Guest Column

The things you decide direct your future

September 16, 2012
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I recently met an interesting man named Dr. Thomas Mooney. He is a psychologist who uses the methodology espoused by well-known psychologist Albert Ellis called rational emotive behavior therapy, a form of cognitive behavior therapy.

In the mid-1950s, Albert Ellis developed this methodology based on the teaching of Stoic philosophers, particularly Epictetus, a Greek living In Rome in the first century A.D.

Harry Truman attributed much of his success in life to reading Stoic philosophy in high school in Missouri.

I noticed when I first began working that some people had an ability to function on a reasonable, rational plain that, not surprisingly, worked very well for them. It seems that some people come by that ability naturally and some people need to learn it.

Some quotes from Epictetus will help make my point:

"The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best."

"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."

"Be careful to leave your child well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant."

"First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do."

"If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself. If it is a lie, laugh at it."

"God has entrusted me with myself."

"The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going."

"No great thing is created suddenly."

"Know first who you are, then adorn yourself accordingly."

"Control thy passions lest they take vengeance on thee."

"Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems."

"It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows."

"If you would be a reader, read; if a writer, write."

I have little to add to this. Marcus Aurelius in “Meditations” and Jiddu Krishnamurti’s "The Awakening of Intelligence" present much the same philosophy.

I will argue that culture is destiny. Culture is attitude. The words and phrases that pass through your head every day cause you to make the decisions that define your life.

Bad employees did not accidentally happen to your business: You hired them. Why?

Your products have become outdated and no longer meet customer needs: You made that decision. Why?

The things you decide direct your future. There are events outside your control, but you control how you react to those events.

There will be another recession as sure as there will be another winter. Do you have your financial snow shovel ready?

I have not been so successful that I have mastered these concepts. It is a reality that if you did master these concepts, your business and personal life would benefit greatly.

Paul Hense is the retired president of local accounting firm Hense & Associates. He also is past chairman of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

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