Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Ancient Formula for Modern Times

The world is full of formulas ranging from suggestions for good health and achieving success in life.  Here is in my opinion one such formula for happiness.

The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus presented a different perspective. His formula for inner contentment placed a higher priority on goals that are realistic and attainable and a lesser priority on goals that are unrealistic and more difficult to achieve. He did not rule out the latter, but emphasized pursuit of the former. In today’s parlance, Epictetus would say that it is good to have dreams, but our feet must be firmly planted on the ground. Thus, a desire to be an artist is a realistic goal, but a desire to be an overnight success is unrealistic.

We can also view the practical wisdom of Epictetus as a balance between needs and wants. Needs refer to our basic requirements for food, clothing, and shelter, which we must satisfy for our survival. Wants refer to our fancied desires, where satisfaction is not crucial, though we may consider it so. Bread is a need, but venison and wine are wants. Water is a need, but champagne is a want. A warm coat is a need, but a mink is a want. Actually, only a mink needs a mink.

What is note worthy about this formula is that it is provoking. 

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt from my book.  I will be posting more excerpts in future posts, so please come back.  Click here to buy your copy of A Book of Wisdom and Delight from Amazon today.

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