In life, we must choose what is necessary and what is unnecessary. Stoicism has discussed this issue in the text of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus focusing on asking ourselves what is really important. Seneca explains this in letter form a stoic, when he tells Lucilius that “Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.”
The quote from Seneca opens a discussion on what we need and why we need these unnecessary things. One of the most important conclusions that Seneca gives us is that this unnecessary things are used, because we have them not because we needed them. I’ve seen this in my years as a coach, the fight for keeping the unnecessary things in our lives even though we don’t need them anymore. I have also seen the suffering in others and in me, when this unnecessary things are taken away from our lives and we keep searching for them, trying to reach them without knowing that fate has helped us in our path to freedom.
This unnecessary things are not only material things. They are habits, thoughts or aspirations that are not good for us. For example, Cato the Young, had the practice to dress himself with the same cloths even though people judged him when they saw him. In the times of Cato the Young, using the same cloth, specially for someone that could buy new cloth, was seen as a signal of poverty or dementia. For Cato, it was an exercise on the unnecessary things such as luxurious cloth. The same exercise we see in Seneca. He used to eat the same food for one week asking himself, is this what I fear? He understood that different food, although satisfying, could be an unnecessary thing.
I replicated this when I started to intermittent fast. I went from eating seven days a week to eating four days a week. Then I didn’t ate for four days a week, just drinking water, and it demonstrated me that the worry for food was unnecessary. (Please consider this experience as part of a healthy diet). We must try to identify the unnecessary things in our lives.
An unnecessary thing that we can identify are individuals that do not contribute to our well being. Those toxic relations in which you are only accepting the circumstances because you have them a not because they are beneficial. These unnecessary things won’t bring us well being. These unnecessary things won’t contribute to your life. Ask yourself, this this relation a unnecessary thing?
Another unnecessary thing is social media, or the excess of it. Is it really important for your well being to read biased news? Ask yourself if there are other ways of engaging in a better scenario with the news you consume. Let go of the unnecesary emotions that social media can create in your life and choose to be happier.
We can add to the list of unnecessary things other topics such as reputation, ego, hate, excess information, doubt just to name a few. You can also let go of these unnecessary things. It is up to you to understand that the path of happiness, which as Buddha stated is the path, has to be traveled lightly. If we choose to keep around our unnecessary things, these things will keep us from reaching our destination. They will make us uncomfortable, tired, without vision and lacking energy.
So ask yourself, what is unnecessary in my life that I must let go?
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