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Cognitive Dissonance: When schools of thought conflict


Cognitive Dissonance: Navigating Conflicting Philosophies in Life

Have you ever found yourself torn between two conflicting beliefs or philosophies, unsure of which one to follow? If so, you're not alone. This mental struggle is known as cognitive dissonance and can be a source of discomfort and anxiety. In this article, we will explore the conflict between Marcus Aurelius' stoic philosophy of "Do not disturb yourself by imagining your whole life at once" and Stephen Covey's principle of "begin with the end in mind" and how to navigate this dissonance.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance refers to the mental discomfort that arises when a person holds two or more conflicting beliefs, attitudes, or values. It can be triggered by various situations, such as a change in beliefs, values, or attitudes, a change in behavior, or when a person is faced with new information that contradicts their existing beliefs.

The Conflict between Marcus Aurelius' Stoicism and Stephen Covey's Principle

Marcus Aurelius, a renowned stoic philosopher, believed that one should not disturb oneself by imagining their whole life at once and instead focus on the present moment. This philosophy encourages individuals to live in the moment, without worrying about things that haven't happened yet. On the other hand, Stephen Covey's principle of "begin with the end in mind" encourages individuals to think carefully about the expected outcome of their actions and to plan for the future.

Navigating Cognitive Dissonance

The conflict between these two philosophies can cause cognitive dissonance for individuals who are torn between living in the present and planning for the future. However, it is possible to navigate this dissonance by finding a balance between the two. Here are some tips for managing cognitive dissonance in this context:

Acknowledge the Conflict: The first step in managing cognitive dissonance is to acknowledge the conflicting thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge that you are experiencing discomfort and try to understand the source of the conflict.

Reframe Your Thoughts: Reframing your thoughts can help you see the situation in a different light and resolve the conflict. Try to find a way to reconcile your beliefs with your actions. For example, you can find a way to balance living in the moment and planning for the future.

Seek New Information: Gather more information and evidence to support your beliefs and attitudes. This can help you to understand the situation better and make an informed decision.

Consider Different Perspectives: Try to understand the perspective of others and consider alternative viewpoints. This can help you to broaden your perspective and resolve the conflict.

Modify Your Beliefs or Behaviors: Sometimes, it may be necessary to modify your beliefs or behaviors to resolve the conflict. This may involve making a change in your attitudes or adopting new beliefs that are more in line with your actions.


Cognitive dissonance can be a source of stress and anxiety, but it can also be an opportunity for growth and personal development. By acknowledging the conflict, seeking new information, and modifying your beliefs or behaviors, you can navigate the dissonance between Marcus Aurelius' stoicism and Stephen Covey's principle and find a resolution to the mental struggle within. Remember, it's okay to change your beliefs and values as you grow and gain new experiences and insights.