I didn’t see it at the time, but I was really struggling with my mental health in college.
I was anxious all the time, and I constantly compared myself to others. I drank heavily on the weekends to cope with my feelings.
One day, a friend gave me a book by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun based in Canada.
Reading Start Where You Are
blew my mind, and it sent me down a path to read books by Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other Buddhist writers.
What hit me the hardest is the approach that Buddhists take when it comes to difficult events. Instead of fearing them and hating them for what they do to people, Buddhist teaching focuses on acceptance, openness, and curiosity.
As the years went by, I tried to open my mind more and more. You could say that my early twenties were the start of my real life.
One day–and I mention this frequently on The Mental Health Update–I found stoic thinking.
Stoicism had the principles of Buddhism with the practical wisdom that I needed. It wasn’t just vague statements. Stoic writing from the likes of Marcus Aurelius and Seneca empowered me to take action based on what I was learning.
Over time, I developed sort a personal philosophy for dealing with the awful events life gave me.
Here’s my “Dealing With Reality” Philosophy:
- Bad things happen all the time. They are inevitable. There is no escaping them.
- Rather than trying to escape or wish away the catastrophic effects of bad events, it is better to learn to accept them and eventually embrace them.
- Acceptance is a muscle. It can be improved over time through practice.
- It is always better to accept reality than to deny it.
- Dealing with reality in an open and honest way is a superpower.
- Lowering expectations doesn’t mean that you don’t care about what happens or that you’re adopting a defeatist perspective.
- Life is about managing expectations, about dreaming big, but also about grounding yourself in whatever is right in front of you.
That’s it. For now, at least. I hope reading my philosophy inspires you to create your own.
It’s not that I don’t care about what happens to me now.
I just know that anything can happen at any time–and that I might as well be prepared for that.
I could be gone tomorrow.
That doesn’t frighten me as much as it used to.
In fact, it empowers me to make the most of the life that is right in front of me.