What is Stoicism?
Stoicism is the philosophy of how to live a good life. Where did it come from? Stoic philosophers came from Greece. How old is it? Stoicism is as old as humans, but the philosophers responsible emerged around 4 BCE (Before the common Era). There are a handful of prominent philosophers: Epictetus, Seneca the younger, Musonius Rufus, and Marcus Aurelius. While I’m no authority on Stoicism, I believe that incorporating any practice or philosophy that leads you to be a better person and live a better life is worth looking into and Stoic-ish.
“If a man knows not which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”~ Seneca
The Heart of Stoicism
The happiness triangle is at the heart of Stoicism. Draw a triangle. Inside the triangle write the goal to stoicism—“living a supremely happy and smoothly flowing life,” (p38 little book of stoicism). Who doesn’t want that? Now at each one of the three corners write the goal to tailor your actions around.
- Take responsibility.
- Focus on what you can control.
- Be your best version of you in all moments.
“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do… [Then you won’t need to] explain your philosophy. [You will] embody it.”~ Epictetus
Like learning another language or skill, stepping out into the real world and applying what you think you know is not as easy as it seems. The second university of life is practice. Practice, Practice, Practice! “Practice does not make perfect; it makes proficient at best.” With any thing new, a goal, a subject, a skill you’ll need what I call the plethora of “P’s.”
- Take time to prepare how you will encounter routine situations with this new vision.
- Be present that you may be mindful of your choices in words and actions.
- Try your best to pause and think before you act. (So many regrets can be avoided with this one, but man it’s hard).
- Have patience with yourself. (No full-blooded human has ever been perfect, nor ever shall be).
- Ponder what went wrong and how you can do it better for the next time (because things always go wrong).
- Be positive with yourself; mistakes don’t define you.
- Be pleased with your efforts; every step is positive change.
Remember like being a good anything, the key is keeping it in mind at all times. Like wearing glasses, everything you see through them will be reflected by its lenses. So find a way to remember. Set an alarm, or write it on your hand, whatever works for you.
Why Try It?
Why not? Stoicism is free, and (my favorite aspect) it teaches that you are enough! According to dailystoic.com, “For those of us who live our lives in the real world, there is one branch of philosophy created just for us stoicism. It’s a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, more virtuous and more wise–and as a result, better people, better parents and better professionals.” Who doesn’t want to be happier? It’s a worth a try.
“For every challenge, remember the resources you have within you to cope with it. Provoked by the sight of a handsome man or a beautiful woman, you will discover within you the contrary power of self-restraint. Faced with pain, you will discover the power of endurance. If you are insulted, you will discover patience. In time, you will grow to be confident that there is not a single impression that you will not have the moral means to tolerate.”~Epictetus