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How You Can Conquer Your Vices According to Seneca

Each person has a problem with bad behavior in some form or another — that’s a fact. Everyone, regardless of intelligence, income, or nationality is prone to do or think things that are unequivocally wrong. Of course, because the struggle is so common, everyone likes to pretend that these vices we struggle with are just a sad fact of life. We like to think that just because everyone wrestles with them, that they are somehow undefeatable. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Our vices can be beaten.  Using the steps outlined by a philosopher more than two thousand years ago, you can conquer bad behavior outright.

In a book originally entitled, De Brevitate Vitæ (On the Meaningness of Life), the great Stoic philosopher Seneca tried to explain his framework for living meaningfully. It was in his book that he wrote the following:

“We must attack the passions by brute force and not by logic; that the enemy’s line must be turned by a strong attack and not by pinpricks; for vices have to be crushed rather than picked at.”

If you want to stop doing bad things, thinking bad thoughts, or having bad attitudes,  the best way is to stop all of it at once.  Everything. Cold turkey. You have to watch everything you do as if you were on a diet, being aware of even the smallest things and putting an end to the things you know you shouldn’t do.

The problem is that most people never do this – they mistakenly believe that it just takes small steps to finally get on the road to purity. But small steps require discipline, and people who struggle with their vices aren’t disciplined enough to take small steps. If they were disciplined, they wouldn’t be struggling with bad behavior in the first place!

Want to be a better person? Start being one. Do what Seneca said: Go strong.

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