Cicero, a Roman philosopher who lived some 2,000 years ago, penned six short phrases outlining what he deemed to be the six mistakes of man. What’s amazing about these phrases is their constancy — despite the incomprehensible differences between the era in which these were written and today’s world, all six statements are still very much relevant to people today, as they highlight the persistent flaws of humankind.
Given their perseverance through time, our generation should listen to Cicero, the wise owl that he was, and make small changes in our own lives so as not to repeat the same blunders that our ancestors have been making for so long. Here are his six ideas:
The illusion that personal gain is made up of crushing others
Many of us live under the false pretense that others must fail in order for us to succeed, that their downfalls somehow amplify our own triumphs. We like to be unaccompanied in our glory; basking in it in a way that suggests that we feel it would somehow dwindle should we share it with others.
There are three changes we must make in order to annul this illusion that our own victories are only possible in conjunction with another person’s downfall. First, we should focus on our own goals as opposed to permanently being in competition with others; this will allow us to better apply ourselves in positive ways, erasing the toxic element of competition, which may actually detract from what we want. Second, we need to learn that the successes of others do not directly lead to our own downfalls.
When you seen a status update about somebody’s new job or engagement or relationship, you may immediately feel disheartened. It is our consequent negative outlook that can prevent us from succeeding. Finally, we must begin to celebrate others. This will help us to rid our negativity and provide us with more reasons to smile, ultimately improving our happiness and potential to succeed.
The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected
We’re all guilty of this. At some point or another, many of us have laid awake at night, worrying about something which we can do absolutely nothing. While easier said than done, we need to begin to clear our minds of negative thoughts — they are a waste of our time, a waste of our energy, and they only bring us down.
We need to learn how to let go of these worries in order to cleanse our minds. It is a mistake to continue to allow our worries to get on top of us; we need to let them go in order to be able to enjoy our lives. One way you might achieve this in your mind is by learning to meditate. Research has shown that meditation for as little as 10 minutes a day can decrease stress levels and improve your mood.
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it
This mistake is applicable more to society as a whole, as opposed to individuals. In fact, it is more probable that we will develop a self-loathing attitude when we are unable to accomplish something. What we must learn to do in order to overcome this mistake is to not give up whilst simultaneously not feeling disheartened when we do not immediately succeed.
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences
Have you ever returned your coffee because it had cream when you specifically asked for no cream? Ever snapped at your mom or sister or boyfriend or whomever is trying to hurry you out of the door when you aren’t ready?
We often fill our thoughts with these trivial matters – small issues that in the context of our own daily lives can seem much more prevalent and important than they really are. It is important that we maintain a sense of perspective, realizing that the issue of world hunger is really more problematic than having to wait five minutes longer than usual for something to be ready.
Neglecting development and refinements of the mind and not acquiring the habit of reading and study
Many of us read and study only when we absolutely need to do so. This means that once we leave formal education, we often cease to really study at all. However, a little reading can greatly enrich our lives. Not only does it give us something to focus on and to broaden our knowledge of a topic in which we are interested, reading can also give us inspiration. In today’s world, there is no limit to what you may find, and the Internet makes this easier than ever!
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do
This could include the most trivial of things: trying to convince someone that he or she should get drunk on a Tuesday because that’s what you’re doing, or making your friends watch the same TV shows you do, or believing that the way you dress/speak/act is the way everyone else should dress/speak/act. On a larger, less personal scale, it could be argued that Western governments attempt to spread their ideals to other states, believing their ways are the best ways.
I realize that most of you reading this will have no leverage in the international political system, however, it is important that we all accept that our ways are not the only ways. We need to focus on our own selves and perhaps attempt to live as someone else does every now and then to broaden our horizons.
What we should all take from these six, 2,000-year-old statements is not only amazement about the apparent constancy of mankind and our actions but also, some lessons. Write down the phrases and stick them somewhere in your apartment to encourage yourself not to repeat them. Hopefully, if we begin to listen to and learn from Cicero, we will be able to live happier and more fulfilled existences.
Photo via Wiki Commons