Notes From Last Night: How to Use Philosophy to Live a More Flourishing Life
Jules Evans runs the London Philosophy Club, the biggest philosophy club in the world, and blogs at www.philosophyforlife.org. He is the author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations.
I am a philosopher, so are you.
It was standing room only last night as Escapees flocked to the Escape School to hear the effervescent Jules Evans, author and founder of Philosophyforlife.org, administer his modern day take on Socratic philosophy. His talk combined the perfect blend of self-analysis and practical advice, and whilst I cannot hope to match the élan of a man who is as comfortable with Socrates as he is with Taler, I hope that I can do enough to encourage you to check out more of his work.
You will not be disappointed.
The Noble Truths.
Jules’s work is founded on the ancient principles of the stoic philosophers which can neatly be summarised by the 4 Noble Truths:
1) Know ourselves: the first step on any journey whether it is Escaping the City or merely trying to lead a better life is to understand ourselves. So many of our actions are ingrained and driven by our sub-conscious that until we stop to examine our motivations and biases we stand no real chance of making any significant changes.
2) We can change ourselves: there is actually very little in life that we can truly control but the one thing that we can control is our own attitude and values. Epititus, a former-slave turned philosopher (now that is an escape if I ever saw one!) summed it up neatly when he said that all human suffering is caused by only two things i) trying to exert influence over things we cannot control and ii) not taking responsibility for things we can control.
3) We can create new habits: we all now how hard it is to stick to new resolutions but it is possible to create new habits and bring about change in our lives if we make conscious decisions to do things differently and stick to them.
4) We can create more flourishing lives: you can create a better life by taking action. What better will look like should vary from person to person so it is important to understand what it looks like for you.
But how do I actually do it?
The 4 Noble Truths are clearly a useful framework to live by but fortunately Jules’s experiences and research also enabled him to provide some practical advice to help the theory become reality and he outlined 5 strategies that we could use.
1) Maxims: creating easy to remember phrases that encapsulate the aims you want to achieve are a proven way of reinforcing changes. However, make sure that they are achievable and quantifiable and that you repeat them often.
2) Start a journal: take time at the end of each day to write down what you did well and what you can improve. This conscious act of addressing the changes that you want to make will help to keep them in your conscious mind during the day.
3) Find a community of like minded people: sharing your goals and getting support from others looking to achieve similar things can only help. This is why the Escape community can be so powerful.
4) Take action: it is practice not theory that is important. Push yourself to take action as it is seeing the positive effects of change that will actually create new habits.
5) The body is as important as the mind: not only is it important to be healthy but it is also important to understand the effect of physical activities whether that is the endorphins from exercising or the simple step of noticing the speed of your breath as an appreciation of your body will help raise consciousness.
The noble truths are a great blueprint for considering any change, and with Jules’s practical tips I hope that prove useful to everyone. However, it is clear that no real change can take effect without taking action so I thought a useful starting point would be to try and develop a maxim.
I have gone for – Challenge. Monitor. Repeat.
Hopefully it will work for me but I am sure that we would love to hear what works for you?
POST WRITTEN BY ADAM ROSS (stockbroker but escaping at www.crowdsourcingcapital.co.uk)
EDITED BY CELIA STATON: Follow Celia’s blog “Dared, Determined, Done!” about making big life and career changes.