Living My Values: Temperance

“What then? Can one who follows out this Plan be safe in any case?” I cannot guarantee you this any more than I can guarantee good health in the case of a man who observes moderation; although, as a matter of fact, good health results from such moderation. Sometimes a vessel perishes in harbour; but what do you think happens on the open sea? “ Seneca

Living a Stoic life is a journey not a destination. I do not look forward to a reward at the end – rather my reward is the improvement I see in myself daily, both mentally and physically, by working to adhere to the values I have set for myself.

I have recently started to work on the virtue of temperance, in particular in regards to what I eat and drink. Part of this is driven by my age – what I could do with ease when I was 20 is no longer possible when I am 3 times that age. Part of it is also driven by a greater awareness of my body – what makes me feel bad and the extent to which external events unconsciously drive me to treat myself with food and drink to help relieve stress.

As I have grown in my understanding and adoption of a Stoic mindset, I am finding that I have less desire to self medicate, and with that realization am also seeing the extent to which my past behavior was also driven by society. There is a constant drum beat of advertising and promotion that food and drink will make me happy. I cannot recall an advertisement for food or drink that did not involve a scene of happy people enjoying themselves (by enjoying whatever food or drink was being served).

This is not a lie. I do enjoy being with friends for a drink and meal and still do, however I am working to look at it from the context of my personal values. Am I doing this because I enjoy their company (I am) or because I am looking to relieve my stress through their company as accompanied by food and drink (I was).

My stress is driven by my desire to control that which I cannot control. As I give up working to control the uncontrollable and focus instead on what I can control (my reactions, thoughts and actions), I find that my stress is reduced, and along with it my desire to medicate it.

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