rife with suffering, but it does not have to define you. Stoic realism is your anchor. It grounds you to the earth when your optimist balloon threatens to float away.
The Alchemy of Merging Paradigms
The coexistence of perpetual optimism and Stoic realism is not a paradox; it is alchemy. Stoicism teaches us to distinguish between what we can and cannot control. Optimism and gratitude guide us in focusing on the positive within that framework. The result? Equanimity. Seneca put it this way: "True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future."
Strategies for Implementation
Daily Stoic Exercises: Integrate Stoic principles into your daily routine. Reflect. Journal. Apply.
Gratitude Journaling: A gratitude list is not trite. It is transformative. Write. Reflect. Repeat.
Positive Affirmations: A word of caution. Do not indulge in empty affirmations. Align them with Stoic realism.
- Balance: Live a balanced life.
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for," counsels Epicurus, another philosopher worth invoking here. Your mindset should not plateau. Keep the balance. Sustain momentum. Adjust. Fine-tune.
Impermanence: The Stoic Caveat
Epictetus affirms, "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." Understand the impermanent nature of things. Good or bad, it will pass. Optimism stays. Gratitude endures.
The Horizon: Where It All Comes Together
Perpetual optimism with a Stoic lens encourages a harmonious dance with reality. It demands your attention, not as a bystander but as an active participant. The Stoic philosophers did not merely contemplate; they lived. You get to live as well.
Life does not happen to you... Life happens for you.
In closing, remember Marcus Aurelius’s words, "Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one."
I am still working on that...
The best IS yet to come, not as a matter of fate, but as a matter of choice. Make it. Create it. Live it.
And Bill, your words live on in my heart, through my family, and through my legacy... I am profoundly grateful that God brought our journeys together.