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Stoicism: Can An Ancient Greek Philosophy Help Us Today?

“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will – then your life will be serene.” – Epictetus, Stoic philosopher.

Can an ancient Greek philosophy help us deal with life in the twenty-first century?

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy embraced by many of the world’s greatest thinkers. It asserts that we don’t control, and cannot rely on external events. We can only control ourselves and our responses. It teaches that the world is unpredictable, and the source of our unhappiness and dissatisfaction is the result of our reflexive senses, rather than logic.

Stoicism does not waste time with complicated theories about the world, but urges us to overcome destructive emotions, by acting upon what can be acted upon, and accepting, without complaint or emotion, what cannot. It’s about action, and not endless debate.

Maybe a little Greek philosophy will help you serenely move forward.

10 Stoic ideas to help face any challenge:

  • The obstacle is the path. Obstacles aren’t something to be avoided. They are meant to be conquered. Obstacles lie in the most direct path to success. Be happy when a hurdle is reached. A sport or game would be meaningless without obstacles, challenges, and difficulties. Life is a game to be embraced and accepted.

  • Worry only about the things you can control. The actions of others, the weather, and the fact your mother wasn’t nice to you when you were a child, are beyond your control. Save focus and other resources for the things you can influence.

  • Understand you are the sole source of your emotions. Events don’t create your emotions. The stories you tell yourself about those events create your emotions. All conflict begins internally.

  • Failure isn’t final. There is no reason to have negative emotions about failure, or positive emotions about success. Both are simply outcomes that can be handled logically and intelligently.

  • Get things done. Stoics believed in being productive over being comfortable. Logically decide what needs to be done, then get those things done. Keep emotions in check, and take care of business and life. Stoics were intensely aware of the importance of time, and not wasting it.

  • Be present. We live in a time of great distractions. We’re good at reliving the past, and projecting ourselves into the future. Stoics were adamant about dealing with reality, right here, and right now.

  • Maintain reasonable expectations. This doesn’t mean you should set big goals but rather that you should make sure that your goals and your efforts are aligned. For example, if you want to increase your income by twenty percent, but you are not planning on doing anything different – that is an unrealistic expectation! But if you are planning on getting a second job or you are looking for a higher paid job and have started sending out your resume – that becomes a realistic expectation! The great stoics of the past believed it was ridiculous to be surprised by anything. Frustration is often the result of unreasonable expectations.

  • Be virtuous. The greatest accomplishment to a Stoic was living a virtuous life, regardless of circumstances. Stick to your values, even when life is intensely challenging.

  • Do not care about what others think. We often care more about the opinions of others, than we do about our own. Be concerned with impressing only yourself. It does not matter if anyone else is impressed - or not.

  • Be grateful. Do not focus on what you lack. Rather be contented with what you have. This is a sign of wisdom to a Stoic.

At the end of every day, ask yourself:

  • What did I do correctly?

  • What actions were less than effective?

  • How can I have a better day tomorrow?

Maybe the Stoics can teach us a thing or two! It’s time to toughen up and be a Stoic!

#stoicism #persistence #grit

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