Between 106-43 B. C., the writer, poet, critic, lawyer, statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero outlined the six biggest mistakes Romans made as he saw them. And darned if we aren’t still making them.
1. The illusion that personal gain is created by crushing others.
Oh, how easy it is to just start criticizing and finding fault with others. And since the advent of the internet, message boards abound with keyboard psychologists who convince themselves that by virtue of someone posting a sentence they’re given a special pass to rip people they don’t know to shreds.
2. The Tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
Either you have control or you don’t. Worrying about them won’t change that. It’ll just drain precious energy you could be spending on things you do have control over, like your reaction to the things that happen to you.
3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.
Maybe we can’t accomplish it. Or maybe we just can’t right now. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. How many people in the 1940s, looking at computers the size of a bookcase, really thought that they would ever become “personal sized?” I’d wager not many. But Bill Gates thought they could be. Now I can fit one into my purse.
4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences
Too often, we major in the minor things in life. I’ve sat around for hours, fuming about the woman who drifted into my lane without a signal and without any clearance whatsoever. And many times I’ve almost exploded when the people in front of me in the deli line say “It all looks so good—I just can’t decide.”
Ego just takes over the driver’s seat of our lives, and keeps us ruminating in things that really don’t matter when the happen, and really don’t matter later on in life.
5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study.
Sure, we spend about twelve years of our lives being forced to cram in information so we can take a standardized test. And if we get a high enough score on that test, we get the diploma that secures our freedom.
That doesn’t mean we should run from learning like it’s poison. Now we get to learn about what we wan’t to learn. Freedom means getting to let into your life what you want to let in; not blocking everything out.
6. Attempting to compel others to believe as we do.
Just let it go. Arguing with someone and trying to point out to them how stupid we think they are isn’t going to change their mind. Just ask my cousin. He’s been trying that approach for forty years and it’s never worked.
One of the traits of highly functioning people is that they have no desire to control others. Instead, they follow Voltaire’s advice to “Learn to cultivate your own garden.”
In addition to #4, I’ve really struggled with #2. I used to be a World Class Worrier (had the silver belt buckle and all). Once I realized that the worry was coming from an over-reactive amygdala instead of something so- called “reality,” I learned how to practice separating myself from it. And ignoring it.
What about you? Which mistakes do you find yourself making over and over?