The life of Titus Livius (59 BC-17 AD) provides a compelling illustration of the key to happiness. When he turned thirty-five, he looked back at his life and realized that he had not accomplished much. Like many Romans of good family, he had enjoyed a solid education, read widely, done some travelling, and also a little writing.
Changing the pattern
He had tried his hand intermittently at everything and
achieved pretty much nothing. Since his life lacked purpose and
ambition, Titus Livius felt ineffective and unhappy. He asked himself if
he should continue living in the same way. Was there something that he
could do to give meaning to his days?
The prevalent philosophies
in Ancient Rome, stoicism and hedonism, did not provide an answer to his
questions. Hedonism encourages man to live for the pleasures of the day
and ignore long-term consequences. Stoicism seldom provides other
contentment than the quiet acceptance of misfortune.
We do not
know what made Titus Livius change his ways, but we do know the results.
Instead of continuing to pursue random interests, he conceived a
wide-ranging project that would take him decades to accomplish. Instead
of wasting time in abstract speculation, he fixed himself an ambitious
goal and figured out how to accomplish it.
The events and the heroes
By the time he turned
thirty-six, he had already formulated how he was going to spend the rest
of his life. He would write a History of Rome unlike anything ever
written before. He would speak not only of facts, but also of heroes. He
would recount not only events, but also the values that had inspired
Titus Livius' plan comprised researching hundreds of
documents and writing 150 books, an enterprise that nowadays would keep
busy a complete university department. He did most of the work himself
and it took him four decades.
A demanding undertaking
Apparently, he was very happy
devoting his time to such a demanding undertaking. Such devotion to a
single long-term purpose is essential to improve a man's personal
effectiveness and psychological well-being.
When Titus Livius
died, he was 77 years old. His only regret must have been that he had
not started his project earlier, since he only managed to complete 142
books out of the 150 that he had initially planned.
Do you have
similar objectives and plans in your life? Have you established
long-term goals for yourself? Do you have a strategy that consistently
favours your personal growth? Are you becoming more effective at what
you do day after day?
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
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