Join me for a little thought experiment.
Imagine your soul was suddenly shot into your body and mind for the first time. You immediately understand who you are, what you have experienced, and what your story is. In this thought experiment, this is the moment you first encounter yourself. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, this will be revealed to you immediately, and all your concerns and issues appear crystal clear. This also applies to everything that is good and positive in your life.
In other words, you are in this hypothetical moment born inside of yourself—just the way you are represented in the here and now. This is the very moment you understand what cards life has dealt you.
The question is: What would you do now, in this thought experiment?
Would you do anything differently than you are actually doing now, in real life? For your life is the same in the thought experiment and reality.
Much of life is completely coincidental. We have absolutely no power or influence over much of what happens to us. But there are other things that we can influence. As the Serenity Prayer tells us:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
For me, the Serenity Prayer is perhaps the most important doctrine one can have in life. But it’s not always easy to live by. Can one change the thoughts and feelings you experience, for example? The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was also one of the Stoics, wrote the following:
You have power over your mind—not external events. Realize this and you will find strength.
Like many of the other Stoics, Marcus Aurelius was convinced that there were no good or bad events, there were only events. He thought it was an ideal for a human being to learn to face all events in the same way. In this, the Stoics had much in common with some of the Eastern disciplines, such as Buddhism and Taoism.
Back to you and the thought experiment.
My point with this little exercise is to show that in a way we always start over. We get thousands of new chances. There is no significant difference between what happens to you in the thought experiment and what happens when you wake up in the morning.
You can do nothing about what happened to you in the past.
But you can partly choose how the rest of your life will be. You actually choose it every moment from now and here onwards.
There are many things you can do nothing about. But there is also a lot you have power over. Even your thoughts and feelings. It’s possible to learn to control your thoughts and feelings, techniques found in books like 14 Steps to Happiness.
How will you play the cards life has dealt you? What can you do going forward to improve how you feel? If you are depressed, and your answer to this question is nothing, your depression is lying to you, as it so often does. Because it’s not true, and deep down you know it.
What you are fighting for are the days that you have left. And there is no bigger prize. There is in fact no other prize.