Become the Best Version of Yourself
Salve! This is again your favorite Roman Emperor!
In the previous lesson I talked about a very practical and concrete exercise on how to not fall prey to the lure of pleasure.
But before you hurried up to use them, I want to warn you.
Even if you learn all tactics to cool down desires, your efforts to master yourself might still be in vain.
Today, I reveal you the overarching principle underlying the path to inner peace and freedom from passions.
I'll show you the art of adherence to the highest personal vision or ideal self. It will give you the mental strength so powerful that no temptation would be able to slip into the fortress of your mind.
Our highest personal vision is a set of all admirable behaviors and character traits that we want to associate with ourselves.
Basically, it reflects our ideal self. It is our personal definition of what a noble, worthy life is.
Personal vision of ideal self gives us a measure of what is worth pursuing and what is not.
Drawing a clear vision of what praiseworthy, admirable life is, helps us to distinguish the important things from the unimportant.
Without having that vision and understanding what our ideal self is, we don't really know what kind of life we want to live and what kind of persons we want to become.
If our day-to-day decisions are not based on any concrete vision, we become living in mere reaction to what happens to us.
Continually reacting to events in the present puts us on an emotional rollercoaster ride with each change in fortune.
Everything that happens to us becomes important and a matter of concern.
And if everything is important, nothing actually is.
Such life becomes centered solely around pursuing immediate pleasures. But we inevitably have to pay price for this.
Pleasure, without greater vision in mind as it's limit, always becomes an unstoppable force.
Pleasures' demands are constantly mounting. We need more intense and newer pleasures to be satisfied and entertained.
Such life becomes a marathon with no finish.
Now its almost impossible to not overindulge and get addicted.
Worse still, the thoughts about wasted life and unrealized potential are very persistent and don't really disappear anywhere.
Continually repressing them accumulates such unbearable anxiety and pain within us that all pleasure-seeking activities merely serve as a mean to numb that pain.
Your ideal self beckons to you in that manner, because only in it's development we humans feel truly fulfilled and happy.
So to save yourself from overindulgence and gain inner peace and freedom, you must first build a clear vision of your ideal self and the life that you want to live.
Now you might exclaim in despair: "Marcus, but I don't have any clue of what my ideal self is (what my vision even could be)!"
Don't worry. This is the place where everyone starts off.
When I was trying to answer that question, I used a simple but powerful exercise that helped me a lot.
In my personal diary, known to you as Meditations, I was writing down the virtues exhibited by the people I mostly admired and respected.
For instance, I contemplated my father's (Antoninus Pius) eager adherence to reason, his self-discipline and unshakable inner peace.
I admired his capacity to abstain from pleasures that the majority was too week to dispense with.
Contemplating, writing down and visualizing his best traits and actions gave me an insight into what kind of person i would want to become.
Doing this exercise over time elevated me, helped to establish the connection with my ideal self and inspired to become as great as him.
Around each of us there are people, fictional or real, that we admire and respect in some way or another.
Perhaps for their endurance to deal with hardships or persistence with which they pursue their dreams.
Since now, I want you to do the following:
Keep paying close attention to character traits and actions of people around that make you feel deep respect and admiration towards them.
Write down your ideas about what makes another person admirable. What (Which things/actions/traits) do you find admirable and praiseworthy in other people?
If you feel that the the gap between you and your ideal self is too wide, don’t stress out!
At this point your goal is to just get a sense of what these qualities are, mull them over, and revise.
In the next part of the lesson, I will teach you how to gradually advance and take joy in becoming the best version of yourself.