From Seneca: Letters from a Stoic, Letter 101 – On the futility of planning ahead:
“There is indeed a limit fixed for us, just where the remorseless law of Fate has fixed it; but none of us knows how near he is to this limit. Therefore, let us so order our minds as if we had come to the very end. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s account every day.
One who daily puts the finishing touches to his life is never in want of time.
…begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life. He who has thus prepared himself, he whose daily life has been a rounded whole, is easy in his mind.”
Seneca wrote these words just after telling his friend about an acquaintance who had risen from poverty to wealth and prestige and was on the verge of great accomplishment. And then he suddenly died.
Nothing is promised. We ultimately are fragile and mortal. It is foolish and reckless to assume we have time unlimited for our grand plans and for our intention to eventually live an excellent life.
As we end a year and begin a new one, it’s tempting to want to make grand plans for the distant future. While there is value in aiming your life in a general direction, coming up with specific goals and detailed plans for the long-term seems pointless.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. –Annie Dillard
But what if you make grand plans for the quality of each day? Do as Seneca says, and “Count each separate day as a separate life.” String together enough great days and you will live your way into a great year. Instead of resolutions for the year, come up with resolutions each day. Instead of New Year resolutions, hold fast to “new day” resolutions as you awake each morning.
Consider daily habits and routines instead of goals. Screw up? You get a fresh start, a clean slate, every 24 hours. And as you prepare for bed each night, take an accounting of your day and prepare to adjust as necessary for the new day you hope to wake up to in the morning.
And “begin at once to live.”