The Daily Stoic for October 9th, “Set The Standards And Use Them”.
“When the standards have been set, things are tested and weighed. And the work of philosophy is just this, to examine and uphold the standards, but the work of a truly good person is in using those standards when they know them.”—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.11.23–25
After reading today’s stoic, I stopped for a moment to consider: do I have standards? Obviously yes, I do. But not in a conscious way. I mean, I may have standards, but I’ve never put them on paper, enumerated them or even thought about them out loud.
Set The Standards And Use Them
The problem with setting standards theoretically is that it’s similar to new year’s resolutions. On new year’s eve you are determined to loose weight, go to the gym, eat healthier, and learn French.
Three months later, you are still eating doritos at 2am in the sofa while watching Netflix, like you’ve been doing for the past 12 weekends.
And the problem is that you cannot just enumerate a good guy’s wishlist and magically change your life. Standards don’t work like that. You can read about the lives of saints, heroes and geniuses, try to imitate them, and keep on doing the same things day after day.
When was the last time that you stopped before doing something, to think if that’s something “up to your standards”? Me neither. Imagine if you were supposed to do that all day long.
I think life shows you that in a more practical way. Of course, you can keep on being a jerk after years. But in my experience, life beats you harder than any philosophy book or biography. However, you really need to have a desire for changing things and committing.
Something similar happens with standards. You can put them on a list and say “yes! These are my standards from now on!”. But if you don’t take action, that gesture will never mean anything.
So be humble and take action. Understand none of us is perfect, try to be your best, but don’t obsess with standards’ lists. I try to be a good guy, and I learn something new every day. I think we all do.
I’m not sure about today’s Daily Stoic, “Set The Standards And Use Them”. I never believed in standards or magic formulas to turn you into a good guy by teaching you good habits. Life ends up doing it better than any book.