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Christmas Books

It’s time to decide what Christmas books to read this holiday season!

The holiday season is upon us once again. I like to theme my reading, so every year I pick a Christmas book to read for the month of December. This year, as I was contemplating which Christmas book to read for 2023, I decided to create a list of possibilities and to share the list with my readers, Here, then, is a list of 14 Christmas books to choose from for this holiday season.

1. “A Boy Called Christmas” (2016) by Matt Haig

“A Boy Called Christmas” is the first book in a three-part series by the same name. Although it’s a children’s book, it can also be enjoyed by adults. It’s the origin story of Santa Claus. Nikolas, an eleven-year-old boy nicknamed Christmas, journeys to the North Pole in search of his father. On the way he befriends a surly reindeer, bests a troublesome troll, and discovers a village filled with elves.

The book was turned into a movie, available on Netflix, starring Kristen Wiig, Maggie Smith and Henry Lawfull.

2. “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” (1816) by E.T.A. Hoffmann

Most of you are probably familiar with “The Nutcracker” ballet which was set to music by Tchaikovsky and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. The ballet is based on Alexandre Dumas’ adptation of “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” by the German Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffmann.

Hoffmann’s story begins in the Stahlbaum’s home on Christmas Eve, It tells the story of Marie and the Nutcracker she and her brother receive for Christmas from their mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer. Marie and the Nutcracker battle the Mouse King and his army of mice and travel to a land inhabited by dolls and candy. This is one of my favorite Christmas books.

3.  “The Enchanted Sonata” (2018) by Heather Dixon Wallwork

I love retellings of old favorites, and there are many retellings of “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” to choose from. One of the best is “The Enchanted Sonata” by Heather Dixon Wallwork. It’s a mixture of two fairy tales: The Nutcracker and the Pied Piper.

4. “The Father Christmas Letters” (1976) by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic, “The Lord of the Rings”. I recently discovered that this author has a Christmas book. Between 1920 and 1943, Tolkien wrote and illustrated letters for his chidlren written as if they were from Father Christmas. These letters were collected and released after Tokien’s death as “Letters From Father Christmas” (also known as “The Father Christmas Letters”).

The letters are written from the viewpoint of Father Christmas or his elf secretary. They tell of the adventures and misadventures of Father Christmas and his helpers, including battles with the goblins who live in caves beneath the house.

5. “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” (1938) by Agatha Christie

For those of you who enjoy reading mysteries during this time of year, I’ve got you covered. “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” is one of Agathat Christie’s best detective novels. The book features Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and is a locked room mystery.

The basic premise is a family Christmas reunion marred by murder. Simeon Lee summons his entire estranged family to his estate for Christmas. However, not  long after Christmas Eve dinner, Lee is found murdered.

6. “A Christmas Carol” (1843) by Charles Dickens

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens is a holiday staple. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited one Christmas Eve by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, giving him the chance to redeem himself.

I love this book and I read it every December. If you want to read Dickens but don’t know where to start, I recommend you start with “A Christmas Carol”.

7. “A Classic Christmas: A Collection of Timeless Stories and Poems”

The next book on this list of 14 Christmas books to read this holiday season is a collection of stories and poems by famous writers. It’s “A Classic Christmas; A Collecton of Timeless Stories and Poems”, and it includes works by authors such as Louisa May Alcott, O. Henri, and Hans Christian Andersen.

In addition, if you enjoy this collection there’s two more you can get: “A Vintage Christmas: A Collecton of Classic Stories and Poems” and “A Timeless Christmas: A Collection of Classic Stories and Poems”. In addition, these books are beautiful and you can use them as Christmas decor.

8. “A Christmas Memory” (1956) by Truman Capote

A Christmas Memory is a largely autobiographical short story by Truman Capote which has become a Christmas classic. It’s been broadcast, recorded, filmed, and staged multiple times. It’s about a Christmas ritual that a young Capote shared with an elderly cousin in rural Alabama. Each year, in November, the cousin would announce, “Oh my, it’s fruitcake weather!”, and the ritual would begin.

9. “The Greatest Gift” (1943) by Philip Van Doren Stern

I’m sure you’ve watched the holiday classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life”. It’s about George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, who is about to end it all on Christmas Eve. He wishes he had never been born. However, he’s saved by his guardian angel who shows him what his town would look like if it weren’t for all the good deeds Bailey has done over the years. George realizes that his life is important to the people he cares for and that it’s a wonderful life.

The movie was inspired by “The Greatest Gift”, a short story by Philip Van Doren which was self-published as a booklet in 1943.

10. “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem” (2005) by Maya Angelou

“Amazing Peace A Christmas Poem” is a beautifully illustrated poem written by Maya Angelou. It was read by the poet at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House on December 1, 2005. In it, Angelou celebrates Christmas as the “Glad Season” and inspires us to embrace peace and hope during the holidays. Here’s a stanza from the poem:

“Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.”

11. “The Christmas Poems” (2022) by Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 2009 to 2019. Every year of the decade during which she held this position, she wrote a Chrismas poem. These poems transport her readers to a 17th century festival on the frozen Thames, to the famous 1914 truce during World War I, and more. The ten poems are collected and beautifully illustrated in the book, “The Christmas Poems”.

12. “A Very Russian Christmas: The Greatest Russian Holiday Stories of All Time”

Russian literature is filled with masterpieces. Although authors such as Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky are best known for their magnificent novels, they also wrote Christmas stories. You’ll find their Christmas stories, along with holiday stories by other renown Russian writers, in “A Very Russian Christmas: The Greatest Russian Holiday Stories of All Time”.

13.  “The Christmas Pig” by J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series, wrote a children’s Christmas story that can also be enjoyed by adults. It’s “The Christmas Pig”, and it tells the story of Jack and everything he’s willing to go through to recover his favorite toy, a pig named DP, after Jack’s sister throws the toy pig out a car window during a fight.

14. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” by Arthur Conan Doyle

I decided to do a search to see if Arthur Conan Doyle had set any of his Sherlock Holmes stories during the Christmas season. It turns out that he did. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”  is one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Doyle.

The story is about a precious stone, the Blue Carbuncle, which was stolen from its owner, the Countess of Morcar. To Holmes’s surprise, he finds the stone inside a Christmas goose. He must then uncover the mystery of how the stone got there and who stole it.


There’s nothing better than sitting in a comfortable chair during the Christmas season with a warm beverage and a big pile of Christmas books. Live your best life this holiday season by choosing a book from the 14 Christmas books I shared with you in this post.

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woop method

WOOP is a research-based method you can start applying right away to achieve your goals.

WOOP is an acronym that stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. It’s a method for achieving goals, setting preferences, and changing habits that is based on 20 years of sccientific research in the science of motivation. The WOOP method was created by Gabriele Oettingen, a psychology professor  at New York University and the University of Hamburg who has been researching self-regulation and future-oriented thinking for many years. She’s author of the book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation“.

Below you’ll discover what WOOP is and how you can apply it in your own life to achieve your goals and change your habits.

Positive Thinking Is Not Enough

Although positive thinking is an important first step in achieving your goals, research has shown that positive thinking, without more, is not enough. Just thinking about a positive future saps energy needed for the achievement of your goal. This is because the positive feelings that you get from thinking about achieving your goal make you complacent, so you fail to take the necessary action to actually achieve your goal.

In order to be effective, positive thinking has to be combined with addditional steps. These steps include identifying the obstacles you need to surmount in order to achieve your goal–also known as mental contrasting–, and creating an if-then plan for overcoming those obstacles. If-then plans are also known as implementation intentions. Both of these steps are part of the WOOP method, which is what makes the method so powerful.

Benefits of WOOP

The benefits of the WOOP method include the following:

  • Clarify your wishes: It can help you to identify what you really want.
  • Set Priorities; It will help you to prioritize your goals so that you can focus on the most important ones.
  • Identify and overcome obstacles: It involves identifying obstacles and planning how to overcome them.
  • Strengthening willpower: It includes implementation intentions, or an if-then plan, which have been shown to strengthen willpower.

WOOP In a Nutshell

Here’s the WOOP method, in a nutshell:

  • Wish: Think about a specific goal, or wish, that is challenging but doable.
  • Outcome: Specify and imagine the best outcome. That is, imagine that you’ve achieved your goal and think of all the benefits you’ve gained.
  • Obstacles: Identify the obstacles which could get in your way as you strive to achieve your goals.
  • Plan: Create an if-then plan to overcome the obstacles and achieve your goal.

As I mentioned above, this four-step process works because it combines mental contrasting with implementation intentions. I’ll be discussing these two concepts next.

Mental Contrasting

As I’ve already shared with you, research shows that positive thinking alone is not enough to achieve your goals. Theref0re, Gabriele Oettingen concluded that something else was needed. She hit upon a concept which she named “mental contrasting”. Here’s Oettingen in her own words:

“I reasoned that the best way to get people up and moving was to ask them to dream and then to confront them right away with the realities that stood in the way of their dreams…If I could ground fantasies in a reality through mental contrasting, I might be able to circumvent the calming effects of dreaming and mobilize dreams as a tool for prompting directed action.”

To apply the mental contrasting technique, you compare two things in quick succession: you see yourself achieving your wish in the future, and then you think of the obstacles that stand in your way. When you experience the contrast between something that you want to achieve and something that’s stopping you from achieving it, it brings forth a necessity of action. You internalize that you won’t get where you want to go unless you take action.

Implementation Intentions

I’ve written about implementation intentions before on  this blog. An implementation intention is an “if – then” plan (“if situation Y is encountered, then I will initiate behavior Z in order to reach goal X”).

While goals specify what you intend to achieve–e.g., write a novel–implementation intentions specify the behavior you intend to take and the situational context in which you intend to take said behavior. In the case of writing a novel, your implementation intention could be the following: if it’s 6:00 a.m. on a weekday morning, then I will make a bathroom visit, get a glass of water, and sit at my desk to write for an hour.

Because WOOP is a combination of mental contrasting (WOO) and implementations intentions (P), you can think of it as follows:

Mental Contrasting + Implementation Intentions = WOOP

Now you’re going to conduct a WOOP by following the instructions below.

Conduct a WOOP

To conduct a WOOP, you need five to ten minutes of uninterrupted time. You’re going to use that time to follow the four steps below.

First Step: Wish

The first step of the WOOP method is to make a wish. That is, you’re going to set a goal. You’re going to begin by choosing a domain or the area of your life for which you’re going to set a wish or goal–it can be health, work, family, and so on. Then, answer the following questions:

  • What is the time frame for fulfilling your wish?
  • In the domain and within the time frame you chose, what is your most important wish or concern?

Pick a wish that is challenging but attainable. Also, take a moment to ask yourself whether it’s really a wish that you want to pursue, or if you have other priorities. Once you’ve decided that it’s an important wish that you really want to pursue, and that it’s achievable, write down your wish in 4 to 6 words,

As an example, I chose the health domain. I’m a weightlifter, but for personal reasons I stopped lifting weights about 8 months ago. My wish is to regain the muscle mass I lost.

Second Step: Outcome

The next step is to identify what the best outcome would be if you fulfilll the wish. Ask yourself the following two questions:

  • What would be the best thing, the best outcome about fulfilling your wish?
  • How would fulfilling your wish make you feel?

Write down your best outcome in 3 to 6 words. Then, take a moment to imagine the outcome. See the outcome as clearly as you can in your mind’s eye.

In my example, the outcome I want is to look and feel strong.

Third Step: Obstacle

The third step is to identify the obstacle within you–such as thoughts, feelings, bad habits, or actions—which could prevent you from achieving the outcome you imagined in the previous step. Ask yourself the following three questions:

  • What is it within you that holds you back from fulfilling your wish?
  • What is it in you that stands in the way of you fulfilling your wish?
  • What is your main inner obstacle?

Write down your inner obstacle in 3 to 6 words. Then, take a moment to imagine your obstacle. See it as clearly as you can in your mind’s eye.

My inner obstacle is lack of motivation. It’s tough to begin lifting weights again, practically from zero, when I haven’t been weightlifting for so many months.

Fourth Step: Plan

The last step is to create an if-then plan by asking yourself this question: What can you do to overcome your obstacle?

Identify one action you can take or one thought you can think to overcome your obstacle. Write it down as an if-then statement: If (name the obstacle) then (write down in 3 to 6 words what you will do to overcome the obstacle).

My plan is to email a friend and ask for support when I feel like I lack the motivation to go down to the gym to lift weights. Therefore, my if-then statement is the following; If I lack motivation to lift weights, then I will email my friend.

I can help myself even further by creating an if-then statement that specifies when and where I’ll be lifting weights: If it’s 9:00am on a weekday, then I’ll go down to the building’s gym to lift weights.


The power of WOOP lies in combining mental contrasting with if-then planning. You begin by contrasting your positive mental image of the outcome you hope to achieve by reaching your goal with an inner obstacle which stands in your way. You then create a plan in the form of an if-then statement to allow you to overcome the obstacle. As I indicated at the top of this post, there’s plenty of research that shows that this method works.

Live your best life by adopting the WOOP method for goal achievement described in this post.

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You can increase your happiness by applying practices from the science of happiness.

I came across an online course from Yale University–an Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut–on “The Science of Well-Being“. It’s taught by Professor Laurie Santos, and it became the most popular class ever taught at Yale. I took the course online and, in this post, I’m going to share with you 5 of the scientific ways to be happier which I learned in the course.

Keep in mind that the idea isn’t simply to gain knowledge about how to be happier, but to apply the research-based methods or practices I’ll be sharing with you below so that you can change your behavior and become happier.

5 Scientific Ways to Be Happier

Continue reading to discover 5 scientific ways to be happier.

1. Savor Experiences

Savoring is “the act of stepping outside of an experience to review and appreciate it” while it’s happening. It’s the first method from the course, “The Science of Well-Being”, which I’m going to share with you,

Most of us fail to stay in the moment and be fully aware of what we’re experiencing. Therefore, we fail to really enjoy our experiences. When you savor an experience, you lengthen and intensify the positive emotions that come from doing something you love, such as drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, taking a warm shower, playing outside with your dog, or going for a run.

Savoring can boost your mood in at least three ways.

  • First, it can thwart hedonic adaptation–for our purposes, hedonic adaptation is getting used to the good things in your life so that they no longer have a positive impact on your happiness levels–by keeping the good things in life in our awareness.
  • Second, savoring can help us avert mind wandering and keep us fully grounded in the present. It allows you to be fully engaged in what you’re doing or experiencing.
  • And third, savoring can increase gratitude by making us grateful for an experience while we’re having it.

You can practice savoring by picking an activity to truly savor each day. Savor the activity by applying techniques that enhance savoring. These techniques include the following:

  • Being mindful and fully conscious while participating in the activity;
  • Thinking about why that experience makes you happy;
  • Telling someone else how much you’re enjoying the experience;
  • Participating in the experience with someone else;
  • Showing physical expressions of enjoyment; and
  • Thinking of how fortunate you are to be having the experience.

In addition, keep in mind that there are things which can hurt your ability to savor an experience. These include the following;

  • Reminding yourself that the activity you’re enjoying will be over soon;
  • Telling yourself that it wasn’t as good as you had hoped;
  • Thinking about ways in which the activity could be better; and
  • Telling yourself that you don’t deserve the positive experience.

For one week, keep track of all the experiences which you savored during that week.

2. Keep a Gratitude Journal

I write about gratitude quite often on this blog because it’s such a powerful emotional state. Gratitude is being aware of and appreciating the good things in your life and being thankful for them. Research shows that gratitude has a myriad of postive effects, including making you happier and healthier. While the point above was about savoring experiences as they’re happening, this one is about recalling positive experiences at the end of the day, feeling gratitude for them, and writing them down.

You can pratice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal for a week. Each night, take five to ten minutes to write down five things for which you’re grateful. It can be big things or little things, such as feeling gratitude for the person who held the elevator door open for you, the co-worker who helped you complete an important project on time, your child’s goofy grin, or the Indian food your spouse treated you to.

As you write down the things that you’re grateful for, be sure to focus and relive each experience–think about the co-worker who helped you, see your child’s face in your mind, or recall the taste of the chicken curry you had for dinner. You can write down a word for each thing you’re grateful for, or write down a phrase, whichever you prefer.

3. Engage in Random Acts of Kindness

Professor Santos explains in the course that one way to be happier is to be kind to others. Researchers took a group of people, measured their subjective well-being, and then asked them how often they did kind things for others. They discovered that the happy people were more likely than the unhappy ones to do kind things for other people. Therefore, if we want to be happier, we should be seeking out opportunities to show kindness to others. One way to do this is to perform random acts of kindness.

To put this into practice, over the next seven days, engage in seven more random acts of kindness than you normally do. You can spread them out however you wish (e.g., one a day, all  seven in one day, and so on), Your acts of kindness don’t have to be life-changing for someone else, but they should have a positive impact on another person. Here are some ideas for acts of kindness:

  • Donate blood.
  • Offer to pick up groceries for your elderly neighbor.
  • Bring in snacks for your co-workers,
  • Say something kind to a stranger.

At the end of each day, write down the random act  or acts of kindness you performed that day. Make sure to have seven of them by the end of the week.

4. Make Social Connections

As Professor Santos explains, making social connections is more important for happiness than most people think. People with close social ties are less vulnerable to premature death, more likely to survive serious illnesses, and overall happier than people without close social connections.

Put making social connections into practice by making one new social connection per day for a week. It can be calling a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, asking a co-worker to join you for lunch, or even chatting with the barista at the corner coffee shop. The important thing here is that you take the time to genuinely connect with others.

5. Meditate

A fifth way to increase your happiness is to control your mind so that it’s not constantly going all over the place instead of remaining focused on the present. That is, become more mindful and stop your mind from wandering all the time–ruminating about the past, thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner, wondering about what others thought of you at the party you went to the previous night, and so on.

In one experiment in which participants were paged every so often and asked where their minds were, researchers found that our minds are not with us about half of the time. This has to do with a certain feature of our brain, and how our brain uses energy. Different parts of our brain kick in depending on the task we’re involved in. But there’s also a network of the brain that turns on when we’re not really focused on anything. That is, when our minds are wandering. This is the default network.

The default network is defined as “a network of interacting brain regions known to activate ‘by default’ when a person is  not involved in a task”. It’s more efficient in terms of energy to run this network than it is to run other networks of the brain, which may be one reason why we default to it as often as we do. The default network kicks in within a fraction of a second after we take our focus off of a task.

The default network allows us to think outside the here and now. It takes us out of our present reality and allows us to think about something else. If you’re put in a scanner and asked to think about the past or the future, the parts of your brain that light up are all part of the default network. The default network does all those things that our  brain does when we get out of the here and now.

On the one hand, the default mode allows us to think about the past and the future, as well as to think about different perspectives. In that sense, having this default network is a cognitive achievement. However, it’s not good for your levels of happiness to be constantly leaving the present moment.

In one study, 2250 people were surveyed about their thoughts using experience sampling. Researchers would pin people every once in a while and ask them the following three questions:

  • What are you doing?
  • Are you thinking about what you’re doing?
  • Are you happy?

They found what I shared with you above: people mind wander about 46.9% of waking hours. In other words, about half of the time people are mind wandering, even if they’re supposed to be focusing on a task. Researchers also found that mind wandering has a negative impact on happiness. As Harvard Professor Daniel Gilbert indicates: “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achivement that comes at an emotional cost.” He adds the following: “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”

One way to stop your mind from wandering is to meditate. When you meditate you turn your attention away from distracting thoughts and place it on one point of reference. The point of reference can be your breath, bodily sensations, a positive feeling such as compassion, a specific thought, and so on. The main point is that you stop your mind from wandering and get it to focus on one thing.

In one study which looked at the question of whether meditation can help us stop our mind from wandering, researchers brought in expert meditators and compared them to a control group. They reached two conlusions. First, that the default network is less active in meditators while they’re meditating. And second, they found that meditators were also more focused on the here and now even when they were not meditating. In other words, meditation can help curb mind wandering during daily life, thus making us happier.

For the next week, spend at least 10 minutes a day meditating. If you’re new to meditation, try one of three guided meditations available on SoundCloud. At the end of the day, log when and for how long you meditated,


In the course, “The Science Of Well-Being”, Professor Santos refers to something known as “the G.I. Joe Fallacy”. “G.I. Joe” was a popular animated TV show in the 1980s. At the end of each show, there would be a public service announcement that ended with the tagline: “knowing is half the battle”.

However, Santos explains that this is a misguided belief. Merely knowing something is not enough to make you change your behavior. You have to put the knowledge into practice and change your habits in order to change your behavior. That is, if you want to increase your happiness, you have to put the five methods that I shared with you above into practice.

Live your best life by applying the scientific methods for increasing happiness listed above.

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Although often overshadowed by the Ancient Greeks, the Ancient Romans also had a rich culture and produced many must-read books.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, one of my goals in life is to be well-read. I’m making a list of the books I feel that I need to read to achieve that goal, and the ancient Greeks and Romans are definitely on that list.

A while back I wrote a post titled, “17 Must-Read Books by the Ancient Greeks”, and now in this post I enumerate the must-read books by Ancient Romans. Specifically, the ancient Roman philosophers.

I find ancient Roman history fascinating, and I think that knowing a little about that history is important to fully comprehend the philosophers who were writing at the time. Therefore, I’m going to start by giving you some brief highlights of Roman history. Then. I’m going to share with you the books by ancient Roman philosophers that are must-read.

Let’s get started.

A Brief History of Ancient Rome

The term “Ancient Rome” encompasses the time-period beginning with the founding of the city of Rome in 753 BCE and ending with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE. This time-period can be divided into three phases:

  • The Roman Kingdom (753 BCE–509 BCE)
  • The Roman Republic (509 BCE–27 BCE)
  • The Roman Empire (27 BCE–476 CE)

Here’s a little bit about each of these time periods:

The Roman Kingdom

This time period–which lasted for almost 250 years–is also referred to as the regal period of ancient Rome, and it is shrouded in myth. During this time, the city of Rome and its territories were ruled by kings. According to legend, there were seven kings in all.

Rome’s Foundation Myth

Pursuant to Rome’s foundation myth, Rhea Silvia–a Vestal Virgin–was raped by Mars, the Roman god of war. As a result, she became pregnant with twins, whom she named Romulus and Remus. Because Vestal Virgins were supposed to remain celibate, Rhea was sentenced to death.

The baby twins were placed in a basket and were left to float away down the Tiber. However, a she-wolf found the twins and suckled them until they were discovered by a shepherd who–along with his wife–took them in and raised them.

must read books by ancient romans

When they grew up, the twins decided to build a city. Nonetheless, they disagreed over which of the seven hills (Aventine, Caelian, Capitol, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal and Viminal) they should build it on. This led to a fight in which Romulus killed Remus.

Romulus founded a city in 753 BCE. He named it Rome, after himself, and made himself king. To populate the town, Romulus turned it into an asylum and welcomed refugees, exiles, and fugitives. Here’s what the historian Livy wrote in his “Early History of Rome”:

“Hither fled for refuge all the rag-tag-and-bobtail from the neighbouring peoples: some free, some slaves, and all of them wanting nothing but a fresh start. That mob was the first real addition to the City’s strength, the first step to her future greatness”

A line of Sabine (as in, the Rape of the Sabine Women), Latin and Etruscan kings followed–all belonging to earlier Italian civilizations. The seven legendary kings of Rome were as follows:

  • Romulus;
  • Numa Pompilius;
  • Tullus Hostilius;
  • Ancus Martius;
  • Lucius Tarquinius Priscus;
  • Servius Tullius; and
  • Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.

The Rape of Lucretia

The Roman kingdom came to an end when a son of King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus—the seventh king and a morally bankrupted tyrant–, raped the Roman noblewoman Lucretia. Lucretia told her father and her husband what had happened, and then killed herself.

This inspired a popular revolt which overthrew the monarchy and led to the Roman Republic.

must read books by ancient romans

The Roman Republic

The Roman Republic began in 509 BCE, following the overthrow of the last of Rome’s seven kings. The idea behind the Republic–formed from the Latin words for “thing” (res) and “of the people” (publica)–was that power shouldn’t be concentrated in the hands of one man.

They achieved this to some extent by creating three different branches of government. Kingship was replaced with two annually elected magistrates called consuls. The other two branches were the Senate–made up of the patrician, or aristocratic class–, and the Assemblies–made up of the plebeians, or the common people.

Under the Republic, Rome became, first, the master of central Italy. It then pushed forward its frontier through conquest and colonization. After the Pyrrhic War (280–275 BCE) against Greek towns in the south, Rome became the unquestioned master of Italy. It then went on to conquer the Mediterranean and beyond.

Three of the most notable events that occurred during the time of the Republic were the Sack of Rome in 387 BCE; the Punic Wars; and the civil wars that ended the Republic.

The Sack of Rome

The Gallic Sack of Rome, which occurred after the Romans were defeated at the Battle of the Allia in 387 BCE, was arguably the greatest trauma the Roman Republic had endured up to that point. The Gauls–led by the warlord Brennus-marched into Rome and commenced an orgy of rape and pillage.

A group of Romans fortified themselves atop the Capitoline Hill. After several months of siege, the Romans surrendered. They bribed the Gauls to go away so they could get their city back. Rome was rebuilt, but the defeat left deep wounds.

The Punic Wars

Rome’s success led it into conflict with Carthage, in northern Africa, for control of the Mediterranean. This conflict was known as the Punic Wars, a series of three wars fought between 264 and 146 BCE. Here’s a brief look at each one:

  • The First Punic War broke out in Sicily in 264 BCE.
  • The Second Punic War saw the Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca crossing the Alps–riding elephants, no less–and invading mainland Italy.
  • The Third Punic War was fought on Carthaginian territories. In 146 BCE the Romans stormed the city of Carthage, sacked it, destroyed it, and sold its remaining inhabitants into slavery.
must read books by ancient romans

The Civil Wars and the End of the Roman Republic

Before its end, the Roman Republic had conquered Greece, Spain, the North African coast, much of the Middle East, modern-day France, and even the remote island of Britain.

The end of the Roman Republic occurred because of a set of civil wars fought among the Roman elite. These civil wars were the following:

  • Sulla’s First Civil War (88–87 BCE) and Sulla’s Second Civil War (82 – 81 BCE) stemmed from a power struggle between the politician-generals Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
  • Caesar’s Civil War (49 – 45 BCE) was between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great.
  • The Final War of the Roman Republic (32 – 30 BCE) was between Octavian and Marc Antony and Cleopatra.

In 31 BCE, Octavian won the civil war against Marc Antony. This marked the end of the Roman Republic–which had lasted for almost 500 years–and the beginning of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire

In 27 BCE, Octavian–who had taken the title of Augustus–became the first emperor of Rome. He was granted the title of emperor willingly by the senate since he had brought stability to Rome after a long period of civil wars. Thus, the Roman Empire—which would eventually become the largest empire the ancient world had ever seen–began.

The Roman Empire reached its maximum extant in 117 CE, under Emperor Trajan. At this time, the empire spanned three continents including Asia Minor, northern Africa, and most of Europe.

must-read books by the ancient romans

In 286 CE the Roman Empire was split in two–an eastern and a western empire–, each ruled by its own emperor. Ancient Rome came to an end with the fall of the Western Roman empire, which occurred when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer in 476 CE.

Three Must-Read Philosophy Books by Ancient Romans

The three must-read philosophy books which I’m going to recommend to you are the following:

There’s a brief summary of each or these works below.

On Obligations by Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BCE) was born in Arpinum, southeast of Rome, to a wealthy equestrian family. His life coincided with the decline and fall of the Roman Republic, and he left a vast body of work that gives us great insight into this period of time.

The Catilinarian Conspiracy

Cicero was a politician, consul, lawyer, philosopher, and one of Rome’s greatest orators. He was also a prolific writer of verse, letters, and works on philosophy, politics, and rhetoric. Through his own talents as an orator and statesman, Cicero rose through the ranks of Roman politics and became a Senator in 74 BCE.

Then, in 63 BCE, Cicero was elected Consul for the year—thus achieving the highest office in the Republic–, defeating patrician candidate Lucius Sergius Catiline. While serving as Consul, Cicero uncovered a plot conceived by Catiline to overthrow the Republic.

must read books by ancient romans

On Cicero’s orders, five of the conspirators were put to death without a trial. This gained Cicero wide acclaim, but also made him enemies.

Cicero’s Exile

In 60 BCE, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus—a group that was later known as the First Triumvirate–took control of Roman politics. Here’s a little about each of these men:

  • Gaius Julius Caesar was a renowned general and statesman who had been governor of Hispania Ulterior (the western part of the Iberian Peninsula).
  • Marcus Lucinius Crassus was the wealthiest man in Rome. His biggest claim to fame was having squelched the slave rebellion led by Spartacus in southern Italy in 71 BCE.
  • Gnaius Pompeius Magnus (Pompey): Pompey’s greatest success up to that point was putting down the pirates of the Mediterranean, which had plagued Rome’s merchant ships for over a generation.
must read ancient roman books

Two years later, in 58 BCE, one of Cicero’s enemies managed to pass a law—that would apply retroactively—which stated that anyone who had a Roman citizen killed without a trial would be stripped of their citizenship. This law was designed to strike at Cicero.

Cicero was forced to go into exile. However, after roughly a year and a half of exile, the political conditions changed, and Cicero was allowed to return to Rome.

Caesar Crosses the Rubicon

The Fist Triumvirate ruled Rome until 53 BCE, when it collapsed. Two events led to the collapse of the triumvirate. First, Crassus died in battle. Then, Pompey’s wife–who was Julius Caesar’s daughter—died in childbirth.

At the time of the collapse of the triumvirate, Caesar was in Cisalpine Gaul, the region south of the Alps which he was governing. Caesar’s military campaign in Gaul was highly successful, and he was gaining in popularity and prestige. Alarmed by Caesar’s growing power, in 49 BCE, the Senate ordered Caesar to set aside his command.

Caesar had no intentions of doing so. Roman law stated that any provincial governor leading troops across the border back into Italy would be declared a public enemy. The Rubicon River was the border between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. Caesar knew that crossing the Rubicon meant war with the Roman nobility, led by Pompey.

Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and civil war ensued. It was now Caesar and Pompey fighting for control of the Republic.

Cicero reluctantly backed Pompey and followed him to Greece, but Caesar and his forces won the war in 48 BCE, and Caesar was made dictator. Caesar promised to pardon Cicero, and Cicero returned to Rome.

The Death of Caesar and the Death of Cicero

Caesar’s victory was short-lived. On the Ides of March in 44 BCE he was murdered by a group of senators who feared that he planned to take the title of king.

must read books by ancient romans

The murder led to another power struggle in which Mark Antony—who had been Caesar’s right hand–, Marcus Lepidus—a close ally of Caesar–, and Octavian—whom Caesar had named as his heir in his will–were the key players. Cicero made a series of speeches calling for the Senate to help Octavian, and denouncing Mark Antony as a public enemy.

When Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian agreed to share power—thus ushering in the Second Triumvirate–, Antony took his revenge. He had Cicero declared a public enemy and asked for his execution.

Cicero tried to flee but the Roman troops caught up to him and killed him. Thus, in 43 BCE, Cicero’s illustrious life came to an end. Antony had his head and his hands cut off and put them on display in Rome. The Republic had lost its greatest defender. Less than 20 years later, it would fall.

On Obligations

must read books by ancient romansIn addition to his role as a lawyer and a statesman, Cicero played a major role in bringing Greek philosophy into a Roman setting. He was deeply influenced by his training in three Greek philosophical schools:

  • The Stoicism of Lucius Aelius Stilo and Didotus;
  • The Epicureanism of Phaedrus; and
  • The Skepticism of Philo of Larissa.

His training equipped him to combine elements of the various philosophical schools to suit any given situation. This is evident in one of his most important works: “On Obligations” (also known as “On Duties”).

Cicero believed “On Obligations” to be his magnus opus. It was written in late 44 BCE after the assassination of Julius Caesar. Its purpose is to provide principles of behavior for aspiring politicians. Using stoicism as a guide, Cicero explains the right and wrong ways to pursue political leadership.

Originally written for his son Marcus, this treatise expounds principles for an honorable life. The main thesis of the book contains three parts, each of which is contained in one section of the book. The three sections are the following:

1) Do what is honorable;

2) Do what is useful; and

3) When what is useful appears to conflict with what is honorable, remember this: what is not honorable is never useful.

Today, “On Obligations” is still the foremost guide to the good conduct that is necessary to create an orderly society. Of “On Obligations”, the French philosopher Voltaire wrote:

“No one will ever write anything more wise, more true, or more useful.”

2. Letters From a Stoic by Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BCE – 65 CE), known simply as Seneca or Seneca the Younger, was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist. He was born in 4 BCE in Cordoba (present-day Spain), and educated—in rhetoric and philosophy—in Rome.

Although he suffered from ill health throughout his life, he became Rome’s leading intellectual figure in the mid-1st century CE as well as one of the richest men in Rome.

The Last War of the Roman Republic

As stated further up above, the Second Triumvirate was formed shortly after Caesar’s death. The three men who formed this triumvirate split Rome’s provinces between them:

  • Octavian would rule the West–which included Rome;
  • Antony the East–which included Egypt; and
  • Lepidus Africa.

Soon, Lepidus was pushed to the side. At the same time, the relationship between Octavian and Mark Antony became strained as they both competed for more power. Civil war between the two men was averted in 40 BCE, when Antony married Octavian’s sister, Octavia Minor.

However, despite this marriage, Antony soon continued a love affair he had begun with Cleopatra, the client-queen of Egypt. In 32 BCE he divorced Octavia. Octavian used Antony’s relationship with Cleopatra to claim that Antony wasn’t truly committed to Rome.

The disagreements between Octavian and Antony erupted into civil war in the year 31 BCE. Marc Antony was defeated by Octavian at the naval Battle of Actium that same year, and both Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide.

Octavian Becomes Emperor Augustus

must read books by ancient romansHistorians date the start of Octavian’s monarchy to either 31 BCE, when he won the battle at Actium, or 27 BCE, when he was granted the name Augustus. It marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.

Augustus ushered in a time of peace. He was emperor for 40 years and died of natural causes in 14 CE, at age 75. His last words are said to have been:

“I found Rome in clay, I left it in marble.”

Upon his death he was immediately succeeded by his adopted son, Tiberius. Tiberius reigned as Emperor between 14–37 CE.

Emperor Caligula Orders Seneca’s Suicide

The third emperor was Caligula, a great-grandson of Emperor Augustus. Caligula’s reign was filed with murder and debauchery. It coincided with Seneca being part of the Senate.

The Roman historian, Cassius Dio, claims that Caligula–who fancied himself to be a great orator–was so angry with Seneca’s success in the Senate that he ordered him to commit suicide. Seneca only survived because he was ill, and Caligula was told that he would die soon.

After only four years as emperor, Caligula was assassinated by members of his bodyguard and the Roman Senate. Upon his death in 41 CE, he was succeeded by his uncle, Claudius.

Emperor Claudius and Seneca’s Exile

Shortly after Claudius became emperor, the new empress, Messalina, accused Seneca of adultery with Julia Livilla, one of Caligula’s sisters. Seneca was found guilty by the Senate and he was forced into exile on the island of Corsica.

At the time, Seneca was already a famous writer and thinker. He continued his work in exile, writing philosophy and drama. True to the stoic philosophy he adhered to, he wrote that, “one man’s exile was but a drop in the sea of human upheaval”.

While in exile he wrote “Of Consolation”. It includes the following passage:

“Death is a release from and an end of all pains: beyond it our sufferings cannot extend: it restores us to the peaceful rest in which we lay before we were born. If anyone pities the dead, he ought also to pity those who have not been born. Death is neither a good nor a bad thing, for that alone which is something can be a good or a bad thing: but that which is nothing, and reduces all things to nothing, does not hand us over to either fortune, because good and bad require some material to work upon. Fortune cannot take ahold of that which Nature has let go, nor can a man be unhappy if he is nothing.”

Seneca as Nero’s Tutor

After eight years of exile, Seneca was given permission to return to Rome to become a tutor to future emperor Nero. This was accomplished through the intervention of Agrippina–the younger sister of Emperor Caligula, the niece and fourth wife of Emperor Claudius, and Nero’s mother.

In his book The Annals of Imperial Rome, Tacitus wrote of his return:

“So she now secured the recall of Lucius Annaeus Seneca from exile and his appointment to a praetorship. She judged that owing to his literary eminence this would be popular. She also had designs on him as a distinguished tutor for her young son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (Nero). Seneca’s advice could serve their plans for supremacy….”

Emperor Nero and Seneca’s Suicide

When Emperor Claudius died—some suspect that Agrippina poisoned him—Nero became emperor at the age of 17. The first five years of his reign have been noted for his successes–he gained a reputation for political generosity and sharing power with the Senate.

During this time, he left most of the ruling to Seneca and his other two advisors: the prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus and his mother, Agrippina. However, Seneca’s influence over Nero—who would become Rome’s most infamous emperor–declined over time.

In 65 CE Seneca was forced by Nero to take his own life for allegedly being complicit in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero. He was likely to have been innocent. There are numerous paintings depicting Seneca’s calm and stoic suicide.

must read books by ancient romans

Nero would commit suicide three years later.

Letters From a Stoic

Fortunately, Seneca left behind a great body of work. This includes a dozen philosophical essays, one hundred and twenty-four letters on moral issues, nine tragedies, and a satire.

As stated above, Seneca was a stoic. Stoicism is a philosophy for life which was founded by the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Zeno (335–263 B.C.E.). Stoicism can be summarized as follows:

Stay calm and serene regardless of what life throws at you, and stop worrying about things which are beyond your control.

must read books by ncient romansOne of Seneca’s most important extant works is Letters from a Stoic. Presumably, it’s a collection of letters Seneca sent to a friend advising him on how to become a better Stoic. However, many scholars believe that Seneca’s letters were really essays in disguise that were meant to be published rather than read by a friend.

The book includes 124 letters discussing Seneca’s Stoic beliefs and his outlook on life, each one on a different topic or issue. Letter 13, for example, is on groundless fears. Here’s a part of that letter:

“What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.  Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.”

Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic” is a timeless guide on how to live a virtuous and fulfilling life.

3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

By 68 CE, Nero was nearly universally despised, and the Senate declared him an enemy of Rome. To avoid the humiliation of capture and execution before the throngs of Rome, Nero killed himself. Since he had no defined heir, the empire was left without an emperor and an immense power-grab ensued.

The year 69 CE is known as the Year of the Four Emperors. It was a year of civil war during which the four most influential generals in the Roman Empire—Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian–successively vied for imperial power.

The Year of the Four Emperors

The first to take the Roman throne after Nero’s death was Servius Sulpicius Galba, governor of Hispania (Spain). He was emperor for seven months, from the death of Nero until the 15th of January, 69 CE, when he was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard.

Marcus Silvius Otho, the governor of Lusitania (Portugal), was Galba’s successor. Otho was emperor for three months, from January 15th to April 16th.

As the army of Aulus Vitellius, governor of Lower Germany and another claimant to the throne, advanced toward Rome, Otho chose to take his own life instead of having any more of his men be killed in battle to keep him in power.

Vitellius marched triumphantly into Rome and was named emperor by the Senate. However, his rule lasted for only eight months. Historian Cassius Dio wrote in his Roman History the following:

“Vitellius, addicted as he was to luxury and licentiousness, no longer cared for anything else either human or divine … Now, when he was in a position of so great authority, his wantonness only increased, and he was squandering money most of the day and night alike.”

He soon became unpopular, and many of those who had supported him earlier began to swear allegiance to Titus Falvius Vespasianus (Vespasian), governor of Judea. The armies of the two men met in battle and Vitellius’ men were soundly defeated.

Vitellius tried to flee but was captured, dragged through the streets of Rome, tortured, and killed. His reign had lasted from the 16th of April to the 22nd of December.

Vespasian was the fourth and last of the four emperors. However, his reign was not short-lived like those of his three predecessors. Instead, he ruled for ten years. He was the first of the three Flavian rulers.

The Flavian Dynasty

The reigns of the emperors Vespasian (69–79 CE) and his two sons, Titus (79–81 CE) and Domitian (81–96 CE), comprised the Flavian dynasty.


Under Vespasian, new taxes were devised to restore the Empire’s finances. He also initiated a massive building program, leaving multiple enduring landmarks in the city of Rome.

The most spectacular of these was the Flavian Amphitheater. Better known as the Colosseum, it was begun under Vespasian and finished under his eldest son, Titus. Vespasian died of natural causes in 79 CE and was immediately succeeded by Titus.

must read books by ancient romans

Emperor Titus

Titus was a considered a good emperor, although he only ruled for two years. He is mostly remembered for his generous and decisive action to alleviate the suffering of the victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius—of Pompeii fame—in 79 CE.

In addition to finishing the Colosseum, he laid the foundation for what would become the Temple of Vespasian and Titus. He died unexpectedly of a fever and was succeeded by his younger brother, Domitian.

Emperor Domitian

Domitian was declared emperor by the Praetorian Guard the day after Titus’ death, commencing a reign which lasted more than fifteen years. Although historians such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius depicted him as a cruel tyrant, modern history has rejected these views.

He spent lavishly to restore and embellish the city of Rome, and he laid out the cultural, economic, and political policies that helped bring peace and prosperity to Rome for the following decades. However, although he was popular with the people, he had many enemies in the Senate, and he was assassinated.

Domitian was succeeded by his friend and advisor, Nerva. Nerva was the first emperor of the era of the Five Good Emperors.

The Five Good Emperors

The “Five Good Emperors” were the five rulers who presided over the most majestic days of the Roman Empire from 96 to 180 CE. They were the following:

  • Nerva (96 – 98);
  • Trajan (98–117);
  • Hadrian (117–138);
  • Antoninus Pius (138–161); and
  • Marcus Aurelius (161–180).

It was not a bloodline. Nerva was raised to the principate by the assassins of Domitian, and the others were successively adopted heirs. Edward Gibbon, author of “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, had the following to say about these five rulers:

“Their united reigns are possibly the only period in history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government.”

Marcus Aurelius – The Philosopher Emperor

Marcus Aurelius

In addition to being one of the “Five Good Emperors”, Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic. One of the most succinct statements of Stoic philosophy that we have available today is the book “Meditations”. It was written by Marcus Aurelius during the last ten years of his life while he was on military campaign.

“Meditations” is a collection of notes Marcus Aurelius wrote for himself as a kind of self-instruction or self-improvement guide. It was a means of practicing and reinforcing his own philosophical convictions.

Several scholars have indicated that the essential substance of “Meditations” comes from Epictetus. Epictetus (c.55–135 CE) was born in Hierapolis (present-day Pamukkale in Turkey) as a slave in a wealthy household. His owner allowed him to study under the Stoic Musonius Rufus, who became his teacher and mentor.

Epictetus obtained his freedom shortly after emperor Nero’s death and proceeded to teach philosophy in Rome for nearly 25 years. This lasted until Emperor Domitian banished all philosophers in Rome and Epictetus was forced to flee. He settled down in Nicopolis, Greece, where he founded a philosophy school. He taught there until his death.

Epictetus died when Marcus Aurelius was about 14 years-old, and it’s highly unlikely he ever met him. However, many of the older people that Marcus Aurelius associated with probably had known Epictetus, or were at least familiar with his teachings.


Although Marcus Aurelius didn’t write it for publication, “Meditations” is one of the greatest texts to have come down to us from classical antiquity. These writings, collected in 12 short books, take the form of quotations varying in length from one sentence to long paragraphs.

In “Meditations”, Marcus Aurelius tries to answer the deep questions about the meaning of life, such as the following:

  • Why are we here?
  • How should we live?
  • How can we deal with criticism?
  • What is the best way to handle adversity?
  • How does one respond to suffering?

You can read some quotes from “Meditations” on my blog post: “7 Lessons On Life and Happiness From a Stoic (Marcus Aurelius)“.

The first four of the five good emperors had assured that they would be succeeded by good rulers by adopting those they thought could rule best. However, Marcus Aurelius named his son, Commodus, as heir. This would prove to be a mistake.

Commodus is the tyrant portrayed in the movie, “Gladiator”, starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. Although some of the events in the movie are fiction, it’s true that Commodus sought to distract the people of Rome from the fact that the government was broken by constantly hosting gladiator games in the Colosseum.

Other Must-Read Books by the Ancient Romans

Above we discussed three must read philosophy books by ancient Romans. Below I’m going to share with you three must-read poems by ancient Romans, as well as two must-read theology books.

Must-Read Poems by the Ancient Romans

The three most famous poets from ancient Rome are Horace, Virgil, and Ovid. Here’s one work from each that are must-reads:

Here’s a brief description of each:

1. The Odes by Horace (23 BCE)

The OdesQuintus Horatius Flaccus (65 – 8 BCE), known simply as Horace, was the major lyric Latin poet of the era of Emperor Augustus. Along with his fellow poet, Virgil–whom we will discuss next–, he was a part of Augustus’ inner circle.

Horace wrote Odes, Epodes, Satires, Ars Poetica, Epistles, and Carmen Saeculare. One of Horace’s best-known works are his odes (an ode is a short lyric poem). Horace is unique among classical Roman poets in writing Latin odes based on the meters used by the Greek lyric poets. He was a great admirer of Greek culture, and once said the following:

“Captive Greece took captive her fierce conqueror and instilled her arts in rustic Latium.”

The Odes by Horace is a collection of 103 lyric poems, contained in four books. Books 1 to 3 of “The Odes”–comprising 88 short poems–were published in 23 BCE. A fourth book, consisting of 15 poems, was published in 13 BCE.

Horace’s odes reflect on the Roman world that he lived in. However, they also deal with universal themes, such as friendship, love, the joy of drinking wine, and the inevitability of death. In addition, “The Odes” feel autobiographical since Horace describes his own personal experiences.

The English Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, hailed the lines of “The Odes” as:

Jewels five-words-long

That on the stretch’d forefinger of all Time

Sparkle for ever.

2. The Aeneid by Virgil (19 BCE)

The AeneidPublius Vergilius Maro (70 – 19 BCE), usually referred to as Virgil, was regarded by the Romans as their greatest poet. The Aeneid–which he wrote during the last 11 years of his life–was his masterpiece. The poem, which was modeled after The Iliad and The Odyssey, was commissioned by Emperor Augustus. Like the Homeric poems, it’s written in dactylic hexameters.

The Aeneid is a founding myth or national epic that ties Rome to the Trojan War. It tells the story of how Aeneas– son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Venus– escaped the destruction of Troy by the Greeks and led a band of survivors to Italy.

Aeneas and his men mixed with the native populations of Italy and created a new race. Romulus, who would go on to found Rome about 300 years after the time in which The Aeneid is set, was–according to Virgil–a descendant of Aeneas.

Virgil does the following in The Aeneid:

  • Explains the Punic Wars (before reaching Italy, Aeneas lands in Carthage due to a storm; he has a love affair with the Carthaginian queen, Dido; he abandons her, which leads her to proclaim endless hate between Carthage and the descendants of Troy; she then kills herself);
  • Reflects Roman values and religious traditions;
  • Evokes the foundation of Rome from the ashes of Troy to the age of Augustus;
  • Explains how a good Roman should live and deal with challenges; and
  • Legitimizes the Julio-Claudian dynasty (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero) as descendants of the founders, heroes, and gods of Rome and Troy.

Some accounts claim that Virgil, learning that he would die before being able to properly revise “The Aeneid”, asked that it be burned upon his death. However, Emperor Augustus had the epic published despite the poet’s last wishes.

3. The Metamorphoses by Ovid (8 CE)

The MetamorphosesPublius Ovidius Naso (43 BCE – 17 CE), commonly known as Ovid , was one of the most prolific writers of the early Roman Empire. Although he had a highly successful career as a poet and was beloved by the people of Rome, he made the mistake of angering Emperor Augustus and was banished from Rome. Thus, he spent the last 11 years of his life in exile.

The Metamorphoses”, a 15-book epic, was his masterpiece. It’s a retelling of the ancient myths, spanning from the beginning of the world to the deification of Caesar, which occurred around the time that Ovid was born.  The poem contains 250 myths, and the main theme of these myths is transformation.

Must-Read Theology Books by the Ancient Romans

Both of the must-read theology books that I’m going to share with you are by St. Augustine (354 – 430 CE). He is one of the Latin Fathers of the Church and perhaps the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul the Apostle. The two books are:

Here’s a little about each one:

1. The Confessions (Augustine of Hippo, 400 CE).

The ConfessionsAlthough Ancient Rome started out as a polytheistic culture that worshipped gods similar to the Greek pantheon, by the end of the 4th century CE the Roman Empire was Christian. Here’s how that happened:

  • In 313 CE, Emperor Constantine–the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity– issued the Edict of Milan. It established religious tolerance for Christianity–as well as most other religions–within the Roman Empire.
  • Then, in 380 CE, Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica which made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

When Augustine was born in 354 CE in Tagaste, a Roman province that is now modern-day Algeria, Christianity was on the rise throughout the empire. Augustine’s mother, who would later be canonized as St. Monica, was a devout Catholic. However, for many years, Augustine followed the controversial Manichaean religion and lived a hedonistic lifestyle.

When Augustine was 32 years-old, he underwent a profound personal crisis which led him to make the decision to convert to Christianity and devote himself entirely to serving God. “The Confessions”—which Augustine wrote in his 40s when he was Bishop of Hippo–is an autobiographical account of his spiritual journey. He talks about his restless youth, his vain and dissolute life, and his stormy spiritual voyage.

The climax of the book comes with Augustine’s conversion as narrated in Book 8. He was walking in a garden when, by God’s providence, he heard the voice of a child chanting, “Pick up and read. Pick up and read.” Augustine interpreted this as a divine commandment to pick up the Bible which he had with him, open it at random, and read the first chapter he found.

He quickly opened his Bible. The first passage his eyes landed on was Romans 13:13-14: “Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies; not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts”. Here’s what Augustine writes about that moment:

“[I]instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”

By analyzing his own life in “The Confessions”, Augustine was analyzing the nature of sin and teaching others the power of redemption and the path back to God. “The Confessions” is one of the most influential books in the Catholic religion, apart from the Bible.

2. The City of God (Augustine of Hippo, 426 CE)

The City of GodIn 410 CE, Rome—the Eternal City–was sacked for the first time in nearly 800 years. The Visigoths– led by their king, Alaric– left Rome in smoking ruins. The Romans were shaken to their very core. After all, the sacking was symbolic of the crumbling Roman Empire.

Those who believed in the waning pagan faith claimed that the gods had abandoned Rome because the Romans had embraced Christianity. This prompted St. Augustine to begin writing “The City of God” in 413.

In his book Augustine argued that not only was Christianity not responsible for the sacking of Rome, but that it was Christianity that had saved Rome. As evidence he cited the fact that the barbarians had sparred people who had hidden in churches.

Augustine refers to Rome as a city of men. He explains that all the cities of men eventually fall.

On the other hand, the City of God is stable, eternal, and the source of ultimate consolation. At the same time, Christianity is the path to the City of God, and the love of Christ is the guiding star. Although this is Augustine’s main thesis, he wrote “The City of God” in 13 years and included many other topics in his book.

“The City of God” has been incredibly influential since it was first written and published, but never more so than during the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages began after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, about 46 years after the death of St. Augustine.

In his masterpiece, Augustine provided the justification the Catholic Church needed to rise in political power during the Middle Ages. After all, Augustine argued that it was the church, not the rulers, that had divine authority.


Ancient Rome grew from a town on central Italy’s Tiber River into an empire that, at its peak, encompassed most of continental Europe, Britain, much of western Asia, northern Africa and the Mediterranean islands.

Here are some of the legacies of Ancient Rome:

  • The widespread use of Romance languages derived from Latin (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian);
  • The modern Western alphabet;
  • The modern calendar; and
  • Christianity as a major world religion.

Live your best life by reading the ancient Roman philosophers and poets.

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cure wanderlust

What do you do when you want to travel, but can’t?

People love to travel for many reasons. Here are some of them:

  • We crave knew experiences.
  • We may have read, or heard, of a place that sounds like it would be fantastic to visit.
  • We want to discover new ways of doing things and expand our perspective.
  • We want to meet people who are different from us.
  • Sometimes we just need to escape our everyday reality.

However, for any number of reasons, travel may be something you just can’t do at the moment. But, like I’ve said before on this blog, it’s not a good idea to focus on what you can’t do. Instead, think of what you can do.

If you would like to travel at the moment but can’t, the ideas below will allow you to experience many of the joys of travel, without having to get on a plane. Below you’ll discover 9 ways to cure wanderlust when you can’t travel.

1. Read World Literature

As I write in my post on 13 Ways Reading Will Improve Your Life, reading will allow you to visit more place and know more people than you ever could in real life. You can visit a country from your living room couch by reading that country’s literature.

A couple of years ago I decided to read the best books of Russian literature. That whole year I felt myself being transported to Russia each time I sat down to read one of the books on my list.

2. Listen to Music from Other Countries

I think I’ve shared with you before that I lived in Florence for a year between college and law school. It was one of the best periods of my life, and I often find myself thinking that I need to go back. During those times, I put on the music that I used to listen to when I was there, and it really takes me back.

After all, a country’s music is a reflection of who its inhabitants are. Think of Argentina and you probably hear a tango in your head, while Edith Piaf’s songs capture the essence of the French soul.

If you’re not sure what music to listen to for the country of your choice, go on Twitter and ask for ideas.

3. Try Recipes From Around the World

I love food. And, as an added bonus, you can discover the world through food. There are many ways to try recipes from around the world without leaving the city in which you live. Here are three of them:

  • Find restaurants that serve cuisines from other countries in your city.
  • Subscribe to a food subscription service, such as Try the World.
  • Get a cookbook filled with recipes from another country and learn to make the recipes yourself. You can get started with Around the World in 450 Recipes.

4. Study a Foreign Language

As Rita Mae Brown once said, “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”

Before visiting a country, it’s always a good idea to at least become familiar with that country’s language, so that you can get around easily once you’re there. You can use the time during which travel isn’t a possibility for you to learn the language of the country you’d like to visit someday. Think of this as your preparation time.

Right now I’m learning French. I’m amazed at how I watch videos in French on YouTube and understand everything they’re saying. And this from someone who only knew how to say “oui” and “merci” after years of taking French in high school.

If you’d like to learn another language–or anything else for that matter–enroll in my course:

5. Watch Foreign Films

I mentioned above that I spent a year during which I read several of the best works of Russian literature. One of the books I read was “War and Peace”. Now I’m dying to see Sergei Bondarchuk’s seven-part adaptation of this classic.

In 1961, Bondarchuk commandeered a huge budget for the film. He used furniture on loan from over 40 museums across the USSR, and he marshalled thousands upon thousands of actual soldiers to shoot the war scenes. I’ve heard that watching this film is the next best thing to visiting Russia.

In addition, I’ve recently discovered Iranian films. Here are three that are on my must-watch list:

  • The Song of Sparrows. This is a 2008 movie directed by Majid Majidi. It tells the story of Karim, a man who is fired from the ostrich farm he works in and is forced to take a job in Tehran. He starts making more money than he ever has before and this causes problems in his personal life.
  • Children of Heaven. This 1998 film, also by Majid Majidi, tells the story of a brother and sister who live in a poor section of Teheran. Ali, the eleven-year-old protagonist, loses his siter’s only pair of shoes and this mishap snowballs into a calamity.
  • A Separation. This is a 2011 Iranian drama film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. It’s a compelling drama about the dissolution of a marriage.

There are many fantastic foreign films on Netflix. You can even start making Friday nights your “Foreign Film Night”. That way, every Friday, you get to visit a new country. If you want ideas on which films to watch, get the book Around The World In 80 Movies.

6. Plan Your Next Trip

The fact that you can’t travel now doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do so in the future. Once the possibility of travel opens up again, where would you like to go?

Don’t just write down the name of the country you would like to visit. Go online and do some research. Make a list of everything you want to see and experience in that country. Include details like the following:

  • What’s the best time of year to visit?
  • What type of clothing should you pack?
  • How much time will you be setting aside for your trip?
  • Who will you travel with?
  • Where will you stay?
  • How much money do you need to set aside for this trip?

If you would like ideas on where to go, here are 10,000 bucket list ideas.

7. Reminisce About Past Trips

What countries have you already visited? Where have you already been? Take out your scrapbooks of past trips, sit down on a comfortable armchair, and take a trip down memory lane. One of the best things about travel is that you get to experience it three different times:

  • First, there’s the anticipation when you’re planning the trip.
  • Then, there’s enjoying the trip itself.
  • And, finally, you get to relive the trip once you’re back home.

You can even call a friend and swap war stories of the trips you’ve taken in the past. Have I told you about the time I took a cruise down the Nile? I was in college, and my father was living in Cairo. . .

8. Do a Virtual Museum Hop

Every trip I’ve ever taken to another country has included a visit to a museum. And I always stop by the museum shop to get a book that contains the museum’s collection. That way, I can look through it and enjoy the art whenever I want.

There are many museums that offer online virtual tours, but you can also purchase art museum books (or borrow them from the library). Travel the world virtually through its best museums.

9. Watch Travel Documentaries on Netflix

There are several great travel documentaries on Netflix which you can watch to learn more about the world. I did a little research while writing this post, and these 3 look good:

  • Street Food (2019): This documentary explores some of the world’s best street food in nine episodes. Countries featured in the film include India, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore.
  • Virunga (2014): This 2014 documentary focuses on the conservation work of park rangers within the Congo’s Virunga National Park. The park is home to mountain gorillas and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Magical Andes (2019): Learn about life along South America’s majestic mountains.


I know it’s difficult to have to put off travel when it’s something that you really want to do. But I hope that the ideas above will help you to cure your wanderlust until you can travel once again. Live your best life by traveling the world from home.

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goal commitment

You need unwavering commitment to achieve your goals.

A while back I wrote a post on Ten Must-Watch TED Talks for lifelong learners. One of the talks that I highlighted in that post was by Connor Grooms. Grooms is a young man who learned to speak Spanish in a month.

In his talk, Grooms explains that he had tried to learn Spanish a few times before and had failed. What finally led him to succeed in achieving his goal of learning Spanish was commitment. As Grooms explains:

“No learning methodology or strategy in the world will work for you, unless learning the skill that you’ve decided to acquire is nonnegotiable. You must be absolutely committed.”

This same principle holds true for any goal you want to achieve, whether it’s learning a new skill, running a marathon, becoming a lawyer, writing your novel, or anything else. Therefore, in order to increase your odds of achieving any important goal that you’ve set for yourself, you have to boost your commitment to reach that goal.

In this post I’m going to share with you how to increase your goal commitment so that you can achieve your most important goals.

The Four Elements of Goal Commitment

In “Commit to Win: How to Harness the Four Elements of Commitment to Achieve Your Goals”, Heidi Reeder, Ph.D., unpacks over forty years of research by psychologists and economists to show that the key to reaching any goal is commitment.

Reeder indicates that there are four variables that drive commitment. Here are the four variables:

  • Treasures: the benefits we get from working toward a goal.
  • Troubles: the difficulties we have to deal with as we strive to achieve our goal.
  • Contributions: the time, money, and effort we invest in the goal.
  • Choices: the number of good alternatives we have.

By manipulating these four variables you can dial your commitment up or down. That is, you can increase your commitment to those things that will serve you well or decrease your commitment to those things that aren’t serving you well.

In our case, we’re trying to increase our commitment to achieve an important goal. For illustrative purposes, we’re going to choose learning a new skill as the goal that you want to achieve. Let’s take a look at how you would manipulate the four variables in order to increase your goal commitment.


Treasures are all those positive outcomes and valuable things that you’ll obtain from a commitment. When it comes to learning a new skill, it’s all the benefits and positive results that you’ll acquire if you learn the skill. It’s all the reasons “why” you’ve chosen to learn the skill.

When you’re making a list of all the “treasures” that you’ll acquire by learning the skill, keep in mind that your treasures can be innate or extrinsic rewards. Take a look at the following:

  • Treasures can be innate rewards, like learning a new skill because it will make your life more meaningful, give you a sense of accomplishment, or because you have fun learning the skill.
  • They can also include the extrinsic results of attaining your goal, like earning a higher salary, winning a prize, or gaining status.

The more treasures you have, the higher your commitment. Therefore, to increase your commitment, increase the treasures—or the benefits—that you’ll receive by learning your chosen skill.


Any goal you want to achieve, including the goal of learning a new skill, will be accompanied by troubles. Specifically, troubles include costs and obstacles. Let’s take a look at each of these.


Costs are the resources that you’ll need to devote to achieving your goal. These resources include time, money, energy, and so on.

Some costs are simply the “cost of admission” of learning your skill. For example, you’ll have to devote time and attention to learning the skill. That can’t be avoided. In addition, there may be some tools and equipment that you’ll need to buy, as well as learning material you’ll need to invest in.


No journey to achieving any worthwhile goal is obstacle-free. Accept that obstacles are simply part of the process, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What obstacles will I potentially face as I strive to learn this skill?
  • What resources will I need to overcome these obstacles?

If you come across an obstacle when you’re learning your skill—for example, there may be a concept that you have a lot of difficulty understanding—you need to brainstorm ways to overcome that obstacle.

Treasures – Troubles = Level of Satisfaction

When it comes to treasures and troubles, subtracting one from the other gives you your level of satisfaction. The higher your level of satisfaction, the more likely you are to commit to your goal.

Therefore, to increase your goal commitment, look for ways to increase your treasures and reduce your troubles.


The contributions variable takes into account the fact that the more that you invest in something—in terms of your time, your energy, your creativity, your money, and so on—the more committed you’ll be to it.

This variable tells you to ask the following question: “How much have you already devoted to this activity?” After all, when you’ve already committed a lot of resources to something, it makes it more likely that you’ll follow through with it.

Contributions At the Start

When you make a decision to learn a new skill, you’re more likely to commit to the skill once you’ve made an initial investment in it. That is, buy the tools and learning material that you’ll need to learn your skill and you’ll increase your goal commitment.

Contributions As You Move Forward

Once you’ve been working on learning your skill for a while, the fact that you’ve already invested time and energy in learning the skill will help boost your commitment to keep going. If you need a commitment boost, remind yourself of all the effort you’ve already made to learn the skill.

In addition, if you want to build your resolve to learning your skill, invest money in it on a regular basis. For example, if you want to learn to paint, you can invest initially in the tools that you’ll need to get started. Then, each month you can buy some new supplies to help keep your commitment high.

Level of Satisfaction + Contributions

We already said before that the higher your level of satisfaction (treasures – troubles) the more committed you’ll be to learn your chosen skill. Now, we’re adding contributions to the equation.

The more contributions you make to learning your skill, the more committed you’ll be to your goal of learning it.


Suppose that every day, for one hour a day, you’re locked in a room. The only items in the room are those that you’ll need to learn your chosen skill. What do you think will happen? You’ll probably get to work on learning your skill. After all, for that hour, there’s nothing else you can do.

The opposite is also true. Suppose that, once again, you’re locked in a room for one hour a day. But this time, the room contains all of the following:

  • A state-of-the-art television set.
  • The material that you’ll need to learn your chosen skill.
  • Books.
  • The materials you would need to learn several other skills.
  • Many other shiny, interesting objects.

What do you think you’d do now? Would you get to work on learning your skill? It’s not very likely that you would, because you have so many other choices.

The more choices you have–or the more choices that you perceive you have–the less likely you are to commit to your initial choice. And the less choices you have, the more likely you are to commit. Therefore, to increase your commitment, decrease your choices.

The Commitment Equation

I’ve already shared with you most of the Commitment Equation:

Level of Satisfaction + Contributions

Now, here’s the equation in its entirety:

Level of Satisfaction + Contributions – Choices

By manipulating the four variables in the ways that I shared with you above, you can increase your commitment to your goal.


What goal have you been trying to commit to? Boost your goal commitment by manipulating the four variables of commitment and see how it goes. And if your goal is to learn a new skill, get my course on learning new skills faster than you ever thought possible:

Live your best life by committing to your goals.

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coping during covid-19

Being able to cope during hard times, such as these, is an invaluable skill.

Life moves in cycles. Sometimes we’re up, and sometimes we’re down. The upcycles are great, but the downcycles can be difficult to deal with.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, humanity is currently going through a downcycle. This makes the question, “What’s the best response when life takes a downturn?”, extremely relevant.

Most of us were caught off guard by the coronavirus, and I know that a lot of people are scared and filled with anxiety right now. I wrote this article to share some coping mechanisms with you which I hope will help you get through the current state of affairs.

After all, your life isn’t defined by what happens to you, but by how you respond to it. Here’s a quote that illustrates this point:

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope is what makes the difference.” – Virginia Satir

Below you’ll find some ideas on how to cope when things get tough. Specifically, I’m going to give you some ideas for coping during COVID-19.

Practice Acceptance: The Tug-of-War Metaphor

I’m going to be completely honest with you. When this pandemic started, and the government of Panama issued a lockdown order, I had a lot of trouble accepting what was happening. It all seemed like a bad dream. This is what I kept saying to myself:

“This can’t be happening! Everything was fine and, suddenly, we’re in a pandemic! How is that possible? This is the 21st century! Why don’t we have the ability to deal with this without forcing everyone to be imprisoned in their own homes?”

Fortunately, after a couple of weeks of this, I was able to realize that my inability to accept what was happening wasn’t helping me in any way. It was doing quite the opposite: I felt anxious and upset all day long. I decided to find a way to accept the pandemic.

After all, pandemics are nothing new. Humanity has lived through plagues, pestilences, and pandemics throughout history. In the words of the French-Algerian author and philosopher Albert Camus:

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”

Outbreaks of infectious diseases are part of the human existence, and we’re going though one now. Resisting or fighting against this fact isn’t going to help us in any way. Coping during COVID-19 requires that we accept it.

Practice Acceptance

Acceptance simply means allowing what is to be. It doesn’t mean that you like it or that you approve of it. What it means is that you stop fighting against what is, which is a futile battle.

We have to accept reality for all of the following reasons:

  • Refusing to accept reality doesn’t change it.
  • There’s a lot of mental pain associated with this pandemic. Most people’s plans have been derailed, and they fear for their health and economic security, as well as that of their loved ones. But struggling against what is only increases the pain we’re going through.
  • Once we’ve accepted what is we can begin thinking of how to make things better.

A great way to practice acceptance is to use the tug-of-war metaphor.

The Tug-of-War Metaphor

I’ve already written about Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) on this blog before. Basically, it’s a form of therapy that uses metaphors as a tool to help people understand abstract concepts and be better able to apply these concepts in order to modify their behavior.

I recently came across a great ACT metaphor which has helped me to accept this pandemic. It’s the tug-of war of metaphor.

Imagine that you’re engaged in a tug-of war with a monster. In this case, the monster is the coronavirus. You can even make your monster look like COVID-19: grey and round, with red spiky tufts jutting out in every direction. Ugh!

coping during covid 19

You’re each holding on to one end of a long rope. Between you and the monster there’s a bottomless pit, and you’re pulling as hard as you can to avoid being pulled into the pit (the pit symbolizes being overwhelmed by the “monster” you’re facing).

But the harder you pull the harder the monster pulls. After a while, you start getting tired of pulling, but you know you must keep going. Soon, you’re exhausted. But the monster hasn’t even broken a sweat.

What makes matters worse is that there are lots of other things you would rather be doing instead of standing there with all of your attention placed on the monster. Part of you knows that this fruitless tug-of-war is a complete waste of time and energy, but you can’t stop pulling because you’ll fall into the pit.

What should you do?

The best thing you can do is to drop the rope. Simply stop struggling with the monster. Acknowledge that it’s there but turn your attention to the other things you would rather be doing–working on your goals, relaxing, and engaging in other tasks that are aligned with your values.

When you drop the rope, the monster won’t disappear. In fact, it will most likely throw the rope at you to try and get you to reengage with it. But you can refuse to take hold of the rope. Regardless of how many times the monster throws the rope at you, you can simply allow the rope to drop to the floor.

Don’t fight with the monster. That is, don’t argue with what is. Every time you find yourself thinking, “Why is this happening?” or “How can this be?”, tell yourself the following: “Drop the rope!” This is a great way to cultivate acceptance of the fact that the COVID monster is now a part of your life and will be for the foreseeable future.

coping during covid-19

Focus On What You Can Control

Once you’ve accepted what is, you can start taking steps to make things better. You do this by taking your focus off the things that you can’t control and placing it on those things that are within your control.

Right now, there are many things that are not within your control. Here are some of them:

  • Maybe you were working on an important project that’s been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic.
  • Your government may be limiting your mobility (for your own safety).
  • Perhaps your vacation plans were canceled.
  • Someone you care for may have gotten sick.

It doesn’t help you in any way to be constantly fixated on those things that are not within your control. Doing so will only lead to stress, worry, and feelings of helplessness.

Instead, you need to shift your focus to what you can control. Make a list of those things you can control within your little world, even in the time of COVID. Here are some examples:

  • You can stay home as much as your situation permits.
  • You can wear a mask and practice social distancing whenever you go out to get groceries or take care of other essential tasks.
  • You can avoid touching your face, wash your hands often, and use antibacterial gel.
  • You can create a routine for yourself so that your day doesn’t feel unfocused and unstructured.
  • You can get going on projects that you can work on from home.

I’m going to share with you an exercise that will help you to focus on those things which you can control.

An Exercise for Focusing on What You Can Control

A while back I wrote on this blog about a teenager named Sam Berns (1996 – 2014).  He suffered from progeria, a rare genetic disorder that manifests as aging at a very young age. There were many things other kids his age could do that Sam couldn’t.

However, instead of focusing on all the things that he couldn’t do, Sam would focus on all of those activities that he could do and was passionate about. This included things such as the following:

  • Playing music.
  • Reading comic books.
  • Watching sports.

At the same time, he would look at the list of things that he really wished he could do but couldn’t, and he would look for ways to make adjustments so that he could do them. One example was playing the snare drums in his high school’s marching band.

The snare drums and the harness needed to carry the drums were just too heavy for Sam’s frail body. But he really wanted to march with the band. So, Sam and his parents hired an engineer to work on the problem.

The engineer came up with a snare drum apparatus—which included the drum and the drum carrier—which weighed only about six pounds. With this adjustment, Sam was able to achieve his dream of marching with the band.

The simple exercise for focusing on what you can control that can be derived from Sam’s philosophy is the following:

  • First, focus on the things you can do, instead of thinking of the things that you can’t do.
  • Second, take a look at the list of things you can’t do–and wish you could–, and choose one of them. Then, start looking for creative ways to make adjustments, find an alternative way of doing things, or modify the goal slightly so that you can do it.

Using Me As An Example

Here are three things I love to do that I can still do (even under lockdown):

  • Read great literature. This quarantine I’ve read, “The Plague”, by Camus and am going to read, “A Journal of the Plague Year”, by Daniel Defoe next.
  • Learn new skills. I’m learning to sing.
  • Listen to music.

And here are three things I can’t do, but if I make adjustments, I can get some or all of the benefits of the activity:

  • I can’t go out and jog—Panama has a very strict quarantine—but I can do cardio by jumping rope in my living room.
  • I can’t visit my sister and my nephews, but I can visit them virtually via Zoom.
  • I can’t go to the gym to lift weights, but I can follow a routine that I created for myself using a couple of dumbbells and a kettlebell that I own.

Go ahead and make your own list of things that you love to do and still can, despite COVID. Then, think of those things you’d love to be able to do, but can’t, and look for ways to do them with some adjustments.

Practice Self-Care for Coping During COVID-19

Practicing self-care is always important, but it becomes even more so during difficult times. To keep up your strength during these trying times, you have to look after your own wellbeing. That means eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated.

In addition to the coping strategies that I described above, there are many self-care strategies that will help you to deal with all of the new challenges we are now facing due to COVID. Here are some of the ones that I recommend:

  • Follow a morning routine that includes a stress-reduction technique to help set you up for the day. I do something called the Five Tibetan Rites—which is similar to a 10-minute yoga routine—and I meditate for 10 minutes every morning.
  • I’ve added “breathe” to my schedule. I’ve divided up my day into several 25-minute chunks, and after each chunk I give myself 5-minutes to be mindful and breathe deeply.
  • I do some stretches and bodyweight exercises 6 days a week, and I jump rope for 10 minutes daily. (If you haven’t tried jumping rope, try it. I’m enjoying it tremendously. Plus, it’ll make you feel like a kid again.)
  • Give yourself a little treat every day. I allow myself to have two chocolate chip cookies with breakfast every morning during quarantine. It’s a little reminder that there’s still some good in the world. 😊
  • Make sure you schedule something fun each day. I hadn’t watched the Marvel Universe movies, and I decided to do so during quarantine. Every night before bed I spend some time with Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, and the other Avengers. It’s a fun and relaxing way to end the day.

In addition, for those times throughout the day when I start to feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed, I recite a mantra. Here are some I like:

  • “It is what it is.”
  • “One day at a time.”
  • “With each breath I calm my body.”
  • “I have what I need in this moment.”
coping during covid-19

Create a coronavirus self-care routine for yourself, and you’ll have an easier time coping during COVID-19.

Practice Realistic Optimism

Coping during COVID-19 requires realistic optimism. You don’t want to have a Pollyanna attitude toward the coronavirus, but you don’t want to have a defeatist attitude either.

Whenever I go on Twitter, I see at least a couple of Chicken Little tweets. There’s one Panamanian reporter in particular who has become a harbinger of doom. Every time I read one of his tweets it’s about the difficult times that are up ahead for this country, and how ill-prepared we are to face them.

I responded to one of his tweets saying that what we need right now is realistic optimism. We shouldn’t pretend that everything is fine, because it isn’t. But it’s also unhelpful to run around proclaiming that the sky is falling.

Right now, we should each calmly assess what we need to do to put ourselves in the best possible position for facing the challenges that lie ahead. Here are two things not to say to yourself:

  • Overly Optimistic: “Everything is perfectly fine. There’s nothing I need to do. I’m sure everything will work out for the best.”
  • Overly Negative: “I’m going to lose everything and end up living on the street.”

And here’s what realistic optimism looks like:

  • Realistic Optimism: “If I take a realistic look at what is happening and will likely happen in the foreseeable future, and I prepare for that reality, my family and I will be fine.”

In addition, ask yourself realistic questions like the following:

  • “What steps do I need to take to be able to face the challenges that lie ahead?”
  • “What’s the best thing I can do under these circumstances?”
  • “What changes do I need to make to my lifestyle to stay safe?”
  • “What do I need to do in order to be ready for the post-COVID job market?”
  • “What problems do I foresee will occur as a result of the virus lockdown, and what are my options for solving those problems?”

The best attitude for coping with COVID-19 is realistic optimism. Believe that in the end things will work out for the best if you take the necessary steps to make it so.

Play the Hand You’ve Been Dealt

At the very top of this post I wrote about the ACT metaphor of tug-of-war. Another ACT metaphor that’s useful during coronavirus times is the “Play the hand you’re dealt” metaphor. We’ve all been dealt a bad hand with this pandemic. And we have two choices:

  • We can fold; or
  • We can play the hand we’re holding to the very best of our abilities.

I choose the second option. How about you?

And This, Too, Shall Pass

I mentioned above that I’m reading Camus’ “The Plague”. It’s set in the town of Oran in Algeria, during a fictitious plague in the 1940s. The novel eerily mirrors what we’re going through during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the book ends on an optimistic note: the plague ends.

At present, this pandemic feels. to many, like it’s going to go on forever. But it won’t. All the pandemics that society has lived through have come to an end, sooner or later. This pandemic, too, will come to an end. It, too, shall pass.


I’m a big Lord of the Rings fan, and here’s a quote from the trilogy that refers to coping with difficult times:

coping with covid-19

How are you coping with COVID-19? Live your best life by learning to cope well with adversity.

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There are plenty of ways to have fun even if you have to stay at home.

It’s mid-March, and the world finds itself in the throes of a pandemic. If there’s one thing that most experts agree on when it comes to the best way to stay safe from the COVID-19 virus, it’s that we should all try to stay home as much as possible.

Although having to stay home may sound awfully boring, it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of ways to entertain yourself without having to leave your dwelling. Below you’ll find 12 ways to have fun at home.

1. Play Board Games, With a Twist

As I explain in my post, 12 Board Games for Developing Thinking Abilities and Life Skills, you can use board games to learn through play. As an illustration, if you want to learn about cells, play the game Cytosis: A Cell Biology Game–it takes place inside a human cell and is biologically accurate (and fun).

Another example of a board game that will allow you to build important life skills is Dominion. It’s a deck-building game with a medieval theme in which monarchs attempt to expand their kingdom. Here’s what you’ll learn by playing Dominion:

  • Strategic thinking.
  • Resource management.
  • Adapting to changing resource availability.

Dominion is available online for free.

2. Build Your Own Board Game.

A few Christmases ago I gave my nephews all of the necessary supplies to build their own board game. This included a “A Create Your Own Board Game Kit”, as well as a couple of books on how to build board games, and supplies such as markers, glue, and scissors (plus magazines to cut out images).

Just as most of us have a novel in us, I think a lot of people have a board game in them. If you want to build a bord game, ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Which are your favorite board games?
  • What topics are you interested in?
  • Do you prefer games of strategy or games of chance?
  • What types of board games do you like (roll and move; deck building games; area control games; and so on)?

You have an endless number of themes to choose from. Here are some ideas:

  • If you love politics, your board game could use a presidential election as the theme.
  • For art lovers, your board game could be a trip around the best museums in the world.
  • Book lovers can use their favorite book as their theme.

You can even build a board game to teach your kids about money, the national parks, the US presidents, an important period in history, and so on. The possibilities are endless.

3. Play Geography Jeopardy!

A great way to have fun at home is to play Jeopardy!

Jeopardy!–of courseis an American television game show hosted by Alex Trebek. The show consists of a quiz competition in which contestants are presented with general knowledge clues in the form of answers. Here’s an example:

Q: “This green pigment is necessary for plants to carry out photosynthesis.”

A: “What is chlorophyll?”

The questions can come from many different categories, including science, literature, world history, entertainment, and so on. Your category is going to be geography. Here are some questions you could use:

    • Q: “This is the largest country in Africa.”
    • A: “What is Algeria?”
    • Q: “This country borders Spain to the West.”
    • A: “What is Portugal?”
    • Q: “This is the highest mountain in the world.”
    • A: “What is Mount Everest?”

Come up with questions by doing some research online. By the time there’s a vaccine for this virus, you’ll be a geography whiz!

4. Try a Science Experiment

I have a confession to make. I never made one of those lava-spewing volcano projects when I was in school. And I feel like I missed out on something important. Sooner or later I’m definitely going to make one.

After a quick Google search, I now know that two of the ingredients used to make a volcano are baking soda and vinegar. The reason why there’s an eruption is because of the chemical reaction between these two ingredients. Interesting!

If you want to build a homemade volcano, there are plenty of sites you can use to learn how to make a volcano, like this one.

Another science experiment I’ve always wanted to try is to make a battery from a potato. What science experiment would you like to try? There’s plenty to choose from, and you can be a mad scientist for a day from the comfort of your own home.

5. Create a Collage of Your Bucket List.

Start off by creating your bucket list — a list of all the things you want to see, do, and experience during your lifetime. Then, do the following:

  • Grab a stack of magazines and cut out any images that represent the items on your bucket list. You can also look for images online and print them out.
  • Glue your images on a piece of paper.
  • Decide if you want to draw on top, add little pieces of fabric, glue on some letters to spell out messages, and so on.

Then, start planning how you’re going to achieve your bucket list.

6. Watch a Marathon of Classic TV Shows.

There are a lot of good shows on TV right now (“Homeland”, I’m looking at you). But now and then it’s fun to watch old TV shows, like “Leave It to the Beaver”, “I Love Lucy”, “M*A*S*H”or “Bonanza”.

My all time favorite classic TV show is “The Andy Griffith Show”. It’s set in the idyllic fictional small town of Mayberry in North Carolina and centers around the town’s sheriff, Andy Griffith. Andy is kind and compassionate but is also an effective sheriff. The show evokes a feeling of nostalgia for a simpler time.

fun things to do at home

7. Paint Rocks

Of course, we have to add something artistic to a list of fun things to do at home. One idea is to paint rocks.

Get yourself some rocks, acrylic paints, and paint brushes. You can also use Posca Paint Markers. The sky’s the limit when it comes to choosing what to paint on your rocks: you can paint geometric shapes, animals, holiday motifs, and so on.

A lovely project to try is the Kindness Rocks Project. You paint uplifting messages on rocks and leave them where others can find them (once it’s safe to venture outdoors once again). Your messages can be something like the following:

  • You are capable of amazing things.
  • The best is yet to come.
  • You got this.

8. Start a Passion Project

As I wrote in my post on 14 Reasons to Start a Passion Project, a passion project is “an enterprise that you decide to take on—usually in your spare time–in order to gain some benefit for yourself.” These benefits include increasing your happiness, adding creativity to your life, making your life more meaningful, and even earning additional income.

Here are some ideas for passion projects:

  • Start designing a tiny house–a residential structure under 400 sq. ft.–you’ll move into some day.
  • Create an app that helps solve a problem that you and your friends are having.
  • Write a book of poetry.
  • Start a non-profit that helps solve a social problem you’re passionate about.

9. Have a Harry Potter Marathon

Add some magic and whimsy to your stay-at-home time by visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There’s no need to go to Orlando. Just get the books and the movies (you can even go digital, if you wish).

Read each Harry Potter book, and then watch the corresponding film. There are seven books–each covering one year of Harry’s stay at Hogwarts– and eight movies (the seventh book was made into two separate films).

fun things to do at home10. Fill Out the Proust Questionnaire

Learn more about yourself, and about your friends, with the Proust Questionnaire. It consists of 35 questions made famous by French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust. He believed that by answering these questions an individual revealed his or her true nature.

Here are some examples of the questions included in the questionnaire:

  • Which living person do you most admire?
  • On what occasion do you lie?
  • When and where were you happiest?
  • Which talent would you most like to have?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

You can even host a virtual cocktail party–or a quarantini–and take turns answering each question.

11. Have a Jigsaw Puzzle Contest

I love jigsaw puzzles, and I know a lot of other people do as well. You can turn building puzzles into a fun contest (because everything is more fun if you turn it into a contest). Here’s what to do:

  • Choose a puzzle and buy one for each contestant (the same puzzle for all the players).
  • Individuals or teams try to put the puzzle together as fast as they can.
  • Whoever finishes first, wins. Alternatively, you can set a time limit and whoever has the least remaining loose pieces when the timer goes off is the winner.
  • Give the winner a prize.

12. Memorize Some Gilbert and Sullivan

Memorize the first verse of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major General Song from their 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. The sung satirizes the modern, well-rounded education of British army officers of the latter 19th century.

It’s sung to a very fast tempo and has a rapid succession of rhythmic pattern, which makes it a lot of fun to sing! Here’s the verse:

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;[a]
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

Bonus – Learn About the Universe

In 1980, Carl Sagan–one of the world’s most famous astronomers–hosted and narrated Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”.  It was a 13-part television series on the history of the universe and the evolution of life on earth. It’s considered a milestone for scientific documentaries.

The series was updated in 2014 and renamed Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, with Neil deGrasse Tyson as the host and narrator. Get the 13-part new documentary and go on an adventure across the universe of space and time, while lying on your favorite couch.


You don’t need to leave your house to have a good time. Fortunately, there are many fun things to do at home. Which activities are you planning to try from the list above? Live your best life by having fun at home.

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ability to learn

Stop self-sabotaging your learning efforts.

I’m a weightlifter. One of the most difficult weightlifting exercises to perform properly—if not the most difficult—is the barbell back squat. This is for several physical reasons, including the following:

  • In order to squat properly you must have good flexibility and mobility. This includes ankle mobility, hamstring mobility, hip mobility, and thoracic mobility.
  • You also need glute strength to squat properly. If your glutes aren’t strong enough, or if they’re not firing properly, the hip flexors take over to pull you deeper into the squat, causing you to lean forward (which is not proper form).
  • In addition, your core stabilizes you as you squat. If you have a weak core, this will compromise your ability to squat properly.

However, even if you’re physically capable of performing a squat—you have enough strength and flexibility—you may still have trouble squatting deeply. Why? Because your brain could be holding you back and stopping you from squatting.

If your brain thinks that squatting is dangerous for you–even if it isn’t because you have the physical ability to do it properly–it will send signals to your muscles to stop before you’ve gone all the way down.

In much the same way, a lot of the time the reason why you can’t learn a skill isn’t because you don’t have the ability to do so. Instead, it’s because your brain is holding you back, or—effectively—sabotaging you. Your brain sabotages you by holding on to false beliefs that hinder your ability to learn.

Here are three beliefs which may be sabotaging your efforts to learn new things:

  • “I’m not smart enough to learn that skill.”
  • “I can’t do X. I just don’t have the X gene.”
  • “I wish I had learned to do that as a kid. I can’t learn it now. I’m too old.”

Let’s debunk these beliefs one by one.

“I’m Not Smart Enough to Learn That Skill.”

I’m going to share something with you. Your ability to learn a skill depends mostly on the technique that you use to learn the skill and the quality of your practice. Your IQ has much less of an effect on your ability to learn new skills than was previously thought.

In the book, “Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise”, Anders Ericsson explains that while certain innate characteristics, such as high IQ, may give people an advantage when they’re first starting out learning a skill, that advantage decreases over time.

This means that while there is an initial correlation between IQ and a person’s ability to learn a skill—very smart people pick up skills faster, at first—this correlation gets smaller and smaller as years of practice increase.

When it comes to scientists—a profession that you would normally associate with high IQ—Ericsson says the following: “Nobel prize-winning scientists have had IQs that would not even qualify them for MENSA.”

So, if you have trouble learning a skill, its not because you’re not smart enough to learn it. It’s because you haven’t acquired the meta-skill of learning how to learn.

“I Can’t Do ‘X’. I Just Don’t Have the ‘X’ Gene.”

I recently wrote a post on this blog titled: “A Mantra That Will Change Your Life: Everything Is Learnable”. In it I explain that everything—from personal development skills like being happier and becoming more confident, to entrepreneurial skills like creativity and problem-solving skills—is learnable.

As I shared with you in my previous post, I’ve always had great faith in my ability to learn new things. However, there’s one negative belief that I’ve had about my mental abilities since as long as I can remember.

I’ve always believed that I have poor spatial awareness. In fact, I had concluded that it was a defect that I had and there was no way to fix it.

However, I was reading the book “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science” by Barbara Oakley, when I came across a section titled: “Spatial Abilities Can Be Learned”. In that section, Sheryl Sorby, an award-winning engineer, states the following:

“Many people erroneously believe that spatial intelligence is a fixed quantity—you either have it or you don’t. I’m here to say emphatically that this is not the case. In fact, I’m living proof that spatial abilities can be learned. I almost left my chosen profession of engineering due to poorly developed spatial skills, but I worked at it, developed the skills, and successfully completed my degree.”

I decided to put this statement to the test. I love puzzles, and I own several puzzle books that I bought from Amazon. There’s one type of puzzle that I would always get wrong, because it involves spatial ability. The puzzle consists of a cube that has been deconstructed, so you’re presented with a cross-like shape, where one end is slightly longer than the other end.

Then you’re presented with four different cubes, and you’re asked which cube is the only one that can be constructed from the deconstructed shape. This requires taking a 2D shape and visualizing it as a 3D shape. For the life of me I couldn’t solve these puzzles correctly. I kept telling myself:

“Marelisa, it’s because you have poor spatial reasoning. Just skip over these puzzles because you’ll never get them right.”

However, once I started telling myself that everything is learnable, I decided to learn how to solve these puzzles. I went online and I did some research on how to solve the cube puzzles. Then, I practiced what I learned.

Now, whenever I come across one of these cube puzzles when I’m going through one of my puzzle books, I get them right. Because I learned how to do them.

Keep repeating the mantra: “Everything is learnable.” Because everything is learnable.

“I Can’t Learn That Skill Now. I’m Too Old.”

There are many who believe that, as adults, their brains no longer have the malleability that’s necessary to learn new things. However, neuroscience has discovered that this isn’t the case. In recent years there have been many important discoveries about the brains’ ability to change itself.

Here are two of the most important:

  • The brain is a lot more plastic than was previously thought; and
  • Adults can grow new brain cells.

Let’s look at the first of these. In the book “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”, Norman Doidge, M.D., explains that the new science of neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the adult human brain is immutable.

In his book, Doidge shares remarkable stories that evince the brain’s ability to adapt, including stories like the following:

  • A stroke patient who learned to speak again;
  • A woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole; and
  • People rewiring their brains with their thoughts to cure previously uncurable obsessions and traumas.

When it comes to learning new skills, one way that the adult brain learns is by creating new connections, or synapses, between brain cells. Researchers have recently found that in the adult brain, not only do existing synapses adapt to new circumstances, but new connections are constantly formed and reorganized.

In addition, for a long time the established dogma was that the adult brain couldn’t generate any new brain cells. That is, it was believed that you were born with a certain amount of brain cells, and that was it. And since you naturally lose brain cells as you age, after age 25 it was all downhill for your brain function.

However, scientists have now discovered that you can grow new brain cells throughout your entire life. The process is called neurogenesis. This is great news for people who want to learn new skills because new neurons enhance your ability to learn.

Adult learners rejoice: not only can you take advantage of your brain’s ability to create new synapses in order to learn new things, but you’re also growing new neurons which you can devote to acquiring new skills.


Stop sabotaging yourself and start learning new things.

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pick yourselfStop waiting to be picked. Pick yourself.

Author, marketing expert, and entrepreneur Seth Godin explains that we’re taught since we were kids to wait to be picked. When we want something, we wait to get permission from those who are in a position of authority: the Human Resources Director, the publisher, the record label manager, and so on.

Look at the following:

  • In school you stand around during Physical Education (PE) class waiting for one of the team captains to choose you to play on their team (I remember the agony of this vividly).
  • As a senior in high school you apply to several colleges hoping that at least one of them will pick you.
  • As college graduation comes near you apply to different companies in the hopes that one of them will hire you.

And the list goes on and on. Well, here’s an idea: instead of waiting for someone else to pick you, why don’t you just pick yourself? Here’s Godin:

“What pick yourself means is that it’s never been easier to decide to be responsible for your own work, for your own agenda, for the change you make in the world.”

It’s never been easier than today to access the wisdom of experts and specialists in every given field. In other words, it’s never been easier to acquire the skills that you need in order to pick yourself. In this post I’m going to show you how to raise your hand and announce to the world:

“I’m in”.

How I Picked Myself

I’m going to begin by sharing with you how I picked myself.

I followed the route of waiting for other people to pick me for the first 32 years of my life. And that strategy worked out well for me, at first. I got picked for everything I wanted:

I went to the Georgetown University Business School; I graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center; I passed the New York Bar; I passed the Panama National Bar; and I was hired as an attorney by the Assistant General Counsel of the Panama Canal Commission (later the Panama Canal Authority).

Then, the strategy of waiting to be picked stopped working for me. A position that I had wanted for about three years, and which I had been hustling like crazy for, became available.

However—although I was the best candidate for the job—it was denied to me because the General Counsel refused to let me go. He decided that it was in his best interests for me to stay where I was, and the Human Resources Director didn’t have the backbone to oppose him.

I was angry, frustrated, and heart broken. And I decided that it was time for me to stop relying on other people to pick me. I was going to pick myself.

Picking Myself

I quit my job and started looking around for something else to do (I had savings). That’s when I decided to hang out my shingle. The problem was that, although I went to business school, I was taught how to be a corporate employee, not how to be an entrepreneur.

Nonetheless, I’ve always had a lot of faith in my ability to learn new things, and I decided I was going to teach myself how to be an entrepreneur. Specifically, I was going to start a blog from which I could sell information products that would show others how to live their best lives. Today I own one of the top 100 Personal Development blogs in the world.

I then decided I was going to become a learning expert. Yes, that’s right: a learning expert. (The chutzpah, I know!)

I designed a method for becoming an expert, and then I followed the method to gain expertise in rapid learning. As I explain in my post on the benefits of learning how to learn, here’s the process that I followed:

As I went along, I applied everything I learned. This allowed me to create a learning system. I then tried out my system by learning weightlifting. The next step was to tweak and perfect the system by learning to code. Finally, I fine-tuned the system by learning French, piano, and drawing.

Now, here’s how I describe myself:

Renaissance woman – personal development blogger, entrepreneur, lawyer, runner, book lover, weightlifter, multilingual, learning expert.

I picked myself.

How You Can Pick Yourself

Have you decided that you too will start picking yourself? Good! Here’s the basic formula for picking yourself:

First. Ask yourself these three questions.

  • What do I want?
  • What skills do I need to acquire in order to achieve what I want?
  • How can I learn those skills?

Second. Once you’ve identified the best way to learn the skills that you want, start learning them.

Third. With the skills that you need in your tool belt, boost your gumption, add a little mojo, become more daring and audacious, and pick yourself. Get out there and do what needs to be done.

Ten “Pick Yourself” Illustrations

Here are ten illustrations of picking yourself:

  1. Are you waiting to get a promotion? Find out what skills you need to get promoted and acquire those skills.
  2. Didn’t get the promotion? Look at advertisements for positions you want in other companies, identify any skills you lack in order to apply, and learn those skills.
  3. Still can’t get hired for the position that you want? Learn business and entrepreneurial skills, start your own business, create your dream position, and hire yourself.
  4. Are you waiting for something to happen before you can be happy? Take $30, buy the three best positive psychology books you can find on Amazon, and learn how to be happy now.
  5. Are you waiting for someone to publish your book? Learn how to self-publish and publish yourself.
  6. Are you waiting until you have more time before you start working on that important goal? Learn time management, make the time, and get started.
  7. Are you waiting for life to calm down? Learn how to meditate and how to do yoga and calm yourself down. Once you’re calm, you’ll be better able to deal with the chaos around you.
  8. Are you waiting until you’re not scared anymore? Start building your courage muscles by learning how to do something that scares you (public speaking, improv, or singing would be good options).
  9. Are you waiting until you can afford a personal trainer before you start lifting weights? Learn how to weightlift and train yourself.
  10. Are you waiting to be accepted to an MBA program? Choose the business books and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) that will teach you what you need to know and get a Do-It-Yourself MBA.

There Are no Guarantees

Of course, there are no guarantees that you’ll succeed if you pick yourself (at least not the first time around), but no one will ever have your best interests at heart as much as you do. Therefore, despite the risk, I believe that the wisest choice is to pick yourself.

And, in a lot of ways, it’s riskier to wait to be picked. I trust me at the wheel of my life, not somebody else.

Here’s a quote by diarist, essayist, novelist, and writer of short stories, Anaïs Nin, which I feel perfectly encapsulates the importance of picking yourself:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

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