Lesson 28

Lesson 28: BHFM and The Stoic Advisor

Weekly Habits for Success - Daily Task to The Habits for Success

“If we do not get results at first, we may try a second venture.” — Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, 112.2

So you want to eat healthy. GREAT! Now what? The debate over what is and is not a healthy diet has been raging for decades, centuries really. But several millennia ago, Seneca found the real answer - experimentation. He tried “to refrain from eating flesh” and found “at the end of a year the habit was as pleasant as it was easy. I was beginning to feel that my mind was more active.” He only stopped when he learned that “abstinence from certain kinds of animal food was set down as a proof of interest in the strange cult.”

He tried fasting and intermittent fasting. He came to the conclusion that “a keen edge is dulled by heavy eating”. In his experimentation to find the right diet, he would try various foods while abstaining from others. He found he felt best when avoiding “heavy barely-porridge and breads”. Seneca felt that our life force was drained in trying to work off heavy foods.

When Seneca heard his teacher Attalus had “castigated our pleasure-seeking lives, and extolled moderation in diet,” Seneca came to this conclusion: “I have forsaken oysters and mushrooms forever: since they are not really food, but are relishes to bully the sated stomach into further eating.”

Is that right for you? I don’t know. I know that I like mushrooms, but am not a big fan of oysters. So what’s the real lesson here? It’s simple really: MODERATION.

The four most important Stoic virtues are: courage, justice, temperance and wisdom.

Temperance is moderation. We need to make sure everything we do is done in moderation. Can we go out and have a big meal at a nice steakhouse? Sure, once in a while and in moderation.

Today’s new habit is going to help you dial in on making your new habits stick. I’m sure by now you’ve had some problems getting some of these new habits to stick, let alone performing the everyday “habits of success” that we’ve been assigning to you.  So if you’re having trouble, we want you to shake things up a bit and approach them from a new angle. “What assistance can we find in the fight against habit?” Epictetus asked. His answer: “Try the opposite!”

If you’re having trouble with this month’s habits, like taking a walk or doing an hourly exercise activity, then switch it up. Don’t want to walk? Then ride a bike or go buy a skateboard. Don’t like walking by yourself? Take your spouse, one of your kids, or a friend. Is no one interested in walking with you? Then go for a walk with your “accountability buddy”. Yes, even if your accountability buddy is in a different state you can still go for walks together. Just plug in your headset or AirPods and call each other at a predetermined time while you each walk in your respective areas.

Seneca liked to tell the story of how Augustus and his close confidants were trying to solve a problem, but the “solving” part had devolved into yelling and screaming. Augustus’s wife intervened: “Will you take a woman’s advice? Do what doctors do when the usual prescriptions have no effect: try the opposite remedies.”

“Do your best,” Marcus reminded himself. “If met with force, then fall back on acceptance and peaceability. Use the setback to practice other virtues. Remember that our efforts are subject to circumstances; you weren’t aiming to do the impossible. Aiming to do what, then? To try. And you succeeded. What you set out to do is accomplished.”

So if a habit isn’t sticking, then try another habit. You haven’t failed, you just haven’t found something that will work yet. Once you get in the habit of making habits stick, you can always revisit past failed habits. In the meantime, try something else.

NEW TASKS: Review your Excel spreadsheets and figure out where you are falling short. If a habit isn’t sticking, then find a new habit to replace it.

NEW HABIT: Make it a habit to find new things that you can be good at.