“What we achieve inwardly will change outward reality.” – Plutarch
As much Plutarch as I have read, I am shocked that I never came across this quote until just recently. Plutarch is most famous for his histories of the Roman Empire, most notably his biographical work: The 12 Caesars.
This particular bit of wisdom from a man more known for history than for philosophy resonated with me because it reinforces the message that our priority in life ought to be caring for, nurturing, and developing ourselves. Psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson is known for including the idea that we must care for ourselves the way we would care for a loved one. Renowned Author, Paulo Coelho included in the Alchemist, arguably his best known work, that to pursue one’s own personal legend, that is your own goals, is not selfish because by pursuing your own destiny and listening to your own heart you fulfill your own purpose and thereby, as the individual is a part of the whole of the world, nurture the soul of the world.
I believe that Plutarch was saying the same thing, and by virtue of living several thousand years earlier it is likely he that influenced Peterson, Coelho and others, rather than the other way around.
Plutarch is recognizing that when you achieve inner peace and happiness within yourself, you are thereby able to put forth those same virtues into the world around you. If you do not first find peace and happiness within yourself, you will be unable to put them into your surroundings and will very likely find that you are draining those same emotions from those around you. That is why self-care, self-improvement, pursuing your own passions, and the like is not selfish but rather completely natural and more importantly essential for the betterment of society.