We are the authors of our own lives as much as we are of the stories we write. Our lives are steadily unfolding narratives which would generally make for rather tedious reading. But the more we do with our lives, the more we enrich them, and the more substantive our stories become. Of course what we “do” with our lives need not be overt adventure. A powerful insight, communicated well, can improve lives, enhance beauty, and even change history. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 C.E.), one of the Stoic philosophers as well as Emperor of Rome during a time of invasions and social upheaval, knew this first-hand when he wrote, “One’s life is what one’s thoughts make it.” Henry David Thoreau, similarly, advises us in Walden (1854) to live our lives “as deliberately as nature”—that is, to plan our activities that harmonize with our inner natures, with our personal aspirations and needs—to “follow the sound of our own distant drummer” instead of slavishly adhering to someone else’s notions of how to live.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
Thought leads to action; one could say that thought is embryonic action, or action in stasis. If you list tasks you wish to accomplish over a given period, then those tasks are in the process of becoming accomplished. Perhaps your thoughts about the connection between improving your social life and embarking on a recreational activity have led to your forming a nature-hiking group. Or perhaps your notion that the city you live in could do more to protect and restore old buildings has led you to become active in a non-profit organization that helped save that century-old train depot from the wrecking ball and turn it into a museum?
Take one of your newest ideas or insights—one of those New Year’s resolutions you never followed through on, for example, and work up the idea into a step-by-step action plan. Then write an essay in which you describe what actually took place when you put your ideas to work. Don’t leave out the missteps or the unforeseen snags.