Stoicism and Virtuous Selfishness

Making Life-Changing Decisions for Ourselves

Kasey Pierce

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Video meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor.
I see better things, and approve, but I follow worse.— Ovid, Metamorphoses

What is the biggest motivator for making life-changing decisions? Why do some people, suddenly, decide to get up and do something about their unhappiness? And why is it that some people sit sighing to themselves on the sidelines, wishing they were those people? What’s separates the bold from the stagnant? Genetics? Priviledge? Fear?

I pondered these questions while I was at the gym the other day. For the past 8 years, weight training has been a part of my morning routine. I reflected on this and asked myself why do you do this?

The answer is a long one, but I was looking for the bottom line. The long answer to this question was that at 27 years old, after failing to squeeze into my size 20 jeans, I made a decision. The decision began with deciding how I felt about being 275 lbs. The options were:

A) Accepting the situation, being content, and carrying on.
B) Changing those things about which I wasn’t happy.

Although I went with change, option B, it wasn’t as simple as all that. If it were an easy choice, everyone would make it.

Perhaps some of us are intimidated by the work that lies ahead. Some of us might prefer instant gratification and stop before we even start to take the road to change. After years of yo-yo dieting, this time, this decision, was truly different. A little over a year later, I had lost 115 lbs. It was hard, but it didn’t kill me.

Self-Deprecation is Not Motivation

“Wow, I wish I had that kind of motivation.” I’d hear people say. So what is that motivation? It wasn’t just the weight or else I’d have yo-yo’d again. Weight loss is simply an example here. In the grand scheme, our motivation to make big change is the same. I could use the example of people who are scared to change careers, those endlessly mulling over whether or not they’re too old to go back to school, or those who are nervous to move to a new city and so on.

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Kasey Pierce

Editor of forthcoming “Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius” and “365 Ways to Be More Stoic”. Writer/creator of sci-fi comic series, “Norah”.