Feel Free To Set A Better Example

Ryan Holiday

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Awakin FeatureAt the core of legal theory is this idea that there are essentially two forms of liberty—positive and negative. Positive liberty is the freedom to do something, such as the freedom of speech or the freedom of worship. Negative liberty is freedom from something, which is a little more complicated. For instance, in the United States, the Third Amendment to the Constitution stipulates that the government cannot quarter troops in the home of any private individual. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. As FDR famously pointed out, freedom from want and fear are just as important as speech and worship.

The complicated part of all this, of course, is where somebody else’s freedom to do something intersects with somebody else’s desire to be free from it.

You get to speak your mind...but that may offend or hurt someone else. You should be able to do whatever you want on your own property...but walking around naked blaring music makes it hard for your neighbors to do the same. You should be able to make your own medical decisions for your family...but the decision not to vaccinate affects everyone they meet.

The specifics of these issues are the proper realm of politicians and lawyers, but Epictetus leaves with a tricky and timeless question: What is up to us and what is not up to us?

In a world of snowflakes and outrage porn, it’s easy to get pulled off track and to focus on stopping other people from saying hurtful or offensive things rather than to measure what we say and manage how we respond. We want to get up in other people’s business, when really, at the end of the day, all we control is our own.

Which is ridiculous because there is so much to focus on in our own lives. What kind of person are we going to be? What are we going to do with our freedoms? Are our decisions negatively impacting other people? Are we really as free as we like to think we are?

And here’s the counterintuitive thing about all of this: Marcus Aurelius talked over and over again about the best way to influence and inspire other people. It was not with force, but by example. If you want to be free from the tyranny of other people’s opinions and bad behavior, feel free to set a better example.

Excerpted from The Daily Stoic. Ryan Holiday is an American author, marketer and entrepreneur.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion of taking personal responsibility for being the change as opposed to critiquing others? Can you share a personal story of a time you shifted the focus back to yourself instead of censuring others for being hurtful? What helps you stay rooted in setting a better example?

Add Your Reflection:

8 Previous Reflections:

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    On Apr 30, 2019 amy wrote:
    The first amendment actually doesn't grant you the right to say anything you want. It just prevents the government from prosecuting you for it. It doesn't stop other people from realizing that you're ignorant and telling you that.

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    On Apr 24, 2019 Carol Ann Hedemark wrote:
    There was a time when I only looked outside of myself to place blame on others for my challenges. I blamed my behaviors on my upbringing or past hurts. I justified, rationalized and lied to myself that however I lived was OK just as long as I wasn't hurting anyone but myself. After hitting a mental, physical and spiritual bottom in 2010, I became open and willing to begin the process of making changes in my life to recover from a very dark place. I woke up to the truth that the only thing I can change is myself, my attitudes, my beliefs and my behaviors. What I thought was the fault ofothers was my responsibility to change. My perception shifted and myactions began to change and my life got better.I am responsible for change. I am responsible for being in acceptance. I pray, I mediate, I try to do the next right actionand I practice being in the present moment where the truth lives. I by no means do this perfectly but I know that when I am in acceptance of life on life's terms,... [View Full Comment] There was a time when I only looked outside of myself to place blame on others for my challenges. I blamed my behaviors on my upbringing or past hurts. I justified, rationalized and lied to myself that however I lived was OK just as long as I wasn't hurting anyone but myself. After hitting a mental, physical and spiritual bottom in 2010, I became open and willing to begin the process of making changes in my life to recover from a very dark place. I woke up to the truth that the only thing I can change is myself, my attitudes, my beliefs and my behaviors. What I thought was the fault ofothers was my responsibility to change. My perception shifted and myactions began to change and my life got better.I am responsible for change. I am responsible for being in acceptance. I pray, I mediate, I try to do the next right actionand I practice being in the present moment where the truth lives. I by no means do this perfectly but I know that when I am in acceptance of life on life's terms, living in thetruth, expecting nothing from others, my behavior and my response to life is loving and joyful.

    Thank you for letting me share.

    Carol Ann[Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Amy | Post Your Reply
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    On Apr 23, 2019 Amy wrote:
    If I respond wrongly in any given situation, I punish myself. When God gave me (us) the 10 commandments, He didn’t do it to gift Himself ... but to actually gift me (us). In following His plan, I am free. When I am able to set my sin aside and do what He has commanded me to do, I am living Truth (in His love). When I set a bad example, (do not follow His commands), I am living falsely, (outside of Him) ... and this is a way I do NOT wish to take. I am not responsible for anyone else’s behavior but my own. It’s each one of us ... one on One with God.

    “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Some wise person said something along this line.”
    Enjoyed others comments ... FYI:)

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    On Apr 23, 2019 jyotima wrote:
    My story is a perfect example of Grace and Gratitude. Since my childhood i suffered from health challenges. I was fighter and kept bouncing back to live a normal life. During this process of fighting i lost my own power and started blaming and complaining about everything. My entire focus Went on what is not happening right in my life and ignoring all the good things in life , till i reached a tipping point. In year 2010 i experienced lifeand death situation , that was the turning point in my life. I realised during those moments how much blessed i was and how much i was missing the important things in life by just complaining. I learnt the magical power of Gratitude and Grace. I took responsibilty of my own life and started working towards it. I revived myself to new life by practicing Gratitude, Forgiveness and unconditional love. Today i am living an happy blessed abundant grateful life. And Whatever i learnt during the process today i pay forward by helping people To take responsi... [View Full Comment] My story is a perfect example of Grace and Gratitude. Since my childhood i suffered from health challenges. I was fighter and kept bouncing back to live a normal life. During this process of fighting i lost my own power and started blaming and complaining about everything. My entire focus Went on what is not happening right in my life and ignoring all the good things in life , till i reached a tipping point. In year 2010 i experienced lifeand death situation , that was the turning point in my life. I realised during those moments how much blessed i was and how much i was missing the important things in life by just complaining. I learnt the magical power of Gratitude and Grace. I took responsibilty of my own life and started working towards it. I revived myself to new life by practicing Gratitude, Forgiveness and unconditional love. Today i am living an happy blessed abundant grateful life. And Whatever i learnt during the process today i pay forward by helping people To take responsibility of their own life and become captain of their own ship. As a life coach and Humanitarian i sprinkle the magic of gratitudeto whomsoever i come across. Life is beautiful and Gratitude is Magical.💕🙏🙏🙏Keep counting your blessings.[Hide Full Comment]

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    On Apr 23, 2019 Tyler wrote:
    I began to see my part in things as I worked the 12 steps of AA. This was about admitting my wrongs of the past, willingness to make amends and continuing to take a moral and personal inventory throughout the rest of my life! It was a game changer for me! I think the Serenity Prayer has been very beneficial in this process as well. Today, I practice keeping my side of the street clean, staying in my own lane and praying for the wisdom to know what is mine to do and what is not! Peace and Joy! Tyler D

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    On Apr 21, 2019 David Doane wrote:
    I very much support the notion of taking personal responsibility for being the change as opposed to critiquing others. Critiquing others, especially unasked for critiquing, doesn't help. Be the change you want to see in the world is Gandhi's message. It makes sense to me. So does the Golden Rule. Both seem to be very basic wisdom to live. I often live by the Golden Rule, being considerate, compassionate, and taking responsibility for my behavior, and usually don't censure those who aren't (except in my head, which is its own problem). What helps me stay rooted in setting a good example is knowing that I can only change me, knowing that how I am affects others, and knowing that my right action is its own reward no matter what happens.

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    On Apr 20, 2019 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    I take my personal responsibility for making my choices that are healthy, wise, constructive and helpful only to me but to others.It's up to me to choose what to eat or not. I may eat junk food and fill my body-mind-and heart with junk and unhealthy and toxic stuff, desires, thoughts and emotions prompting and compelling me not only me but others around me. Daily living offers me several opportunities to train my mind not to react ignorantly but wisely.Yesterday I was in a grocery store to buy fresh vegetables. The space was not wide enough for three carts to go through.Right in front of my cart, there were two ladies talking amicably with their carts parked blocking my way. I remained mindful of my thoughts and feelings arising in me. So in stead of pushing their carts angrily I took time out to put them aside so that I can move on. My intention was not to teach them a lesson or expect a "thank you expression"from them. They did it on their own. This is not a big event b... [View Full Comment] I take my personal responsibility for making my choices that are healthy, wise, constructive and helpful only to me but to others.It's up to me to choose what to eat or not. I may eat junk food and fill my body-mind-and heart with junk and unhealthy and toxic stuff, desires, thoughts and emotions prompting and compelling me not only me but others around me.
    Daily living offers me several opportunities to train my mind not to react ignorantly but wisely.Yesterday I was in a grocery store to buy fresh vegetables. The space was not wide enough for three carts to go through.Right in front of my cart, there were two ladies talking amicably with their carts parked blocking my way. I remained mindful of my thoughts and feelings arising in me. So in stead of pushing their carts angrily I took time out to put them aside so that I can move on. My intention was not to teach them a lesson or expect a "thank you expression"from them. They did it on their own. This is not a big event but according to my experience small steps of empathy and wise and right actions become building blocks for freeing myself from my self-created bondage of suffering. All wisdom traditions and wise teachers show the same way:Harm not yourself and others. Consider mistakes as miss- steps.Soften your heart when it is hurting.Be kind to you and to others. Act not react.Repalce a negative thought by a positive thought, anger by kindness, curses by blessings, revenge by forgiveness. In order to grow my Tree of Loving Kindness, I need to nurture my seeds of growth potentiality everyday. Knowing by itself is not enough. I need to practice what I know in my everyday encounters. Such practice requires mindful self-discipline and that's what keeps me rooted and that's what nourishes my Tree of Loving Kindness.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave

    [Hide Full Comment]

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