There are many benefits of being stoic, but before outlining those benefits, let’s have some backgrounder.
What exactly is stoicism? What are its principles?
This post will then explore the practical aspects of the practice of stoicism to help you get started.
What Is Stoicism?
The meaning of stoicism can be explained in many ways, but most especially via practical examples.
Some define stoicism as “a way of discipline” as opposed to just allowing things to take place without you influencing them, while trusting it will be well in the end.
For a stoic, he must have a hand on how things should happen in his life. He has to exercise control. An untended apple tree will go wild, and it will bear sour fruits. The tree must be controlled and nurtured to achieve the desired result.
In the same way, you need to have control over your body for achieving a purpose that you find important. For example, the idea of exercise. You want that body to be physically able to accomplish things, and train it hard so that it turns into a shape that is visually appealing.
Another definition center in the notion of “discipline of mind”. When emotion surfaces in the conscious mind, the person should not “give in to” or follow the emotional prodding right away. He must first assess it if it runs in line with the values of stoicism.
Thus, a stoic does not “go with the flow” without prior valuation of the situation. You don’t cheat on your wife, no matter the strength of emotions that are driving you to become unfaithful. Emotions are also important, but they are placed only as subordinates to the more important factors in life – values.
Basic Principles of Stoicism
Here are the principles that should govern your thinking and actions:
Nature is rational – be always logical and act rationally.
The law of reason controls the universe.
Life must be virtuous.
Wisdom is the foremost virtue. Justice, self-control, bravery, and insight follow.
Apatheia – passion is irrational.
Pleasure – pleasure isn’t good or bad, but is unacceptable if it runs counter to virtue.
Death, illness, and poverty are not evil.
One’s duty is to pursue virtue.
Stoicism Changes Mindset
Stoicism can be seen primarily as a practical philosophy, one that is suited for individuals who want to increase performance in the face of stressful work and life. This ancient philosophy is resurging in the workplace in all corners of the planet in its revitalized and modernized version.
However, there are misinterpretations about this philosophy, and the worst that has been imputed to it is the idea that the a stoic person is someone who lacks emotions, is cold, and has the ability to overcome any and all pressure.
While stoicism is certainly a good tool for you to withstand hardship, it shouldn’t cause you to be cold as a machine without experiencing any joy. Ryan Holiday has written a great post pointing out this misunderstanding between being a stoic and being cold. You can check it here: Stoicism and Compassion: A False Dichotomy.
In fact, it is recommended that you fully embrace happiness and enjoy the gifts of life. You can gaze and marvel at the skyscrapers adorning the city skyline, as well as stare with wonder at the vast fields of flower outside the window.
Stoicism is going to change the way you think about things, and here are some aspects in your life where it can be applied.
Learn how to cultivate gratitude by creating adversities
People have a tendency to think that whatever good things are happening, they will continue on and on. Unfortunately, these good things DON’T last, and somewhere in the future, life will turn sour and you will encounter difficulties in one form or another.
So, you “manufacture adversities” as a way to prepare you for future hardships. Now, you train your palate by eating only rice and beans. Stay in some cheap, dirty hotel room. Use only public transport on your way to work.
This practice will not only familiarize your mind, body and spirit with the not-so-convenient living conditions that others are going through right now, but will also cultivate gratitude within you for the things that you are able to enjoy.
Learn how to see the “punches” that life throws at you by visualizing the worst-case scenario
This is also a future-preparation strategy where the goal is to be mentally ready for the worst situation that can happen. If that situation plays out in the future, you can jump into action, instead of being unable to know what to do and be engulfed in doubt and fear.
Here you outline your contingency plans ahead. There will be no surprises as you have already “encountered” the situation several times in your mind.
There is a saying in boxing “It`s the punch you don`t see coming that knocks you out.” Stoicism teaches us that it is possible to see any punch coming, way before it hits your nose.
It`s worth mentioned here that worst-case scenario visualization has nothing to do with being pessimist as a person. This is just a preparation in case it happens. You can (and should) exercise optimism even if you prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Learn how to control your goals
There are three levels of control, and in setting goals, one level is very important – that one where “you have full control”. The other two levels are: no control and partial control.
In the situation where you need to set a goal, set the goal in such a way that you have complete control over it. If you are an entrepreneur, you can say “I will create a new product that we can launch next year.” Or, “we will build another store in the Asian region within five years.” Something that is realizable and within the limits of your resources will help you feel confident about the expected results.
Further, having a large degree of control means the ability to meet goals without trouble and being able to focus on processing rather than feeling doubtful about the outcome.
A Few More Benefits
People around you will notice that there is just something different about you when you begin to follow these principles. Personality changes will be pronounced, including:
Courage – You don’t compromise your principles and you will never be intimidated. You will do what you believe is right even in the face of danger.
Self-mastery – You are a person who has mastered desires and fears, and your only master is – REASON. You’ll only back out and consider a different approach if there is a counter-argument that proves to be more reasonable.
Calmness – A stoic person, when good things happen, does not jump or yell or brag about it. In the face of adversity, on the other hand, they remain calm and peaceful and do not blame anyone or themselves for the misfortune.
Here’s a quote to wrap up:
The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it – Marcus Aurelius
Are you new here? Don`t forget to sign up for our newsletter where you will receive every morning a short email power-packed with the wisdom of history`s greatest men and women. Would you like to know more about Stoicism? Check out “The Little Stoic” book. Your short guide to thrive in an emotionally rampant society. This little book has all you need to know to get your Stoic journey started so that you can experience the life-changing magic of Stoicism.
Hi there. I am Marcos Lima.
I am on a mission to make the most of myself and, at the same time, help others to do so as well. My life has changed considerably since the day that I decided not only to learn but also to apply what I was learning.
As a writer, making things simple and practical is a priority to me. Please, feel free to comment on each and every post if you wish so, and share it with anyone you think it may help.