We get accustomed to a certain way of life, It’s pretty comfortable and we like comfort.
We have our Clothes and Coffee, Our T.V & Sofa, Access to food almost instantly…
Back in the day when I was in Uni ‘Living The Good Life’ – Or my idea of what the good life was back then…
New clothes, Gadgets and shoes (Honestly I had more things Adidas than Adidas) I was just buying stuff for the sake of having stuff…
Then I went self-employed (and eventually broke) – It was a lifestyle shock for sure, I remember a client paying me, then I immediately ran over the road to Sainsbury’s to buy some food and a Redbull, because I was rationing up until then…
My car broke down and I couldn’t afford to get it fixed (or get home) so I had to sleep on the gym floor…
My partner at the time let me stay at her house for a couple of days – I’ll never forget the BBQ chicken she cooked for me the nicest meal I’ll ever have (I’m not sure that was because I was sooo Hungry and my scenes were heightened or it was just delicious )
– Although I was scraping by day to day these were some of the happiest days of my life, There were no fancy days out, no lush meals, hungry and debt letters every other day and wearing the same clothes for weeks on end… The small stuff didn’t seem small,
I eventually found my feet and fell into the normal habits of buying stuff I didn’t really need, Not saving money – I had a safe and secure job now so I wasn’t going to go broke again….
Yeah, I was wrong… I was sacked the day after my nans funeral and had to make 2 weeks pay last 2 months…
And more recent times, Eviction and getting my hours cut, Having to decide between sleeping in my car so I can get some food or putting petrol in my car so I can get home. Watching people eat, whilst pretending I wasn’t eating because I wasn’t hungry but the reality was I couldn’t afford it and was starving…
Soo why am I telling you this
Well, each of these experiences was helping me deal with the next one and it’s actually quite a freeing experience…
When you can’t afford to buy your normal pleasures – Coffee, Clothes, Nice Food… Whatever it is.
Your freed from your impulses, The string that tugs you along on a day by day basis… You have no choice but to break out from your slavish desires and impulses that you think you wouldn’t be able to live without…
At any moment the life you know can be toppled into the unknown – You could be made redundant, have to live off less money you will have to live on fewer things, meaning that your normal pleasures have to go, No more expensive meals out, or your daily coffee(s) etc…
After a while, you adjust to living on less and you realise you don’t actually need these pleasure.
I used to buy lots of clothes and trainers and other random crap I didn’t need – Now my wardrobes fairly minimalistic – I don’t need lots of clothes to try and impress people, I don’t mind wearing the same hoodie for a week (I would wear it longer if it didn’t washing) and when I do buy some new stuff – well I know for sure im going to get its worth out of it…
At the time I didn’t know it and even though mine was through the unfortunate and non-voluntary, This is actually a practice from the Stoics
And has actually prepared me well for this past year starting two businesses – The pressure and having less money than normal isn’t a burden or a stress – I’ve been through worse.
“Here’s a lesson to test your mind’s mettle: take part of a week in
which you have only the most meager and cheap food, dress scantly
in shabby clothes, and ask yourself if this is really the worst that you
Seneca goes on to say –
“It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for
tougher times ahead, for when Fortune is kind the soul can build
defenses against her ravages. So it is that soldiers practice
maneuvers in peacetime, erecting bunkers with no enemies in sight
and exhausting themselves under no attack so that when it comes
they won’t grow tired.” – Seneca
Just like a boxer goes endless rounds in the ring during training camp & the soldiers exhausting themselves under no attack we too should toughen the soul when there is no sign of hardship when times are good and we are somewhat carefree – That’s when we’re most vulnerable.
I don’t need to practice that – It won’t happen to me…
I lost my job the day after my Nans funeral – Just when you think times couldn’t be any worse… A year later my hours got cut (At the same time as being served an eviction notice)
I know people who have worked for the same company for years (quite high up as well) and made redundant with just a months notice…
To quote Seneca again –
“Being unexpected adds to the weight of a disaster, and being a
surprise has never failed to increase a person’s pain.”
You can image the panic and stress of being made redundant unexpectedly after years of working hard and making your way up the ladder, Thinking that you’re not only safe but you’re also progressing in the company.
“For that reason,
nothing should ever be unexpected by us. Our minds should be sent
out in advance to all things and we shouldn’t just consider the
normal course of things, but what could actually happen. For is there
anything in life that Fortune won’t knock off its high horse if it
I’ll save the negative visualization of that quote for another post (Part II of – The Problem with the Law of Attraction)
But Senaca is saying that we should prepare for the possibility of the worst happening to us… Because it could.
Take an up and coming footballer just signing a major deal to get injured not long after…
Practising Misfortune –
I think the point has been made that it could happen for you, But even if it didn’t practising misfortune has more benefits than just being prepared for poverty –
It makes you more resilient to stressful situations – sometimes even stress-free because you know you’ve lived through worse…
You appreciate what you have more – Your car may make a funny noise or not have a specific new feature… But it’s not bad compared to walking everywhere or relying on the trains not to be cancelled (Cough, Cough Northern)
And you learn to have more self-control – You don’t really need that 3rd coffee, you don’t need to buy those new shoes to make you happy, because you know that you can be happy even in tough times…
How to practice misfortune…
You could pretend that your car has been repossessed and walk everywhere for a couple of days.
(Another it could happen to you moment – My car got hit by an Arctic truck and dragged along the motorway – What are the chances of that happening but it did – and now I’m walking everywhere)
You could pretend that you’ve lost your job and that you have a very strict budget of ‘X’ Amount per month – Buying the cheapest foods and only spending when you really have to
Have cold showers for a week because your hot water has been turned off
These are just a few ways you can practice misfortune but Don’t just think about them, but live them. And do it now, while things are good.