The Game of Life, by A Modern Stoic

I lie awake, thinking of the past and different choices I could have made in this game of life, or fantasizing about the future and the alternatives I can choose. Then I remember that the only moment that exists is the one my mind occupies in this instant.

“If thou shouldst live three thousand years, or as many myriads, yet remember this, that no man loses any other life than that he now lives; and that he now lives no other life than what he is parting with, every instant. The longest life, and the shortest, come to one effect: since the present time is equal to all, what is lost or parted with is equal to all. And for the same reason, what is parted with, is only a moment. No man at death parts with, or, is deprived of, what is either past or future. For how can one take from a man what he hath not? We should also remember these things, first, That all things which have happened in the continued revolutions from eternity, are of the same kind with what we behold: And ’tis of little consequence, whether a man beholds the same things for an hundred years, or an infinite duration. Again that the longest and the shortest lives have an equal loss at Death. The present moment is all which either is deprived of, since that is all he has. A man cannot part with what he has not. “ – Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear; Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come.” – Julius Caesar, Shakespeare

Every moment of my life is my opportunity to make my values and goals a reality through my decisions. In other words, play the cards I hold now, not the ones I held in the past or the ones I wish I could hold in the future.

Wealth or Fame Not Synonymous With Contentment or Happiness

My decisions and actions dictate my reality, based on where I am in the moment. Being envious of others ignores the reality that I have no knowledge of their inner pain and problems. To look at others and think I would be happy if I had their possessions or position is to forget that surface appearances are often deceiving. I need only recall the constant turmoil and early deaths of the “rich and famous” to realize that wealth or fame are not synonymous with contentment or happiness.

Rehashing Past Decisions Wastes Time

Likewise, rehashing past decisions wastes my most precious resource, time. I have no way of knowing the consequences of alternative choices, which could have lead to bad outcomes I couldn’t anticipate. I know where I am today, and I am thankful for playing as long, learning as much, and experiencing all that I have. Envy and regret are my emotional mind speaking.

The Control To Be Content

I have all the control I need, in every moment of my life, to be content. I simply pick up my cards and play the game the best I can. If I don’t like my position, I will make a plan and work to change it. Some hands I will win; others I will lose, but I will never be stalled by wanting to replay a past hand or wishing I had someone else’s cards. Every hand is an opportunity to learn, improve my game, and work toward my goals, and I can only gain these teachings by playing.

Loser is Person Afraid to Play

Waiting, through reminiscing or fantasying, also wastes my most precious resource of time. The only loser in the game of life is the person who is afraid to play.

The Game is the Same For Everyone

In the game of life, possessions, experiences, and relationships are just stops and other players along the way. They are not the prizes or the goals. The end of the game is the same for everyone. However, playing by the wrong set of rules, or playing by another’s rules, is the biggest waste possible. I will play the game of life according to my rules.


  1. Best article I have read on this sight. Straight, to the excellent point. No bragging, no “Hey look what I say I got”, no c**p whatsoever. Very very refreshing. Thank you…., no really, thank you.

  2. Well said! Great posting. My self-designed Footstone at our Family Plot waiting for me has a Colt 45 in one corner, open book another corner, flower another corner and a cat in last corner. In quotes it says “ALWAYS A MAVERICK”. At 75, that is how I have lived my life. Hard work growing up on the farm, kindness, some unique and unusual adventures for a lady, animal rescue, and very few regrets! Many wonderful memories. Out of the five children my parents raised, I was the one who was truly “free range”!

  3. I read through Marcus Aurelius from time to time, like Shakespeare. I especially like to read the passages where he says not to curse and rave at a thing, since they cannot respond, and will not change, and all you do is frustrate yourself doing so and waste your time. He also understood that anger is usually a waste of time, when you could instead be thinking of solutions. Taking advice from a Roman Emperor, is quite an experience. It made me the centurion I am today.

  4. Very good indeed. I can’t express how this applies to my day, my best friend just broke his hip in a bicycle accident yesterday he’s 45 years old. Please pray for him. Thanks.

  5. Such good advice, that so few will understand. Having spent most of my life in the trauma field, I have seen death than most. Death is much like a funeral, all the commotion is for the living.

  6. David in the Old Testament gave us the best advice on this matter. He appealed to God in Psalms 119:133 by asking, “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” In other words, God I submit you are in complete control of my life, direct each and every step of my life through Your Word, and, don’t let sin keep me from following the path You have ordained. Bottom line – Get out of the way, God’s in control!

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