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#11: Amor fati – learn to love fate

Since my last letter, I’ve been struggling with wishing the circumstances of my life were different. While immersing myself in memories of the past seems like a good way to become physically younger, it has the downside of stoking nostalgic desires. Similarly, dreaming of and planning an ideal future is only sensible if it induces action in the present.

But in an environment that requires a lot of energy to be content in, I find myself getting lost in the nostalgia and daydreams again and again. As hard as I am trying, the Stoic concept of amor fati – the love of fate – eludes my grasp.

The Stoics believed that we should embrace our fate and find contentment in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or yearning for the future. It’s a simple concept, but not easy: loving fate rather than simply accepting it, welcoming it with open arms and saying “thank you” for all the good it is here to bring you.

You might think trying to see the good in a terrible thing that happens is toxic positivity, but hear me out.

Last year, my house was broken into and all my camera equipment stolen. I was significantly underinsured and suffered a severe financial loss. I won’t lie and say I was happy about the fact that thousands of dollars of gear were gone. 

It sucked big time!

But there was no way to change what happened. I made peace with that fact and found a way to reframe the experience.

For quite some time, I had grappled with the fact that my old equipment wasn’t quite suited to the work I was using it for. I saw the burglary as the chance to commit to long overdue changes and upgrades. The new gear (now properly insured!) is much better and propelled the quality of my work to previously unimagined heights!

This is one of the key aspects of Stoicism: We cannot control external events, but we have full control over our internal response. It’s not about pretending everything is good, but seeing the good in it and putting your focus on that part.

Luckily, you don’t need a burglary to practice amor fati.

You can practice finding the lesson or silver lining in everyday negative experiences. Being stuck in traffic is a great way to listen to podcasts uninterrupted. The restaurant not serving the meal you always eat is the chance to try something new. Accept that these things happen and see them as opportunities for growth and development, rather than as sources of bitterness or disappointment.

When I gravitate towards the feeling that I’m not in control of my life, I remind myself that I alone chose this path. Fate is not predetermined. It is the result of our choices and actions. By taking ownership of our actions, we can change our fate.

How can you not love fate if you yourself are in control of it?

Just as your current reality is a result of your past actions and decisions, your future reality will be the result of today’s actions and decisions. Embracing the present and shaping the future are the same thing and both lie in your power.

Remember what Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher and the founder of Taoism, said:

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

So how do you find peace? I’ll tell you my secrets next week!


Yours, Ulrich

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