Confront Your Future Demons: New Year’s Resolutions Through the Stoic Lens of Premeditatio Malorum
As the champagne fizz fades and the echoes of “Happy New Year!” die down, we’re often left with a fresh batch of resolutions, neatly wrapped in the optimism of a new beginning.
But what if, instead of simply hoping for the best, we prepared for the worst? That’s where the ancient Stoic practice of premeditatio malorum comes in.
What is Premeditatio Malorum?
Premeditatio malorum, which translates to “premeditation of evils,” is a mental exercise that involves envisioning potential challenges and setbacks.
It’s not about wallowing in negativity, but rather proactively preparing our minds and spirits for whatever life throws our way.
By confronting your fears and anxieties head-on, you can develop the resilience and resourcefulness needed to navigate even the stormiest seas.
The Warrior Within: How Martial Arts Forges “Premeditatio Malorum” in the Body and Mind
Premeditatio malorum isn’t just about mental gymnastics.
It’s about forging resilience in the crucible of adversity, and what better forge than the dojo?
Martial arts training isn’t just about kicks and punches; it’s an embodied “premeditatio malorum” practice, preparing you for life’s unexpected blows with every sweat-drenched session.
Way of the Warrior Wisdom:
- Facing Your Shadow: Every sparring session brings you face-to-face with your physical and mental limitations. You stumble, you get caught off guard, and you taste defeat. But in those moments, you learn to adapt, to improvise, and to rise stronger. Just like facing down a fearsome opponent, you confront your inner demons and emerge with a deeper understanding of yourself.
- Embracing Imperfection: The pursuit of perfect form is a seductive trap. Martial arts, however, thrive on messy reality. You learn to accept mistakes, to capitalize on chaos, and to find beauty in the imperfection of the moment. This translates to life beautifully, teaching you to navigate the inevitable curveballs without succumbing to the paralysis of perfectionism.
- The Power of Vulnerability: Martial arts demand trust. You open yourself up to falls, throws, and the sting of a well-placed strike. This vulnerability, however, builds resilience. You learn to embrace discomfort, to trust your instincts, and to bounce back from every blow. In life, the courage to be vulnerable opens doors to deeper connections and unexpected opportunities.
- Mind over Matter: The physical demands of martial arts are undeniable, but the true battleground is the mind. You learn to control your breath, to quiet your anxieties, and to focus with laser-like intensity. This mental discipline spills over into everyday life, empowering you to manage stress, stay calm under pressure, and approach challenges with a clear head.
The Story of an Unassuming Warrior:
As a kid and young man, I was always in the background.
Growing up in Honolulu, I was an introverted bookworm, the smallest kid in my class, and the last to be picked for any sports.
I was full of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, which led to anger, frustration, and a lack of direction in life.
Thankfully, I had a mentor at the pool hall near my home, of all places. He saw my anger for what it was, and one night he takes me to an all-night diner and introduces me to the waitress at the counter.
It turns out she’s a 2nd-dan black belt in the Japanese martial art of aikido, and she takes me to her teacher, Naluai Sensei, to help me overcome my inferiority issues.
While training in aikido, I learned the power of relaxation, letting go, and non-attachment. I learned to be more curious and less critical. And I learned how to better love myself, warts and all.
All too soon, though, I moved to Los Angeles but had difficulty finding another aikido dojo that was right for me, so I switched to hapkido because I had learned that they had a similar history of daito-ryu aiki-jitsu.
This is where I met my first true master, GM Bong Soo Han, and where I was introduced to premeditatio malorum.
Each day in class, GM Han would have his instructors face our fears by putting us in challenging situations. It wasn’t the aiki love of aikido, but what we jokingly called the tough love, hapkido-love.
If you think about it, martial arts training is nothing but premeditatio malorum on steroids; each and every day you get on the mat, someone is trying to punch or kick you in the face, choke you unconscious, or body slam you with a takedown or throw.
Training day in and day out, you come face to face with your fears of being hurt, embarrassed, and foolish.
It wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding.
We found that we were capable of facing and overcoming more than we imagined.
And we learned that it wasn’t just applicable on the mat but in every aspect of our lives.
The more we faced our fears, the more we learned that reality was much less than our imaginations and that we were capable of overcoming the challenges that we feared.
I discovered that it wasn’t the size of the dog in the fight but that it was the size of the fight in the dog, which means that as a 5’3″ 115# guy, I could take on big challenges.
And you can also!
These insights helped me mature from a scared little kid to a strong, confident man:
- earning a second degree black belt in hapkido
- running construction crews on multi-million-dollar projects
- standing up to bullies, idiots, and a-holes much bigger than me
How Can You Use Premeditatio Malorum for a Better New Year?
Here are a few ways to incorporate this Stoic practice into your New Year’s resolutions:
- Identify Your Potential Monsters: Start by taking some quiet time to reflect on your past year. What were your biggest challenges? What obstacles tripped you up? Make a list of these potential “demons” that you might encounter in the coming year.
- Face Your Fears Head-On: Once you’ve identified your potential challenges, don’t shy away from them. Take some time to really visualize each one in detail. Imagine the emotions that might arise, the difficulties you might face. Don’t sugarcoat it; get real with yourself.
- Craft Your Armor: Now that you know what you’re up against, it’s time to craft your armor. What coping mechanisms have helped you in the past? What Stoic principles can guide you through tough times? Identify your tools and resources, and make sure they’re readily available when you need them.
- Rehearse for Battle: Just like any athlete or warrior, preparation is key. Don’t wait for challenges to arise before you start taking action. Rehearse your responses to difficult situations. Play out different scenarios in your mind and see yourself emerging victorious.
- Remember, You’re Not Alone: No one faces their demons alone. Surround yourself with supportive people who will lift you up when you stumble. Find your tribe of fellow Stoic warriors who can share your burdens and celebrate your victories.
From Passive Hope to Active Preparation
By using premeditatio malorum, you shift your New Year’s resolutions from passive hope to active preparation.
You trade in your rose-colored glasses for a clear-eyed understanding of the potential challenges that lie ahead.
This doesn’t mean you abandon your dreams or aspirations; it simply means you approach them with greater resilience and resourcefulness.
The Warrior Within
Remember, you don’t need to step onto a physical battlefield to be a warrior.
The most important battles are often fought within yourself. By confronting your fears and preparing for the unexpected, you cultivate the inner strength and wisdom of a true Stoic warrior.
So, as you step into this New Year, remember the words of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius: “The impediment to action advances (the obstacle is the way).”
Don’t let fear and uncertainty hold you back.
Take up the shield of premeditatio malorum and go forth to conquer your demons.
I hope this article has helped you see how premeditatio malorum can be a powerful tool for creating a more successful and fulfilling New Year.
By embracing this Stoic practice, you can move from passive hope to active preparation and step into the new year as the warriors you were always meant to be.
Remember, the future is unwritten. Make it a story of courage, resilience, and triumph.
I would also like to add that while premeditatio malorum is a valuable tool, it’s important to find a balance between preparing for the worst and maintaining a positive outlook.
Don’t get so bogged down in potential problems that you forget to enjoy the present moment. And remember, even the most carefully laid plans can sometimes go awry.
The key is to be adaptable and to learn from your experiences.
With a little bit of preparation and a whole lot of heart, you can make this New Year your best one yet.
So go forth and conquer your demons!