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  • In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius talks about mornings twice.

  • Once at the beginning of book 2 and once at the beginning of book 5.

  • Here are the quotes.

  • Pause the video if you really wanna read them.

  • But essentially, Marcus tells himself to do one thing each morning and that is:

  • negative visualization.

  • Negative visualization is when you set a goal, imagine all of the obstacles that can get

  • in your way, and then come up with a plan to deal with those obstacles.

  • For example, let's say you start the day with the goal of finishing a big homework

  • assignment.

  • At the beginning of the day, you imagine all of the obstacles that can come in your way:

  • you might get distracted by your phone, you might feel tired, you may have other assignments

  • to work on, so on and so forth.

  • And then you come up with a plan to overcome all of the obstacles: you might put your phone

  • on do not disturb and put it away so that you're not distracted.

  • You might take a nap or have a cup of coffee so you won't be tired.

  • And you create a schedule for when you'll complete all your other homework, so that

  • way you can free your mind to focus on the current one.

  • But let's even take it a step further by looking at a new example.

  • So your goal is to ace your calculus class, but you doubt you'll be able to finish your

  • upcoming assignment.

  • You simply have too many other classes and more important assignments to do.

  • So the first obstacle is finishing the assignment.

  • But if you can't finish the assignment, you're probably going to feel guilty, and

  • this will be your second obstacle.

  • And the third obstacle will be your lingering fear that your grades are slipping in the

  • class.

  • Now let's come up with a plan for dealing with these obstacles.

  • For the first obstacle, we decide that we'll finish the assignment if we have extra time

  • after completing our other ones.

  • We give it a place in our todo list.

  • We might not get to it, but we'll try.

  • For the second obstacle, we just need to remind ourselves of the reality of things.

  • We have too many classes and assignments to do, and so we have to prioritize them in order

  • of importance.

  • This calculus assignment is not as important as the other ones we're doing, so it's

  • okay to let it fall to the wayside.

  • On top of that, we make a commitment to take a review and study the solutions the teacher

  • will upload later in the week, that way we're not missing the information for the test.

  • Then to deal with the third obstacle, we make a commitment to get ahead on the next assignment.

  • That way we know we'll pick up the slack in the future and prevent our grades from

  • slipping too much.

  • But let's take it another step forward with another example.

  • Your goal is to make a living for yourself, and right now you're flunking your college

  • courses.

  • So you're first major obstacle is getting good grades.

  • Your plan is to get a tutor and spend more time in the library studying, instead of studying

  • at home.

  • The second major obstacle is the fact that you might actually flunk out of school.

  • If that happens, your plan is to go to trade school instead, to have a back up career.

  • In the event that trade school doesn't work out, you come up with a list of the highest

  • paying careers that don't require any education past high school and keep that aside as a

  • back up plan.

  • There are at least three major benefits to doing negative visualization.

  • The first major benefit is that it helps you see how bad things can get.

  • If you imagine the worst possible scenario, that might motivate you to keep working to

  • avoid it.

  • And the second reason to use negative visualization is that it allows you to be proactive by anticipating

  • obstacles, and getting ready to act in a productive and useful way.

  • If things go wrong, you're ready to deal with them instead of being taken by surprise.

  • If things go right, then you're still good to go.

  • But I think the biggest benefit by far is this: it allows you to leverage human psychology

  • to your benefit.

  • So imagine a vertical line with a dot in the centre.

  • Let's mark off the centre axis with a dashed line: this represents your normal state, not

  • happy or sad, just neutral.

  • Let's say you make $70 000 a year, that's your normal financial state.

  • And suddenly, you get a raise to $80 000 a year.

  • So now your current state, represented by the dot, moves above your normal state.

  • This will make you really happy for a bit, but soon you'll adjust and get used to it.

  • $80 000 will become your new normal, and will be the point at which you feel neutral.

  • Now let's say you get a new job that pays $70 000 again, now you move below your new

  • normal of $80 000 and feel sad, but your feelings will adjust again and $70 000 will once again

  • become your new normal.

  • The same thing will happen if you get a new car.

  • You'll feel happy for a bit, but your feelings will once again adjust and it won't make

  • you as happy anymore.

  • This process is referred to as hedonic adaptation, and we often talking about it in negative

  • terms.

  • We talk about how the same amount of money, things, likes, views, etc don't make us

  • happy anymore, and that we always need more and more.

  • But there's actually a positive aspect to hedonic adaptation, and that's what negative

  • visualization allows you to do.

  • With this animation, I showed that the feeling of happiness is actually the gap between your

  • expectations, the dashed line, and your current reality, the dot.

  • The goal with negative visualization is to keep your expectations as low as possible,

  • to keep the dashed line as low as possible, that way the gap between your reality and

  • your expectations is as big as you can possibly make it, in a positive way.

  • This is what minimalists do.

  • If you can learn to live and make peace with only a few number of items in your life, all

  • of the extra stuff you get is just a benefit.

  • If you can learn to live and make peace with a limited salary, all of the extra raises

  • you get are just bonus upside.

  • If you can learn to live with and make peace with the worst possible scenarios in your

  • life, everything beyond that is upside and benefit.

  • In other words, learn to keep your expectations low, but try to let your reality exceed that.

  • So the negative visualization cycle looks like this: set a goal, anticipate the obstacles,

  • and come up with a plan for how you'll deal with them.

  • So what was Marcus' goal?

  • In essence, it was to live with justice and piety, but to understand this, you have to

  • understand his worldview.

  • He believed that we were all parts of a whole, in the same way a finger is a part of the

  • body or a tree is a part of a forest.

  • What's good for the part is good for the whole and vice verse, or what's good for

  • the finger is good for the hand and what's good for the tree is good for the forest.

  • He sees everything as interdependent and that what's truly good is good for all the parts

  • and wholes equally.

  • He believes that every individual has a duty to fulfill, and the best thing anyone can

  • do is fulfill that duty.

  • And practically speaking, Marcus was the emperor of Rome and he had a duty to fulfil to the

  • people, and he kept this in mind on a daily basis.

  • So now that we know his goal, let's take a look at how he utilized negative visualization.

  • At the beginning of book 2, Marcus reminds himself in the morning that he will meet people

  • who are going to bug him.

  • He says they are, “meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly.”

  • He fears that these people will make him neglect his duty, and he worries that he'll become

  • angry towards them.

  • And so here we see the obstacles in Marcus' way: annoying people, neglecting his duty,

  • and becoming angry or resentful.

  • So what's Marcus' plan for dealing with these obstacles?

  • He uses a series of reminders.

  • He reminds himself that these people act this way out of ignorance: they don't know any

  • better.

  • He reminds himself that they're doing more harm to themselves than they are to him by

  • acting like that.

  • He also reminds himself that the actions of these individuals can't stop him from acting

  • however he wants and still fulfilling his duty.

  • His own duty is always in his control to fulfill.

  • And lastly he reminds himself, “Nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him.

  • We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper

  • and lower teeth.”

  • So he tells himself that even though they will annoy him, it's because they don't

  • know any better and that he still needs to cooperate and love them instead of being resentful.

  • What's best for everyone is cooperation.

  • Marcus routinely uses reminders to overcome the obstacles.

  • He's another example.

  • At the beginning of book 5, Marcus tells himself that he'll have trouble waking up in the

  • mornings.

  • He identifies a few obstacles that he'll encounter: the bed will feel really nice,

  • he'll be really lazy, and he'll have excuses for himself to stay in bed.

  • And again, Marcus uses some reminders to overcome these obstacles.

  • He reminds himself that he's not meant tofeel nice”.

  • He has a duty to fulfil to the world—a duty only he can fulfill.

  • He reminds himself that every other animal has gotten up to do their duty this morning,

  • including the bees, the birds, and the plants.

  • They are all contributing to the community that they are apart of.

  • So Marcus scolds himself for his laziness.

  • He asks himself why he should lie around and neglect his duty when all of the other animals

  • have gotten up and started doing theirs?

  • So I'll leave you with this: every day is the beginning of a new journey.

  • It's a chance to go in a new direction or destination, to move further ahead than we

  • are today.

  • And with negative visualization, we can prepare for and make peace with the worst possible

  • scenario, while still reaping the upside of the best possible scenario.

  • And negative visualization isn't just a simple tactic, it's more of a way of life.

  • You have to actually become the kind of person who can make peace with the worst possible

  • scenarios.

  • And the steps are simple, set a goal, anticipate the obstacles, come up with a plan.

  • They are simple but

  • not easy.

  • So good luck!

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius talks about mornings twice.

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B1 visualization marcus duty negative obstacle assignment

Marcus Aurelius – Morning Routine for Success | Stoicism

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    Summer posted on 2021/02/19
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