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Sign Up. First Name. Last Name. Confirm Email. Confirm Password. Yes, I want to receive the Entrepreneur newsletter. Are you sure you want to logout? Logout Cancel. Here's How to Achieve Them Both. An all-powerful God should protect me from unprovoked suffering, and if he does not, then he is to blame. Nietzsche was a victim of chronic illness and, like Job, knew firsthand what it is like to experience unprovoked and unresolved suffering.
It becomes all-consuming, everything wounds us and even our memories become gathering wounds.
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However, he continues, there is a remedy to this sense of resentment, which is a kind of fatalism where you just lay down, accept your condition, and not even wish to be different. Imagine that you lost a relative in a tornado and you put the blame on God. God is infinitely great and you are by comparison insignificant; this is what we learn from the story of Job. In the course of our lives, most of us experience tragedies that are unprovoked and unresolved, such as property loss, the death of loved ones, or serious illness.
Just as these four stubborn problems with the meaning of life were voiced early on in human civilization, so too did the ancient world propose solutions. The first set of solutions we will look at are from ancient Greece.
For a brief period of time, Greek philosophers were in the self-help business and they offered step-by-step methods for achieving happiness. Four approaches were so popular that even today their names are household words: Epicureanism, Stoicism, Skepticism, and Cynicism. Jack, an English professor from a prestigious university, thinks he has cracked the code to happiness.
He published a lot earlier in his career, but now he rides on his reputation and gets by doing minimal preparation for the few classes that he is required to teach. In his spare time he indulges his many cravings. An enthusiast of specialty foods, he is intimately familiar with the menus of every fine restaurant in his area and he regularly attends wine and cheese tasting events.
During the day he reads novels, plays tennis, visits art museums, and takes sculpting classes. In the evening he watches foreign films, after which he goes to local jazz clubs. On school breaks he flies to Europe, sampling the cultural offerings there. His passions, though, are not limited to food, art and travel. Jack possesses an animal magnetism that makes him romantically successful. Each semester he invites a new female graduate assistant to be his lover for the duration of the term.
While the women know that the affair is only temporary, they happily agree, and even recommend possible partners for his next semester. On his birthday, his former lovers who are still in the area throw him a party. In a word, Jack is what we would call an Epicurean.
The Greek philosopher Epicurus BCE believed that the job of philosophy is to help people attain happiness; a philosophy that does not heal the soul, he argues, is no better than medicine that cannot cure the body. His formula for attaining human happiness is simple: increase pleasure and decrease pain. Personal pleasure is the only thing that we should pursue, and the value of everything we do in life is judged by that standard.
The pleasures that Epicurus recommends are precisely the ones that Jack enjoys, but he warns that we should not pursue all pleasures with equal zeal. Second, some desires are not entirely necessary, such as the desire for luxury food, and we should pursue these with moderation. Third, Epicurus warns us to avoid placing short term desires above long-term ones. For example, if Jack skipped teaching his classes for the short term goal of visiting a museum, then he would likely lose his job and his happy lifestyle would come crashing down.
Is Epicureanism a reasonable path to human happiness? While we all naturally want pleasure, there is something suspicious about a lifestyle that is devoted entirely to its pursuit. Let us grant that Jack is truly happy with his Epicurean existence. There is no telling, though, how long those activities will sustain his interest. Part of the joy he experiences comes from the newness of his activities: a new restaurant, a new art exhibit, a new story plot, a new lover.
He will be like Sisyphus pushing a gem-encrusted boulder up a hill, a task no less futile than pushing an ordinary rock. Further, the happiness that Jack does experience rests on a stroke of good fortune that may easily change.
If his university cracks down on his laziness, he will have less leisure time for his hobbies. If his ex-wife sues him for alimony, he will not be able to cover the costs of his activities. As he grows older, young women will be repulsed by his romantic advances.get link
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Thus, indulging in pleasure is not a stable road to happiness if it rests on so many factors beyond our control. Epicurus himself was restrained with the pleasures that he pursued. He lived on a small food diet, avoided luxuries, and strived for self-sufficiency. Thus, pursuing pleasure alone is no guarantee of a meaningful life, which Epicurus himself recognized.
Imagine that you are a captured soldier detained in a prisoner of war camp. Your captors, who are not particularly fond of the Geneva Convention, have provided you with grim and sometimes inhumane accommodations. Your cell block is unheated, your bedding is covered with fleas, your meals are unpredictable and, when they are served, the food is often rotten. About once a week you are interrogated by your captors, who psychologically intimidate you and sometimes beat you. You do not know how long your detention will last, or even if you will survive.
In these conditions, could you possibly be happy? First, you would have to condition yourself to ignore the physical harshness of your environment.