Euthymia: Seneca on Achieving Tranquility

How peace of mind can make all the difference. Learn about euthymia from the great stoic philosopher Seneca.

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Do you ever doubt your best laid plans?

Question your choices and decisions? Compare yourself to others and their success? Instead of following your own intuition, you mimic the paths of people you aspire to be, who seem to have made it.

This is the opposite of tranquility. It is the antithesis of a peace of mind. It is being unsure of yourself and what you should be doing. To always be questioning yourself in the back of your mind is no way to live.

Seneca, the great stoic philosopher, tackled this very mode of thinking and offered an alternative, one based on tranquility and acceptance of your choices. He describes it as such:

“What you desire, to be undisturbed, is a great thing, nay, the greatest thing of all, and one which raises a man almost to the level of a god. The Greeks call this calm steadiness of mind euthymia … What we are seeking, then, is how the mind may always pursue a steady, unruffled course, may be pleased with itself, and look with pleasure upon its surroundings, and experience no interruption of this joy, but abide in a peaceful condition without being ever either elated or depressed: this will be ‘peace of mind.’”

Everyone needs to achieve this quiet confidence known as euthymia. Euthymia is essentially believing in yourself and trusting the path you have chosen. It is not being distracted by the many alternative paths you could follow. It is the ability to not be shaken, distracted, or doubted.

How do you develop this deep understanding and trust in your decisions? How can you trust that the path you are on is the right one? It starts with understanding yourself.

1. Find Your Inner Guide

First and foremost you must discover your own inner guide. You must understand your universal truths and first principles. This is vital, as to not get washed away in the wave of common opinion and social norms.

Seneca describes the challenge of finding tranquility that comes from outside forces:

“Tranquility can’t be grasped except by those who have reached an unwavering and firm power of judgement-the rest constantly fall and rise in their decisions, wavering in the state of alternately rejecting and accepting things. What is the cause of this back and forth? It’s because nothing is clear and they rely on the most uncertain guide-common opinion.”

With the never-ending flood of information, it can become increasingly challenging to block it out, but that’s exactly what you must do. Ignore the external noise and focus on the signal coming from within.

Notice what you do and do not. How you spend your time. What you really enjoy. Use these clues to build your map, to understand yourself.

2. Embrace Uncertainty

The second part is much more difficult. What must be understood from this process, is it will never be 100% perfect. It will feel wrong at times, it will go wrong at others, but that is the case with every path you take.

When you start to feel that uncertainty creeping in, it is important to go back to your inner guide and realize why you are on the path you chose. If you don’t, if you waver, then you will find yourself feeling lost and confused.

Seneca defines the type of person that is always falling victim to such uncertainty:

” … those who suffer from fickleness and continual changes of purpose, who always are fondest of what they have given up, and those who merely yawn and dawdle: add to these those who, like bad sleepers, turn from side to side, and settle themselves first in one manner and then in another, until at last they find rest through sheer weariness: in forming the habits of their lives they often end by adopting some to which they are not kept by any dislike of change, but in the practice of which old age, which is slow to alter, has caught them living: add also those who are by no means fickle, yet who must thank their dullness, not their consistency for being so, and who go on living not in the way they wish, but in the way they have begun to live.”

Don’t falter. Avoid distractions and sirens and comparisons and noise. Focus on your inner guide. Having this foundation to keep you strong, becomes essential in these situations.

And when you do face uncertainty, know that it is part of the process. In fact, learn to welcome it because it often means that you’re on the right path. Accepting this fact makes it much more likely that you’ll fight through the most crucial moments, instead of giving up. Stay strong.

Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less travelled by and that made all the difference.

Robert Frost

This clarity of vision, this trust in your path, is what gives you the self-belief and strength to achieve your goals. Tranquility of your mind is the real benefit of achieving euthymia. To have such peace in life is, as Seneca said, god-like.

It will never be perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. What you do need, is trust in your path and an understanding that you are going in the right direction. That is enough.

At the end of the day, every individual treads a unique path that is defined by their decisions and choices and beliefs.

You are always taking the road less traveled, because the road is for you and you alone.

Discover your path, follow it, and try not to get distracted.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


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