If you've ever come across the term "Stoicism" before, you've probably heard it to describe someone who is emotionless and tough. You might think of Spock from Star Trek, an alien who has no regard for emotion and simply focuses on getting the task at hand completed. However, that doesn't have to be the case for a Stoic or a person who embraces Stoicism. Now, I'm not a fan of solely identifying with and embracing just one way of thinking, but Stoicism can definitely strengthen your mind, help you make better decisions, and improve your life overall.
Before we get into it we must answer a very important question...
What is Stoicism?
Stoicism is a philosophy founded in Ancient Greece by Zeno of Citium as he pondered on his thoughts about life on the Stoa Poikile, or painted porch, an open market in Athens. The Stoics taught their students to act in a manner that benefitted the greater good. It is a philosophy that concentrates on virtue. Stoicism was embraced by people from all walks of life. From slave peasants like Epictetus to Roman emperor's like Marcus Aurelius. Even big names in modern society such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Washington, and Immanuel Kant often studied the Stoics.
Why should you care about what the Stoics taught??
"Storms make trees grow deeper roots."- UnknownPhoto by Hello I'm Nik 🎞 on
We live in a world of comfort. We are fat with endless information lying in the palm of our hands. It is hard to focus on any one task at a time and we've lost connection with ourselves. A few clicks and you can have your groceries delivered to your door. If we're not constantly entertained we lose our minds. We can't even have a conversation for five minutes without glancing at our phones in the middle of it. When calamities happen we tend to freak out and we have a hard time coping with undesirable circumstances. Some of us have lost sight of what is really important to us and we envy the life of others. We make irrational decisions based solely on emotion which end up hurting us in the end. These Stoic teaching can help us maintain focus, remind us of what is really important, inspire some courage, and increase our overall level of happiness. Here are five lessons you can apply today to improve your quality of life.
1) We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen more than we speak. - Zeno of Citium
"I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening."- Larry King, TV hostPhoto by Maria Krisanova on
2) Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside of our control, the less control we have. - Epictetus
"No man is fit to command another that cannot command himself." - William PennPhoto by Jon Flobrant on
3) Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: "Is this the condition that I feared?" - Seneca
"The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep." - Ecclesiastes 5:12, The BiblePhoto by Zeyn Afuang on
Many of us in the western world live quite comfortably. I dare say... a bit too comfortably. We live in air conditioned homes with high speed internet and we have easy access to many resources that people in other parts of the world don't have access to. Some of us have become slaves to our comforts and we're terrified that someone will take them away so we don't dare compromise them. Our comforts have made us WEAK and AFRAID! The Stoics urge us to practice what we fear. Modern psychology calls it fear exposure therapy. This is when a therapist exposes their patient to their fears in a gradual manner until the fear is overcome. During harsh times many of us fear lack and discomfort. I know I do. We forget that luxuries are not necessities and that we can live well without them. The worst case scenario isn't all that bad. Practice exposing yourself to your fears. Live with just the bare essentials for a few days. Risk being seen as modest and minimal so that you can realize that... it won't kill you. You can live through it. Put your fear to rest.
4) Amor Fati (Love of fate)
" To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony. " - Marcus AureliusPhoto by Jeff Kingma on
"Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy." - Epictetus
As mentioned before, you cannot control what you cannot control. You can only control the way you react to external circumstances. The stoics take it a step further... love whatever happens. That's right! Embrace everything that happens in your life rather than avoid it. Yes, even the bad things. See them as necessary stepping stones for personal growth. Be grateful that it occurred the way it did even if it didn't go the way you wanted it to. The idea of Amor Fati was also made famous by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said, "That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it... but love it" What a way to live be at peace!
This doesn't mean that one does not strive for improvement. What it does mean is that we remain detached from desirable outcomes. The best thing you can do is your best. Sometimes the outcome isn't what we wanted but we can rest assured that we gave it our best and be at peace with that.
5) Memento Mori (Be aware of your mortality)
"Let each thing you would do, say, or intend be like that of a dying person." - Marcus AureliusPhoto by Leonardo Yip on
Death is a very scary concept to cope with for many. Nevertheless, it is the most certain of certainties. One day you will no longer be here. Neither will I, nor will my friends and family. What better way to ruin your day than by thinking of unavoidable death? Not to the Stoics, however. The Stoics constantly thought about their own mortality in order to be more mindful of how they spent their time. We all have a limited supply, yet many of us waste so much of it. Seneca said, "It is not so much that we are short of time, but that we waste much of it." We spend a lot of time worrying of what could be. Procrastination is prevalent in all of us at times. We don't get those moments back...
In business school, they teach that money is not your most valuable asset, time is! You can never get time back! Spend it wisely! Spend time doing what you love around whom you love. Be around positive people that help you grow. Waste no more time on mindless inactivity and take charge of what is yours: your time. Realize at each moment that you can leave this planet at any second... do you really want to spend time the way you have been? If today were your last day, would you want to do what you are about to do today?
I really hope you enjoyed this article. Please share it with your friends and family. Don't be afraid to contact me with some feedback! Peace...