Act Accordingly – Origins in Stoicism

One of my favorite authors is Colin Wright and I thought of him instantly when I read the following quote in Marcus Aurelius’ common place book, Meditations, “Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly.” Back in August of last year I wrote about Colin Wright’s book Act Accordingly and the first sentence of his book which reads, “You have exactly one life in which to do everything you will ever do. Act accordingly.”  I love the fact that Wright borrowed from Aurelius, and I love the principle that Aurelius built into stoicism.


Act Accordingly means living in the present moment and understanding the choices and decisions that you make.  It involves self-awareness and self-understanding to know why we act the way we do and why we hold the beliefs that we do. The more we build a process of self-awareness and reflection the better we can navigate our world and achieve the results that we desire. The idea of acting accordingly means that we appreciate the life that we have and we are able to take meaningful steps to reach our goals.  When we act accordingly we pause, recognize what we desire, what is truly useful, and work to be conscious as we move through our days.


For Aurelius, act accordingly translated into a spiritual recognition and understanding that we will all pass away, and that our time is not just limited, but it is often unpredictably short.  His message is to be fully present in every moment, avoiding periods of time where you shuffle through life without focus and without intention.  When you recognize that any moment could be the end of your life you begin to cherish the time you have. An increased presence of mind can translate into a greater sense of fulfillment in every moment.


Wright’s approach to act accordingly draws from the stoic tradition that Aurelius helped build, but he includes modern frameworks that fit the life in which we live now.  He is focused beyond just the single moment, but he does not abandon the idea and importance of presence of mind.  Wright encourages his readers to build more focus on their lives and decisions, and to find a way to pull themselves out of autopilot.  What distinguishes the two writers is the way in which Wright focuses on freedom and building a life with the most abundant possibilities.  Wright explains acting accordingly as taking advantage of the time you have in your life, and consciously creating a system that allows you to have the most choices and possibilities.  For Wright, the best way to act accordingly is to be fully self-aware, understand what drives you, and to use those drives to move into situations where life can be flexible and open to greater possibilities.


Both authors base their thoughts of acting accordingly on the idea of self-awareness, but each shows a different way in which that self-awareness translates into the choices and decisions that we make.  Understanding that our time and our lives are limited helps us see the importance of maximizing our decisions, and helps us to understand that we must move forward in ways that best align with our self-reflections.  Focusing on acting accordingly will help you build a set of heuristics that guide your life toward goals that are responsible and meaningful.

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