If you desire to be good, begin by believing that you are wicked. – Epictetus
What does that mean?
This is an interesting way of putting forward the question. How would you find ways to become better if you didn’t think you had imper-fections?
To find a way to improve, the first step should be the declaration of a need to improve. The greater the margin for improvement, the easier the first step will be, and the greater the distance you will cover.
If you want to be good, and you’re already pretty good, you’re going to have trouble finding those little things where you can try to improve. However, if you start from a position of having a long way to go, it’s easier.
By starting from the standpoint that where you are (no matter how good that may be) is the definition of wicked, you define a broad field for improvement, and a fair bit of incentive as well. And that is a big bonus.
Why is improvement important?
I don’t know about you, but I’m too easily bored to not improve myself. I try not to mess up the same way twice, because that would imply that I didn’t learn the proper lesson from the first time. But it still happens from time to time.
Imagine a part of your life where you stopped improving. At what point in your life would you feel you were ‘good enough’ at walking and running? Feeding yourself? Talking? When was the last time you learned something new about running? When did you learn to open a bottle of wine? When was the last time you learn a new word?
All these things are improvements. Did you decide to run a 5K because you were a couch potato, or because a 4.5K wasn’t quite long enough? Or, put another way, for what reason would you do a 5.5K? Or is a 10K the next step up? Are you good or wicked? How strong is the motivation, and how big is the gap? How big is the improvement?
Where can I apply this in my life?
For the longer term readers, you may remember about a year ago I started working on running. Unfortunately, I’ve had issues with a big toe and a calf vein. I hope to get back to it soon, and in preparation, I have been studying.
I’m working on getting to a 5K precisely because I am a couch potato. I’m in fair, but not great shape. I could put a “for my age” on there and bump myself up to the ‘really good’ category, perhaps even ‘almost great shape.’ But that’s the exact opposite of what today’s quote says.
There is power in the gap. You want to be good, so believe you are very far from it. If you want to get in better shape, don’t say you’re almost there, say you are far from it. That doesn’t mean you go straight from the couch to a marathon, but neither do you go from the couch to the mailbox and back, either.
Neglect of our physical selves seems to be a common thread in many modern societies, so I’ll continue to use that as an example. There are a group of guys here at work who practice chin-ups on a fire escape ladder at lunch. That helped me remember that I have a large gap between me and being fit.
So, with the belief that I am unfit, and not particularly healthy, I need to get busy in preparation for closing the gap and improving myself. What that means will differ for each of us, but I hope you can see how such a belief gives us some motivation, to keep us working towards our goals.
The question is now yours to answer. Where do you need some improvement? Are you willing to make it hurt to be where you are, by describing yourself as ‘wicked’ or at least very far from where you want to be? What is that word?
Can you say it to yourself? Can you say it out loud? Can you add the words “I am” in front of the description? That’s some powerful motivation, to move away from where you don’t want to be and move towards where you want to be.
On what part of your life are you going to work? It might be physical, it might be intellectual, it might be spiritual. It might be a skill or a base of knowledge.
Once you have a topic, and a little motivation, you need a goal. What is the far side of the gap? Is it a 5K? Is it 10 clean chin-ups? Is it 100 push-ups? Is it the flexibility to touch your toes? To learn to play chess or speak another language?
It’s just a matter of finding a big enough reason to keep going. Once you have that, the rest seems quite a bit easier. As a bonus, you can add a deadline. When would be a good time to have closed the gap? When would be a good time to no longer be wicked?
What are you waiting for? Your desires can be met, if you are willing to work. But that requires a goal, a hint of a plan, some motivation, and the first step. When will you take it?
From: Twitter, @OprahsQuotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/epictetus399514.html
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