Observe Cause and Effect

Essays 2 min read
“Pay close attention in conversation to what is being said, and to what follows from any action. In the action, immediately look for the target, in words, listen closely to what’s being signaled.”
~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.4
Photographer: Tamara Gak | Source: Unsplash

In The Daily Stoic April 16th entry, we see Aurelius reminding himself to become the observer of actions and words in his life.

Two other translations read:

In conversation, you should pay attention to what’s being said; for every impulse, you should pay attention to what happens. In the latter case, try to see immediately what the objective is; in the former, try to determine the meaning.
~ Aurelius, Marcus Meditations, 7.4 Basic Books, Hachette Book Group, 2021.
Weigh each word being said; watch every move being made. In action, figure out the aim of each move. In speech, know the meaning of every word.
~ Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations, 7.4, Scribner, 2002.

The author makes the connection between Stoicism and Albert Ellis’ work with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

It’s worth giving a shoutout here to Donald Robertson, a practicing Stoic, writer, cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist, trainer and all around awesome guy.

Dive deeper into Roberson’s writings for a clear connection between CBT and Stoicism

CBT helps patients identify patterns in their thoughts and behavior, and make the connection. In this way, they are able to direct their thoughts and actions toward a more intentional and positive outcome.

And here was the emperor, writing to himself similar ideas.

Marcus Aurelius lacked formal psychology training, yet he was a student of 'being human' and what it takes to live a fulfilling life.

🔴 Here, Aurelius encourages himself to become an observer of his own thoughts and actions, so he'll gain greater insight into his being.

  • From where do they come?
  • What biases are present in them?
  • In what ways are they constructive or destructive?
  • Are they causing you to make mistakes or engage in behavior you regret later?

Analyze patterns; identify causes and effects.

🔴 To achieve a fulfilling life and have life improvement, you must bring objective critical thinking to your being.

I’m always thinking in terms of story writing, so the above idea said another way is — focus and become the non-objective audience reading the story of your life.

After which, take on the active roll, and become the character/actor to bring about change in the story.

Now, we end with Stoicism in three words:
🔴 Attention (Focus) / 🔴 Perception (Meaning) / 🔴 Action (Action)

This is also true of story writing:
On the screen —
🔴 Attention (Director) / 🔴 Perception (Audience) / 🔴 Action (Actors)

In a book —
🔴 Attention (Writer) / 🔴 Perception (Reader) / 🔴 Action (Characters)

On a stage —
🔴 Attention (Director) / 🔴 Perception (Audience) / 🔴 Action (Actors)

Remember, these are all within your control.
Indeed, they are the only things within your control.

...and when you know and practice this,
the story is always on your side.

motivation The Daily Stoicism perception CBT communication