Every day of your life you face challenges of different complexity and importance.
Some challenges are so small and easy to master that you hardly consider them a challenge. But every now and then you have to face a challenge in your life that can be so significant that it feels like you will never overcome it – and if you do, it could feel like your life was going to be because of it never be the same it.
For example, the most difficult challenge you might face one day is accidentally knocking over a drink, and the next day you may face your own mortality in your doctor's office as he or she explains your new diagnosis. The size and scope of the challenges you face may change from day to day, but the mindset that you use when facing these challenges should remain the same.
This way of thinking I am referring to is Amor Fati, translated from Latin and means "love for destiny" or "love for one's own destiny".
Cupid Fati in history
Amor Fati is a concept that has been attributed to many philosophers over the years, and the stoics of ancient Greece and Rome were some of the earliest supporters of the principle. The Roman emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius never explicitly used the term amor fati in his writings because he wrote in Greek rather than Latin. In his meditations, however, he wrote:
Accept the things that fate binds you to and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so wholeheartedly.
Epictetus, another Stoic philosopher, said something similar in his enchiridion:
Don't try to make events happen the way you want them to, just try to make them happen the way they are and everything will be fine with you.
The purpose of Amor Fati, as the Stoics wrote, is not only to accept whatever happens to you, but to accept it with enthusiasm, rather than wishing that something else has happened. Many centuries later, at the end of the 19th century, the German philosopher Friederich Nietzsche adopted Amor Fati as the pillar of his own philosophy:
My formula for the size of a person is amor fati: you want nothing to be different, not forwards, not backwards, not forever. Not only endure what is necessary, hide less … but love it.
A few decades after Nietzsche, the Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning about his experiences during an internship in Nazi concentration camps. After his wife, parents, and brother were murdered by the Nazis, after witnessing the deaths of countless people in the camps, and after experiencing immense pain and suffering, Frankl realized:
If a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he must accept his suffering as his job; his only and unique job. He will have to acknowledge the fact that he is unique in suffering and alone in the universe. Nobody can free him from his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way he carries his load.
Loving one's own destiny means loving both the good and the bad that life brings with it, and refusing to think about what could have been. When faced with the absolute worst that humanity had to offer, Frankl discovered this ancient wisdom that opened his eyes to the beauty of human condition and enabled him to persevere through the torture he was subjected to by the Nazis .
Amor Fati is just as relevant to modern life as it was millennia ago.
Love a person's fate in the face of physical extremes
In 2014, as part of my Twelve Labs project, I tried to break the world record for most pull-ups within 24 hours. As the clock counted down and the number of pull-ups increased, my body began to collapse due to the physical strain of the challenge. My hands started to snap because I had been holding the pole for so long. Volunteers rinsed out and wrapped my wounds in chalk for hours before each set. As the day approached dawn, my kidneys failed and my urine looked like barrel-aged whiskey. As the light went dark, my mind went dark, too, and freed familiar demons from their prisons: doubt, fear, regret, insecurity.
With 2,200 pull-ups, tendons broke and muscles tore through my biceps and forearms. I continued with another 1,000 repetitions because people promised wounded vets when I hit certain benchmarks for the record. I also continued because my pride, ego and fear didn't let me give up. Learning the difference between unbridled pride and a determined goal in the middle of a crucible was a hard truth and an invaluable lesson that was learned and never forgotten. After 17 hours and 3,202 pull-ups, I could no longer grip the bar … I had failed and was subsequently hospitalized for days.
During my recovery, Amor Fati helped me to concentrate again and finally to return to training after I was released. Sure, I could have been a victim of despair – mostly because I was no stranger to the dark, cold corners of the mind – but instead I learned through my failure instead of thinking about a result that could not be changed. Only one thing left to do – prepare for my second try.
On my second attempt to break the world record for most pull-ups within 24 hours, I mastered the 5,804 pull-up challenge with a 30-pound backpack.
Amor Fati should be the answer to every situation that will and must arise. If you choose to look at a situation positively and choose to get better, you can save yourself from potentially worse situations. Being lost in negativity and blind to the possibility of change can lead to “repeated crimes” to do the same thing over and over again in a vicious circle of ignorance and the suffering that goes with it.
Then, in 2018, I started training Colin O’Brady to prepare for his completely unsupported solo hike through Antarctica. I developed a training regiment for Colin that Amor Fati included in his routine because I knew he had to focus on the present moment without paying attention to mistakes or mistakes so that he could survive the harsh and unforgiving conditions of Antarctica that could occur during his hike. His training had to be both physically and mentally effective and he had to be able to fall into a fluid state at will.
I designed his routine according to this concept and offered him the opportunity to accept his fate at the moment by using Amor Fati as a shortcut to mindfulness. Colin had previously completed mindfulness training, so I knew he could do it, but the biggest obstacle to achieving mindfulness would be the harsh conditions in Antarctica. So I used various training stimuli to put stress on his body, and then let him control his breathing while doing complex tasks that would challenge his critical thinking and fine motor skills.
One of those tasks was to let Colin hold a plank position for a full minute while he kept his hands immersed in ice and let him tie a series of knots after the minute. Another task was a high-intensity weightlifting course, in which he held a wall seat with a weight plate on his lap and feet in ice buckets. Colin had to hold the position until he finished a Lego set on the weight plate in a certain time. In Antarctica there would be no time to think about past mistakes or anticipate the future – the present moment would be the only thing that matters.
In the end, I think this training paid off for Colin. Right at the start of his hike, before he could even take his first step, he bent to attach a strap to the sled that he wanted to pull across the frozen continent – and the strap broke. How did he react to what some might find a bad omen? With laughter.
That answer was Amor Fati in action; So he trained to react to such events. Colin accepted his fate with humor and an open heart and continued his journey by crossing Antarctica alone and in 54 days without help.
The practical applications of Amor Fati
Most people will not face the extreme physical challenges that Viktor Frank, Colin O & # 39; Brady or I have faced, and you may be wondering how Amor Fati could help you in your day-to-day life .
Amor Fati is useful in every situation, not just physical extremes.
Relationships are the foundation of society and everyone has them. They are one of the reasons why mankind has come as far as we do – in the face of need, social bonds are strengthening and people are coming together to put the needs of their community above the wishes of each member. These interpersonal relationships that we experience are a matter of course for many, because they are only perceived as another part of the average human experience. It is nothing new and nothing out of the ordinary.
However, when these relationships end – especially when they end abruptly and without warning – we often feel the worst emotional stress we will ever experience in our lives. That deep feeling of fear that comes with the loss of a loved one and that comes after the end of what appears to be an average part of human experience – that is also average. It is something that every single person will experience, and yet it is so deeply felt that it can bring us to our knees and bring everything in our lives to a standstill.
During such an event, Amor Fati offers an option for a different response if the usual response is to grieve excessively and think about the negative feelings of loss and fear.
Instead of thinking about the pain caused by the sudden loss of a loved one, Amor Fati teaches us to accept it with enthusiasm. In the case of death, the prevailing notion is that it is the ultimate evil: the worst thing that could ever happen to a person and that it should be avoided at all costs – everything that is related to death is bad. Cupid Fati would disagree.
Death is a natural part of life – you cannot have one without the other. Loving your own destiny means loving everything that happens to you and getting the best out of every situation. If a loved one is gone instead of thinking about the grief you will experience (which is a natural reaction and should not be suppressed), you should instead celebrate the life that has been intertwined with your own for a while. There is no way to go back in time to correct the mistakes you made with that person, but you can accept that those mistakes were part of the experience you shared with them, and it is one of the many Things that made your relationship so rich. meaningful and unique.
Amor Fati teaches us to look back to look ahead. These mistakes you made in the previous relationship can teach you lessons that you can apply to other relationships in your life to improve them or avoid the pitfalls that you once got into. In this way, you can live in a state of constant improvement by not letting yourself hold on to the negative feelings that come with regret and using those feelings more positively instead.
Amor Fati can also be applied to health and fitness goals.
When trying to meet the challenges associated with health and fitness goals, it is important not to address mistakes or shortcomings, but to use them as opportunities for learning and growth. For example, if your goal is to develop healthier eating habits and one day you indulge excessively and eat a large portion of unhealthy foods, you don't have to beat yourself up. Instead, look back at this moment and examine it as you consider why you have spoiled yourself too much. Once you understand the reason, you can look forward to the next time this moment occurs and use the lesson you've learned to avoid it and achieve your health goal.
The principle of loving one's destiny can be applied to every moment of life. No matter what obstacle you are facing, Amor Fati gives you the opportunity to look at it with pleasure. As Robert Greene, author of 48 laws on power and mastery, says:
Accept the fact that all events occur for a reason and that it is in your ability to view that reason as positive.
For many, an obstacle or challenge is often viewed negatively as something to be avoided rather than something to be celebrated. This perception is based on fear of failure, but with the right attitude, this perspective can be changed to something much more positive. Instead of looking at an obstacle as something that could trip and overturn you can consider it as something that needs to be overcome and that will lift you up. It is not a failure that you should focus on, but an opportunity to succeed.
If there is an obstacle ahead of you, thank yourself: "Oh no, what can I do?" You may ask yourself, "What will I do? How will I use this opportunity to grow? "
Include what fate has in store for you
We face many unexpected challenges in life and are often forced to endure adversity.
It is important to remember that certain things are beyond our control, but all things have a cause. There is a reason why things happen, and it is up to you to decide whether you think it is positive or not. Amor Fati teaches us to put our energy and effort into what will be most effective in our lives so that we don't waste our time worrying about things that we cannot change. Adversity is not just about accepting it passively or just thinking about it positively.
Rather, the goal is to greet it cheerfully – to say: "That should be so, and I am happy to be better for it!"
Amor Fati should be the answer to every situation that will and must arise. If you choose to see a situation positively and choose to get better, you can save yourself from other, possibly worse, situations. Being lost in negativity and blind to the possibility of change can lead to “repeat offenses”, to do the same thing over and over again in a vicious circle of ignorance and the associated suffering.
Embrace what fate has in store for you and don't waste time wishing it would change – it won't be, no matter how much you wish. Instead, wish it to be the way it is and strive to get the best out of every situation with a happy heart and open mind.
Then, as Epictetus said, you will be fine.