Epictetus told us that we don’t always get to pick the position we have in life. Our job is to make sure we play that role well.
Specifically, he said: “Remember that thou art an actor in a play of such a kind as the teacher (author) may choose; if short, of a short one; if long, of a long one: if he wishes you to act the part of a poor man, see that you act the part naturally; if the part of a lame man, of a magistrate, of a private person, (do the same). For this is your duty, to act well the part that is given to you; but to select the part, belongs to another.”
James Stockdale personified this wisdom when he found himself in a prisoner of war camp as the clandestine, commanding officer of what became hundreds of soldiers. He didn’t choose that role. But he did choose to play that given part as well as he possibly could.
Viktor Frankl echoed this wisdom. In the midst of his own experience in the horrors of a concentration camp, he chose to play his role well and told us: “The meaning of our existence is not invented by ourselves, but rather detected.”
Thankfully, most of us will never experience those types of extremes.
Yet, we may perceive ourselves to be “stuck” in a life that’s not entirely our choosing or with responsibilities we may sometimes wish we didn’t have.
That’s a very good time to bring this wisdom to mind.
And choose to act well the given part.
What part have you been asked to play by the ultimate director of life?
Are you playing it well?
What’s one little way you can boost your performance today?
P.S. Martin Luther King, Jr. has some wisdom on the subject as well. He says: “Be an artist at whatever you do. Even if you are a street sweeper, be the Picasso of street sweepers!”