How to resist temptation like a Stoic. Well, it lasted this long, but no longer can I resist writing about this topic. Temptation is one of those drives that lead us to do things we tend to regret after the fact. They can be fed from external opinions or inputs. All the commercials or marketing tricks we get thrown at us. Or we have certain desires from within that lead us to kinds of behavior that might not be the best for us.
The sub-title; Surviving Dubai, might have given away the setting of this post. Let me be honest there was no hardship in my case. While there are plenty of people who struggle there to an extent that I would never be able to understand. What I have learned from a place like Dubai, is that the vast majority are there to create a better life for themselves or their families. And the opportunities to do that are in abundance there. Then why do most people fail in their objectives? We will examine how a place like this can change your attitude and what you can do to prevent this.
No need to be a hypocrite
While I lived and worked there, as a teacher, I often felt the moral question popping up. Should I be working here? Am I supporting a society that shows up in studies for not being good concerning human rights? As a teacher, I felt I could make small differences and help enrich the lives of some of my students. Still, I struggled with these reservations. But I stayed there for five years, and it has been one of the most valuable periods of my personal life. Money not being the biggest factor in these results. But the fact that I am writing and you are reading this, is one thing that has drastically changed my life.
Sometimes in life, we need an opportunity to elevate our living conditions. When I moved from Spain to Dubai, I thought that this was all about money. That all my problems would be solved if my bank account had some more meat on it. And to be honest, it does help. There is no need to be hypocritical about it. Having money makes life easier. If, and this is important if, you know how to use it and not let it use you. Because it takes over faster than you think. And before you know it, you are chasing it, while it could be working for you.
It triggers all the temptations
My salary increased by a multitude when I made the move from Spain to Dubai. I had never imagined that I would ever make this much money. And I was still far removed from the high salaries that were being earned there. The first meeting at my new job ended with banks almost fighting for my signature. The perks they had, the loans they could offer, the credit cards available, they had it all. One thing to know about money is that people want it. If they know how much you make, and the banks all did, they will use that initial buzz to get your money from you. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, take a pause. Take your time and let it sink in.
Although I realized that the money I was making would have to last me long after my time in Dubai, the temptations were difficult to resist. We often talk about living in the present, which we most definitely should. But it is wise to keep an eye out for what might be ahead on your path. The salary didn’t include a pension, or any other benefits. It was just cold hard cash. And money doesn’t care about what bank account it is found in. It prefers to move, to be active. It triggers all the temptations by being there and available to you.
“But this is the result of an excessive lack of self-control and blind love for some commodity; for when a man seeks bad things instead of good it is dangerous for him to attain his ambition.”Seneca, Dialoguese and Essays, On the happy life, 14
I felt trapped and had to make my way out
The first year it was all about flashing my credit card and going out for lunch, ordering food, and living it up. I did make a strict rule to always make sure to be able to pay my credit card back at the end of the month, but I wasn’t saving much. I was giving in to all the urges, from my belly to the social pressures. My life had already been tempered a bit from my university days, but I was far from living a stoic life.
There wasn’t one specific moment that led me to take stock of my situation and realize that I had to make some changes. It was more a multitude of things coming together. Some personal events, getting the inspiration to read, and the realization that this wasn’t the job I wanted to do for the rest of my life, were some of them. But the one that combined it all, was the feeling that this wasn’t the life I wanted to lead. Dubai wasn’t my city, owning a lot of stuff wasn’t either. I felt trapped and had to start making my way out.
Temptation can lead you places you don’t want
This was around the time when I started to slow down, budget, read and create my philosophy of life. What did I want to do with my life? How did I want to live it? That drive helped me resist most of the temptations I had been giving in to before. I wanted to get out and live a simpler life. Focused on living well, following my passion, and being available to the people around me who matter. That’s where Stoicism entered and helped me recognize the temptations to be able to manage them better.
For someone like me, who gives in to his temptations without much struggle, having a clear framework and goal is the support I needed. It was then that I started asking myself the questions I should’ve done long before. What is important to me? What are my priorities? And I know I’ve written about this in my other posts, but these are important parts of our lives to examine. Temptation can lead you to places you didn’t want to go. Understanding where your path leads and staying on it are key to living a good life and learning how to enjoy it. And that is what I’m looking for and working towards.
How to Resist Temptation like a Stoic
This post turned out to be more of a personal story than I had imagined, but the underlying drive to change and resist temptations, was and is Stoicism. For me that is, and I hope you’ll look for your path and philosophy of life. What I’d like to give to you from my experience is that the good life is found within. I’m not saying that I’m there, but I sense that my journey is heading the right way. My anxiety levels have decreased and I can enjoy the present moment a lot more. Money helps and we should get a better education on this topic. But with the right motivation, we can control it better and fight the urges that are all around us.
Now, how to resist temptation like a Stoic. We need all the tools they have provided us with. First, we need to know what we can control. We can’t control money, but we can control the value we attach to it. Usually, the faster it appears, the faster it leaves us. What comes to the core of resisting our temptations using stoicism, is Virtue. We need all four of them; Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, and Justice. There is no better place than Dubai to put them to the test. We all have to make the best of our lives and we all learn.
“Look inward. Don’t let the true nature or value of anything elude you.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 6.3
Life is yours and this is your one shot
What I have learned from my time in Dubai, is that there is far more value to be found beyond money. But we have to keep our minds open to see them and learn to listen to ourselves. Then we can resist the temptations that surround us and create the best life possible for us. Use the opportunities when they are there to the fullest, but be mindful of the traps they might bear.
“The more and greater the pleasures are, the more inferior is that man the crowd calls happy, the greater is the number of masters he has to serve.”Seneca, dialogues and essays, on the happy life, 14
I realize that money is a big part of this post, but you can replace it with whatever holds a grip on you. Your possessions, your wants, and desires. Depending on the price we pay for them, to get them, we can enjoy or refuse them. Whatever we do, let’s keep in mind that a peaceful and virtuous life is the kind we seek. Whatever that means to you, understand that there are bigger things than what the world wants us to have or how to live our life. Your life is yours, you have one shot at it. Make it the best you can have. External factors shouldn’t matter, no one can understand you the way you do.
“You cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the one you’re losing.“Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 2.14