Sunday night Stoic: Be prepared

I used to think my thoughts were somewhat magical, that if I thought only good things, only good things would happen.

It’s a powerful, but flawed, mindset.

There is power in intentionally choosing the bright side, of seeing the best in circumstances and in others. But willful disregard of undesired outcomes will leave you vulnerable to the whims of fate and the blunt trauma of real life.

The Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared.” This should be a wise person’s motto as well.

Be prepared for your plans to fail, for bad news to arrive, for heartbreak and for disappointment.

Before beginning a new venture, consider what could go wrong. It’s a lot more fun to imagine smooth sailing, but the calm waters you see now could be roiling tomorrow. Be prepared.

Stoics practice negative visualization regularly. They imagine the worst that could happen—the loss of all they hold dear. And they hold that thought for a moment and feel the pain of their worst fears realized. Even doing this for a few seconds will sober you and then revitalize your appreciation that those fears have not actually happened. Yet.

When my grandmother was gravely ill and years later when my mother was as well, I refused both times to acknowledge they might not make it through their illnesses. I wanted to think and speak only as though they would recover, especially in their presence.

I was not prepared when they died. My illusion of perpetual happy endings was shattered.

And I regret, now, that I didn’t get over my avoidance of discouraging thoughts and words enough to have a final, meaningful conversation with each of them, letting them know how much I loved and appreciated them and thanking them for giving me such a good life.

Fortunately, I had close relationships with both, and I know they knew I loved them. It would have been so nice, though, to have had a moment of closure before they were gone.

Love your family and friends while you can, and let them know how much they mean to you.

Imagine, regularly, what it would be like to not have your health and your wealth and your relationships. Doing so will make you more grateful and will lead you to a more authentic and meaningful life and will move you to act rather than passively and naively defer and delay.

Steel yourself for the worst that could happen. Prepare for things to not go as planned. And prepare to use whatever comes as fuel to propel you further and higher.