We think that imaginary friends are just for children, but we’re wrong. Imaginary friends can actually be pretty useful for adults too. In fact, the ancient Stoic philosophers and Epicurean philosophers encouraged us to keep our own imaginary friends with us at all times.
Pretend You are Being Watched
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said that “we must set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing“.
The Stoic philosopher Seneca goes on to say that this practice of our own imaginary guardian or moral tutor will help us to greatly reduce our bad behaviour, if we feel like someone if watching us.
If you are a religious person you may like to constantly remind yourself that god is all knowing and always watching you. If you are not religious you could choose someone you admire, a parent or a teacher.
How would you be different if you felt someone was always watching you? Would you waste less time, do more good deeds, live a better life? Would you display more honest behaviour, work harder, be kinder to yourself?
Who’s Your Moral Guardian?
Choose someone and keep them on your mind. Constantly ask yourself, “what would this person do, what would they say if they saw me now?”
You could even have your own team for different areas of your life:
- If you’re in the gym, you may ask yourself; “what would Arnold Schwarzenegger do or say if he was here right now?” – it may force you to squeeze out an extra rep.
- Amongst friends and family, how would you treat people differently if you asked yourself “what would Mother Teresa tell me to do if she was here?” – would you show more compassion and love towards others?
- If you’re in the office working and you pretended that Elon Musk was sitting next to you – would you work that little bit harder and decide to stay late?
Just the thought of these people in a situation can often be enough to interrupt your behaviour and thought pattern. It can help remind you to act in a better way.
Keep that person in your mind and revere them so much that they help shape your behaviour and personality.
Choose someone who’s way of life and words have won your approval. Be always pointing them out to you either as your guardian or model. We all need someone as a standard that we can measure our characters against.
Choose someone who you admire. Someone who if they were there in front of you, would have a positive impact on your life.
Every time you do something ask yourself “what would [insert persons name] do right now?”. See if it changes your behaviour. See if it makes you act in a better way.
If you’re forgetful, a handy trick is to write the sentence out on a piece of card and carry it with you everywhere you go. Get it out frequently to keep these imaginary friends on your mind.
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