Awareness Coffee Break Opinion stoicism

145 – Hold True

“Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.”

— Epictetus

This weeks episode is about finding your values and holding true.

As children, we’re taught how to get along with others, how to be congenial, to fit in. Kids that are seen as different or weird are often ostracized or teased. As we grow up, I think that most of us have a time in our lives where we feel like we’re not like everyone else, and we try so hard to fit in, and we try to change ourselves into something that we really aren’t. When we do this we have a feeling of being inauthentic. Even if we are “liked” in the moment, it’s a hollow feeling because we know that we fit in by being fake.

As we get older, most of us generally find a way to fit in and get along. We may hold onto the religion that we grew up, even if we don’t really believe it, simply because it’s easier to get along. If we are not careful we can take on attitudes and ideas that are not really our own. We may just simply default to the values of the culture that we live in.

“You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, ‘What are you thinking about?’, you can respond at once.”

— Marcus Aurelius

How well do you know yourself? If someone were to ask you today what your values are, what would be in that list? Would you know right offhand or would you have to think about for a while? Would those beliefs be truly yours, or would you simply say what the people around are saying?

“I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything”

— Katy Perry

My partner and I were talking the other day about the fact that I will sometimes not really share my own opinions because I’m afraid of that she’ll get upset with me. This, of course, annoyed her, because she wants to know my opinion on things. She may disagree with it, but it’s still valid for me to have my own opinion. As we talked about it, the more I could see that I often censored myself around others because I don’t want to upset them. That people pleaser in me still pops up sometimes without me really noticing it.

As we talked about it, she came up with an idea that I should write down what my values are, then if someone didn’t agree with something I said or was offended, I could go down my list of values and as long as I didn’t violate my own values, then I could feel good about my actions, regardless of what someone else thinks. So that’s what I did. I did a search on personal values and compiled a list of those that I feel are important. I came up with five core values: self-respect, compassion, openness, growth, and leadership. Under each of these values, I have a set of traits that clarify that value, as well as a question I can ask myself when I go down this list.

For example, my first, and for now most important value is self-respect, to love and value myself. The traits or sub values under that are:

  • Authenticity – Am I be true to myself, and are the beliefs I hold ones I have chosen?
  • Honesty – Am I being truthful to myself, and taking responsibility for my actions?
  • Humor – Can I relax and laugh at myself and be okay with my mistakes?
  • Autonomy – Am I being my own person, and not behaving differently because I’m worried about what others think of me?

If I can answer each of these questions honestly, then I am holding to my value of self-respect.

What are the values that you hold for yourself? What are the things that you hold as your core beliefs? Now when we start off figuring out what we truly believe in, we often have a hard time articulating what we truly believe in. We may have a clear idea of what we don’t want, and that’s not a bad place to start. Knowing that we don’t want intolerance or racism as part of values is a good place to start.

I would encourage you to take some time this week and list off the things that are important for you. If you are having trouble coming up with some ideas, go to my website and you’ll see a link to a worksheet that has a list of about 45 personal values, examples, and place for you to fill out your values.

The first part of being able to hold to your values is to know what they are. Whenever you find yourself unsure if you are being true to the things that are important, you can run down this list, and see where it may or may not fit in. If you can check off everything on your list, then you can feel comfortable with your actions and “hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.”

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion stoicism

129 – Opinions and Perspective
Opinions and Pespective


“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

― Marcus Aurelius

Show Notes:

– So many things in our lives that we experience and accept to be “true” is simply a matter of perception.
– Often we make the mistake of thinking that just because we see or hear something that because we experienced it, it must be what reality is.
– That the way the we experience the world is the way the world really is.
– But the Stoics remind us that everything in our experience is simply our perception of it, and that our perceptions are quite often wrong.
– And that we should be prepared to let go of anything we hold as “facts” or “truth” because at any moment we could get new information and be completely wrong.
– We see this with optical illusions. We see imaginary things in the shadows.
– We see this in mistakes by eyewitness testimonies that are completely contradicted by video footage of the same event.
– Everything that we experience is just data signals coming in and our brains are doing it’s best to interpret what those signals mean.
– Is that a saber tooth tiger or just strange looking bush?
– Is that a bear or gnarled tree?
– It looks to what it learned from the past and tries to compare it and match it to what it’s seen or heard before.
– The other day my partner sent me a link to an video which played a voice speaking a word.
– The strange thing is that some in some people heard the word “laurel” and others heard the word “yanny”.
– In some cases, people could heard both words as if they were superimposed over each other.
– If you haven’t heard this, I’m going to play it for you now.
– I only heard laurel. My partner heard yanny. And as we sat together and listened it was so strange that we were listening to the same thing yet heard completely different words.
– The NYT website has a special player so you can adjust the frequencies to hear both, so I’ll adjust it to move between the two.
– I’ll also put the link in the show notes, so that you can find it later.
– But the point is, that most of our reality is simply subjective. We get the signal and try to make is mean something, and those things that we think are solid facts, are simply an opinion. And truth is very dependent on our perspective.
– Now this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t believe anything. The point of Stoic rationality, and the basis for the scientific method is one that states, “This is the best opinion, based upon the information that I have. I could be proved wrong at any moment, so I should be willing to be open to changing my mind.”
– Or the most succinct way I’ve heard this put is, “Strong opinions, loosely held”.

Link to the NYT player:

Photo by Mathilda Khoo on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion

127 – Laugh in The Face Of Evil

Laugh In The Face OF Evil


“If evil be said of thee, and if it be true, correct thyself; if it be a lie, laugh at it.”

― Epictetus

Show Notes:

  • When I read this quote the first thing that came to mind was “I laugh in the face of evil!” 🙂
  • How often do we get upset at what others say about us?
  • How often do we let what others say about define who we are?
  • Why get upset about their opinion, esp if it’s a lie?
  • Remember, as Stoics we need to open to correction, because what we believe and how we see the world could be totally wrong.
  • We are going to make mistakes.
  • We need to act with integrity and decide if they said has merit.
  • So if someone points out a flaw, we should be thankful because we now know what to correct.
  • And if what is said about you is patently false, rather than let it upset, you should simply laugh in the face of evil.
  • On the surface this quote is telling us that we shouldn’t let what others say about us bother us, because it’s just their opinion, their way of seeing the world.
  • But if we dig a little deeper, what this quote is also telling us is that we need to deal with reality as it it, and not what we want it to be.
  • The reality is we will make mistakes. We’re not perfect. And there will be times when we fail to uphold our standards.
  • Often we don’t see the crappy things that we do, because sometimes because we don’t want to see them. Our ego gets in the way.
  • If we act with integrity should be willing to own our actions, and the outcome of our actions.
  • Don’t own others reactions. Everyone is responsible for their own emotions and reactions.
  • Be grateful for your enemies because they are often the only ones that tell you the truth.
  • And if they lie, laugh in the face of evil.


Coffee Break Opinion

126 – Admonition


“To admonish is better than to reproach for admonition is mild and friendly, but reproach is harsh and insulting; and admonition corrects those who are doing wrong, but reproach only convicts them.”

― Epictetus

Show Notes:

  • Stoics believe that we can only control ourselves.

  • But also believe that we are here to help others.

  • As a Parent I’ve tried to be good about correcting there actions, but not make them feel like they’re a person because the make mistakes.

  • I was often told I was bad person for my mistakes.

  • My partner is great about giving constructive feedback

  • Often out with friends I’d dominate the conversation. She’d ask me on the way home if I noticed glazed eyes and lack of conversation on their part.

  • She’d help point out these things so that I could get the results I wanted, which was to have engaging and fun conversations with my friends

  • Non-threatening, just matter of fact was really helpful, and helped me to trust the feedback

  • When we think we need correct someone, the first thing we should do is we should ask if they want to hear opinion, if they want to change.

  • Respect the wish if they say no.

  • Second is have a dialog by asking questions, don’t preach.

  • Last keep our own judgements out of the conversation, otherwise the person will probably get pretty defensive.

  • Nobody likes to feel judged.

  • Most people want to be their best.

  • Learning how to give and take constructive nonjudgmental feedback is a great skill that we all can benefit from.

    Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion

117 – Do Good of Your Own Accord

Do Good of Your Own Accord


“Even as the Sun does not wait for prayers and incantations to rise, but shines forth and is welcomed by all: so should you not wait for clapping of hands and shouts and praise to do your duty; nay, do good of your own accord, and you will be loved like the Sun.”

― Epictetus


One of the ideas that is common in a lot of religions is the idea of doing good works without the fanfare of other people. That we should do things because they are the right things to do, not because everyone will see what we are doing. And here Epictetus uses some great imagery to explain that idea. Just as the sun doesn’t wait for fanfare to shine, we shouldn’t wait to do things just to be seen by others.

And what is wrong with that? What is wrong with doing things to be seen by others? We’re still doing good deeds aren’t we? And we get the added benefit of praise from others, so that’s good, right? When we do things just to be seen by others, we are worrying about the opinions of others. If we only do things when we can get praise, then there’s a lot of good things that we could do that will go undone because we were waiting to do it when others could praise us.

We are giving our control to other people. We are in a sense letting the opinions of others dictate what we will do. When we act this way, we’re often thinking, “What’s in it for me?” What if everyone worked this way? What if everyone asked, “What’s in it for me?”

What if you were injured and someone came along who could help you, but they decided not to because no one was around to see their good deed? They decided that it would not benefit them so they leave you to fend for yourself. This is what Jesus talked about the story of the good Samaritan.

For those that don’t know the story, a man is traveling to another town, and is robbed, beaten, and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, who was religious man who worked in the temple, both pass by and leave the man. A Samaritan comes along and helps the man and takes him to an inn and pays for him to receive help with no expectation of being repaid or praised. At that time Jews and Samaritans despised each other, so in doing so, he showed that their “enemy” helped the man because it was the right things to do, not because of any outward praise or direct benefit to himself.

The things is, our world is built upon us being cooperative and doing lots of little and big kindnesses throughout the day. And personally, I think that the one of the main purpose of lives, and what makes our lives richer is to lessen the suffering of others. And you know what? It feels good when I help others and do it because it’s something I want to do, not because I think I’ll get something out of it.

Just as the sun shines on us without waiting for praise, we should make doing good for its own sake be part of our nature.

Photo by Ronaldo Santos on Unsplash

Awareness Coffee Break Opinion

115 – No Opinion

No Opinion


“You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”

― Marcus Aurelius

Have you ever considered the possibility that you don’t need to have an opinion about something? That you don’t need to pass judgment on everything?

Before you spend your time worrying about something, what if you took the time to decide if it was worth having an opinion about? There are so many things in this world that have no impact on us whatsoever. So why waste your time on these things? How much energy is wasted on who a celebrity is dating or not dating? Or the fact that they were seen in some untrendy store wearing sweatpants and a baseball cap?

Have you ever been around someone that had to give their opinion on everything? As if they they were imparting some great wisdom by giving you their uninformed opinion on something that didn’t even matter? In most cases, when we think that everyone else is entitled to our opinion, we tend to show how uninformed we really are.
Or if it’s something small and trivial, that we’re just a petty gossip.

I often hear people talk like this about political matters as if their opinion on what some pundit had to say about someone else, actually mattered. Would actually have an impact. If these things don’t have any effect, why waste time and energy on them?

The next time you find yourself talking about the stupid thing that so celebrity or some politician said or did, ask yourself, “Do I really need to have an opinion on this?” And save that precious time doing something that matters.