Stoicism is so appealing — it is not a collection of empty words and inspiring talks about the way of the universe. Rather, it encourages you to not rely on external events, but focus on the control you have over yourself and your mind to achieve virtue and happiness.
Stoics, most of them were not philosophers in the first place, but rather men of action. Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of the biggest empire ever known to mankind. Cato an influential politician defending the Roman republic until his death. Epictetus was a former slave.
Stoicism is considered as broad and applied philosophy that is inspiring and teaching peoples way to live a fulfilled life.
These are few lessons from that philosophy that will guide you to dig deep into yourself and come out someone different.
You are dead, now begin from there.
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.56
Bhutan is considered as happiest country and peoples there believe in an old saying: “To be a truly happy person, one must contemplate death five times daily.”
There is a latin phrase, memento mori which means “remember you will die”. Every stoic or stoicism researcher might be aware about it. Reminding ourselves about our limited time as alive, make us on urgency to live life.
How does that make us live? And how can it make us happy?
Because it makes us realise our time is limited. Death will come. What else is there to do in the meantime than to be grateful and make the most of the fact that it hasn’t come yet?
Acceptation is the beginning, not end.
“Do not seek to have events happen as you want them but instead want them to happen and your life will go well.”
— Epictetus, Enchiridion 8
Stoics believe that in order to reduce the burden of unwanted events they have to accept their occurrence. They come to terms with what has happened and do their best to understand that it was bound to happen.
There is a misunderstanding people tend to take accepting attitude as giving up. If we accept everything then why do anything?
In fact, accepting is not the same thing as passivity.
Acceptation of what happens(ed) saves us time. We don’t feel the need to curse fate or complain about our luck when we practice it. We don’t spend time wishing we could change the past.
Instead, we focus on what we can do. We assess what has happened, we decide on the best response and we actively work to affect the things within our control.
Decide your port then march
“If a person doesn’t know to which port they sail, no wind is favorable.”
If you have listened it for the first time, yes it feels sad (if you don’t know your port).
That is simplest explanation of why we need to have a direction for in life, for next 5 years, for month, and even for this day.
Dominican University psychologist Dr. Gail Matthews did a research in which she took 267 participants and found that those who wrote down their goals with specific weekly strategies had a 76 percent success rate compared with 43 percent who merely stated their goals.
Every action must connect with a destination. Otherwise, you can sail all day, and end up right where you started. And believe me that feels terrible and disappointing.
This is only under our control.
“Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything of our own doing. We don’t control our body, property, reputation, position, and, in a word, everything not of our own doing.”
Epictetus the great stoic philosopher was a slave for most of his life, he went through very hard time while learning it. Being a slave he accepted and responded every day with awareness of what he can and can’t control.
This distinguishes his philosophy and builds most important pillars of it — what is in your control and what isn’t.
The only thing we can have total control over is our mind. Our body can wither or be tortured, our reputation can be torn to shreds and our jobs can fall victim to an economic recession.
What we control, however, is our mind. And that encompasses our opinions, attitudes, and reactions to these external events. Whatever happens, you decide how you react to it.
Want freedom? Choose Discipline.
“He is free who lives as he likes; who is not subject to compulsion, to restraint, or to violence; whose pursuits are unhindered, his desires successful, his aversions unincurred.”
— Epictetus, Discourses 4.1
Self-discipline is one of the four key virtues of Stoicism. This mere fact shows that to a Stoic it is regarded as essential to living a good life.
To the ancients it meant guarding against excess, it meant knowing when to stop and when to keep going, it meant good discipline within the soul.
Let’s take previous example, Okay you found your port (goal) and you are sailing toward your port and you slept on your boat, took a long unneded break. That’s why discipline is needed, to sail in straight direction with minimum distractions.
Think about it:
Discipline in diet makes you healthier.
Discipline in exercise makes you stronger.
Discipline in relationships makes you happier.
Discipline in learning makes you smarter.
Discipline in work makes you reliable.
Discipline now leads to space later.
The space of having less to worry about because the bad choices are no longer considered. The space of being happier.
Don’t be anxious or worried it’s just waste of time.
“It’s ruinous for the soul to be anxious about the future and miserable in advance of misery, engulfed by anxiety that the things it desires might remain its own until the very end. For such a soul will never be at rest — by longing for things to come it will lose the ability to enjoy present things.”
Don’t worry, stay aware. Everything is happing just the way it need to be.