In an ideal world, we should grow in wisdom as we grow in years. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we continued to make the same mistakes over and over? And yet, how many of us still do it? Do you still make the same financial mistakes, still eat the things you know you shouldn’t, or engage in the same aimless pursuits that neither benefit you nor your family?
To grow in wisdom, we have to stop the cycle of bad decision making. Regardless of our age, we have to grow up. The poor choices we made in our youth cannot be the same poor choices me make in our senior years.
Aristotle was correct in stating that it takes bravery to overcome your desires. The easy path will not get you the results you were hoping for. We live in a world where consumer debt is a normal aspect of life. Rather than working and saving up for a desired item, we rush to buy it now. What a shame when we are still paying off that debt long after the item is no longer useful. Wouldn’t it be an even greater shame if we never learned the lesson and kept repeating this cycle our whole lives? The brave person says no. She says I will not give in to the immediate gratification but will wait for the greater reward.
Seneca’s Letters From a Stoic has become one of my favorite philosophical resources. The wisdom found in his works are timeless. Take for instance his teachings in the 27th letter: On the Good Which Abides:
Count your years, and you will be ashamed to desire and pursue the same things you desired in your boyhood days. Of this one thing make sure against your dying days –let your faults die before you die. Away with those disordered pleasures, which must be dearly paid for; it is not only those which are to come that harm me, but also those which have come and gone.
So with guilty pleasures, regret remains even after the pleasures are over.
Virtue alone affords everlasting and peace-giving joy.
It would be a waste to spend our lives chasing the things which have no lasting value. As children, this course of action might have seemed acceptable. But as adults, this behavior is folly. If however we choose to live a virtuous life, we can find a joy beyond our wildest imagination.