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Socrates' Wisdom for Modern Life: The Importance of Self-Examination

What can we learn from Socrates?

It is said you have three deaths.

"The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time." ― David M. Eagleman

One man still yet to have his third death is Socrates, despite living 2,500 years ago. We'll explore why in this blog.

Ancient Wisdom in Modern Live

In an increasingly complex and challenging world, it can be helpful to look back to the wisdom of the past to find guidance for living a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Leveraging ancient knowledge is akin to looking at a completed puzzle picture. Of course, you get to the answers more efficiently, but you still get the joy of completing the puzzle and the journey along the way.

One man with an absurd amount of wisdom is Socrates.

Who was Socrates, and why is he important today?

A moral philosopher that challenged everything but was wise enough to know his own limitations has much to teach us about navigating modern life's overwhelming nonsense. Check out our other blogs for more context on why we are so ill-equipped to thrive in contemporary life.

His dictum, "The unexamined life is not worth living", has greatly influenced us, helping us create the Evolve Journal.

In this blog post, we'll learn how to apply his teachings to our daily lives for a happier and healthier life.

Socrates lived in Athens during the 5th century BCE. This was a time when society was structured in a way that allowed philosophers to set about trying to answer some fundamental questions as their profession. They were thinking about questions like 'what does it mean for human beings to truly flourish?'.

It was their job to figure this out, and they spent a heck of a lot of time speaking to one another and made a lot of progress in this area.

Socrates is known for his focus on self-examination, belief in the pursuit of knowledge, and commitment to questioning assumptions. Very much seen as the godfather of Western Philosophy, he was the first in a long line of big hitters having influenced the works of Plato and Aristotle. 

In fact, you can see his influence throughout history. In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin recommended people study Socrates' life and teachings to develop their own character and wisdom. So let's do just that.

How can we learn from Socrates and his life for our own well-being?

Practice self-examination.

Take time to reflect on your own beliefs, values, and assumptions. Be willing to question yourself and consider alternative perspectives. When you ask these questions and doubt that you fully know yourself, you will start to understand yourself better. Journaling and putting pen to paper here can be immensely helpful in organising the chaos of our thoughts. It can help us to structure the answers to the most critical questions.

Question assumptions.

There's a good chance you're wrong and what you predict is inaccurate. Don't take things at face value. Be willing to challenge conventional wisdom and look for evidence to support different viewpoints. Lots of what we do daily we're running on autopilot. Don't assume you know others' thoughts or motivations when interacting with people. Ask questions and listen actively to gain a deeper understanding.

    Pursue knowledge.

    We may not have the luxury of spending all the time Socrates had to ponder life's big questions. Still, you will find fulfilment by committing to learning and seeking opportunities to expand your understanding of the world. Read books, engage in meaningful conversations with others, and utilise the almost unlimited tools available today to go down the rabbit holes of your interests. The more you know, the more you will realise how little you know.

      Pause before acting.

      When experiencing strong emotions or reactions, don't assume that your initial interpretation of the situation is accurate. Take time to reflect on your feelings and consider alternative explanations.

        Here are some final questions you can take away and some ideas for further reading.

        Questions for self-examination:
        1. What do I believe about myself, others, and the world?
        2. Are these beliefs based on evidence or assumptions?
        3. How do my thoughts impact my behaviour and decisions?
        4. How can I use my strengths and passions to contribute to the world around me?

        Recommended further research:

        1. Lessons from "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius
        2. "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl, our blog here.
        3. Carol Dweck's "Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential", our blog here.


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