The Stoic Self Evident of Get Busy Living or Dying

The Stoic Self Evident of Get Busy Living or Dying February 11, 2021

It’s a memorable quote from Shawshank Redemption, one of my favorite movies. The lead character Andy Dufrense (an innocent man who is incarcerated for murdering his wife) is having a dialogue with his friend Red on his plans of spending the rest of his life in coastal Mexico upon his release. Red, unlike his friend Andy, worries about parole; ultimately released when he has very little life left to live. In contrasting perspectives, Red chastises Andy on the dangers of his dream of having a hotel and boat in Mexico and that he should just accept his fate. Andy’s response is one of my favorite movie lines:

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice really… Get busy living… Or get busy dying…”

It’s deep; physically, mentally, spiritually. Our physical fitness, our thought life, our spiritual lives; there are certainly plateaus, but for the most part we’re either flourishing or harming, building or destroying, grateful or bitter, loving or harsh. It’s self-evident actually; the difficulty is honestly self-assessing which track our thoughts/actions are on – and potentially having to change course. The key Stoic principle of the dichotomy of control helps remind us that we’ll face immense difficulties, anxieties, temptations, stagnations, boredom, challenges, failures, and even tragedies, but our response is fully within our control. Our decisions are ultimately are own. We’ll either get busy living or get busy dying.


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