Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be - Be one.

Toby Hazlewood

Why we should spend less time searching for answers and excuses and more time doing what we know is right.


Follow your heart… (Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash)

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher implored that we should do what we know to be the right thing instead of debating and procrastinating over the finer points. It’s advice that I should follow more often.

I spend more time than I should, looking for insights from the past that might guide me in living a better life. It’s reassuring to tread a proven path and heartening that others have overcome the challenges I’m facing. But while philosophies and strategies I discover may promise comfort and certainty, I often end up procrastinating as I seek to find the one, perfect way of getting the best possible result.

I fixate upon defining what the ‘good’ outcome might be and agonise over the best way of getting it, all as a means of delaying getting started. What’s worse is that most of the time, I know deep down what must be done.

The right thing, the ‘good’ option is usually apparent. The procrastination and inner-argument is merely a means of delaying the inevitable, holding-off from doing what’s right.

  • If I’ve had an argument with a loved-on or said something hurtful, the right answer is to apologise and make-amends rather than playing an emotional game and trying to prove a point.
  • When agonising over whether to go to the gym or to push myself to complete another set of exercises, I know what the right answer is; to do more, to invest myself in the process more deeply.
  • When debating whether to publish the article I’ve written, or to spend more time tweaking it until I’m certain that it’s perfect, I know the right answer; to push through the resistance, publish it and see if it’s well-received.
  • Faced with an unpleasant task at work that will be taxing and challenging, I need to just get on and do it rather than searching for an alternative method or a way to avoid it.

We know the right way

Whether we desire a loving relationship, a healthy body, a thriving business or a fulfilling career, it’s easy to waste time debating within ourselves how to bring this about. Instead we should be immersing ourselves in the foundational activities that will take us a step closer to what we crave.

While our research, theorising and inner-arguing is well-intentioned, it’s often a means of delaying the inevitable; doing what we know needs to be done and committing to the process.

  • A successful relationship is borne from committing ourselves to another, putting their needs before our own and being vulnerable as we act with affection, kindness, selflessness and openness. By putting in the work, a relationship that is mutually loving, supportive and enriching may follow.
  • A thriving business or a rewarding career will only follow from repeated diligence in our work, putting in the hours, dealing with rejection and striving to improve and to grow. The results we achieve will compound from all the tasks and the committed hours of effort that we’ve put in.
  • The healthy body doesn’t come from a week of thrashing our body at the gym and subsisting on a concoction of water, lemon juice and maple syrup at every meal. Fitness, strength and endurance are built gradually over many months of consistently working out. A nutritious and healthy diet is one that balances our requirements for sustenance and is enjoyable and tasty, otherwise it won’t be sustainable for the long term. Long term fitness and health are products of our lifestyle choices and our enduring habits.

We can spend our time debating what good looks like, arguing within ourselves and procrastinating, looking for hacks and corners to cut.

Or, we can go ahead and be that thing, living it and breathing it, one action and one day at a time. Procrastinating and seeking alternative ways to get the same outcome, to bypass the inevitable work that it will take, are means of denying what we know what really needs to be done.

As Marcus Aurelius put it, we know what it takes to be a good person and to do the right thing, so why hold-off from getting on with what needs to be done?

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