Human beings by nature seek happiness and fulfillment in life. But our world today is getting more and more complicated and turmoil-ridden. We don’t know if we’ll have worthwhile memories to look back on when we get old. Perhaps this is why many people today are turning to Stoicism.
How Can We Define Stoicism
Stoicism is the philosophy that holds we can not and do not control the events outside ourselves.
Since we cannot control what lies outside us, we should not rely on the external events to make our judgments, shape our behavior, or live our lives.
Stoicism advises us living with virtue is sufficient for happiness. Stoics ask us to remember we live in an unpredictable world and our lives are short.
Stoicism is quite old, originating in the Greek and Roman eras, steered ahead by three great thinkers — Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. Stoicism takes its name from the place where its founder, Zeno of Citium, lectured in the 3rd century BCE — the stoa poikile (painted colonnade).
The Stoics thought becoming a good person and living the good life, or eudaimonia, consisted of cultivating the four cardinal moral virtues. These 4 cardinal virtues of Stoicism are:
- wisdom or prudence,
- morality or justice,
- courage or fortitude,
- moderation or temperance.
Stoicism basically inculcates two factors: happiness and potential. It is somewhat similar to happiness science. If we think of it, achieving their happiness and potential are really the two things everyone is after in this life.
Recently, Stoicism has started reappearing among entrepreneurs and business owners, who want their way of thinking to match the practical aspects of the Greek philosophy.
Successes and failures ride together in the entrepreneur world. A business, whether a startup or a giant, can’t have one without the other. And a business person can’t get mired too deep into the feelings resulting from either success or failure if they want to stay relevant.
That’s where Stoicism comes to aid — it points out any result should not hold you down far below your full potential.
Stoicism says things happen to us, but what we can really control is the way that we respond to those things.
You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you’ll find strength. — Marcus Aurelius
Stoicism helps us to put our lives in a better order. It advises us to avoid our natural overindulgence that ultimately results in anxiety and agitation.
Here’s Massimo Pigliucci on the philosophy of Stoicism in a short animated video:
8 Ideas To Learn From Stoicism
Let’s take a look at 8 Stoic ideologies to teach us how to open up our minds to live at our full potential.
- Your Mind Is Your Power
- Time Is Your Most Precious Resource
- Be Present In The Moment
- Show Gratefulness For What You Have
- Remember Your Reasons
- Material Things Do Not Make You Happy
- Change Your Perspective On Failure
- Reflect On How You Spend Your Time
1. Your Mind Is Your Power
Stoics believed perception is the basis of true knowledge. Knowing that our mind is our power is the same as having self-awareness of our being. If only we could realize we have the ability to control our mind, we would be able to make ourselves happy and content with our surroundings.
All we need to control in order to shape our experiences and feelings is our mind, not the surroundings. If our mind can be tuned into our desired state, the external circumstances will not be able to harm us, no matter what.
2. Time Is Your Most Precious Resource
Nobody has unlimited or infinite time in this world, and we all know it. But most of us are not able to appreciate it the way we should. We all tend to waste time more in this internet-powered world today.
We don’t realize we are letting days and months pass by without doing something worth our time and potential. An employee who is fed up with his boss continues with his job for years, just because he does not get a better job offer. But he never gives it a chance he could start a venture in that time, however small, that would make him his own boss.
According to Stoic principles, he is wasting time; or in other words, not realizing the true value of time. People keep doing the same stuff for years that doesn’t give them any fulfillment, but they keep doing it anyway for the fear that the society would otherwise brand them as hustlers.
If we keep reminding ourselves our time on this earth is scarce, we could change our mindset, and begin striving for more wholesome experiences and achievements in life.
3. Be Present In The Moment
In an attempt to re-live our past experiences or dream about the future, we often forget to be present in the moment. Our minds are too preoccupied with the worries, responsibilities and tensions within and around us that we do not realize the importance of living every moment to the fullest.
Our minds take over our hearts and compel us to be partially present, rather than fully enjoying the place we’re at. People who work hard on the quality of their minds are not like this. They have this strange and awesome ability to quietly cherish their existence and be fully aware of what is going on around them.
This tactic can actually be practiced by anyone who is willing to do so. All you need to do is to take out some quality time for yourself. Sit down in privacy, take a deep breath, feel your chest rising, sense the muscles in your body, and vision all senses around you as beams of bright light.
How are you feeling right now?
4. Show Gratefulness For What You Have
Gratefulness is a guaranteed means of making yourself happy. It pushes us to see the positive aspects of our lives and shuns away the negative feelings or memories. Scientists are now able to back up this concept through research as well.
Being grateful does not mean that we stop aiming for higher. It simply means that we do not need to focus too much on what we do not have, as that would only pull us down and make us unworthy of getting anything that we could otherwise achieve.
It creates an optimistic approach to life, which is the first step to getting closer to opportunities for personal development.
5. Remember Your Reasons
When we are struggling to achieve something, it is important to remember why we are going for it in the first place. The motive to have a goal and want to work towards it is more important than the goal itself.
But sometimes, we tend to forget the charm of the journey we go through once we achieve the goal. Remembering the reasons behind our wishes and goals is crucial to our happiness. It helps us identify the kind of experiences that make us feel good, so that when things turn bad, we are able to find solutions to our depression.
6. Material Things Do Not Make You Happy
Materialism is a dangerous disease that every other person in the modern age suffers from. Excessive materialism is in fact a sign of being empty and void. When we feel that there is something missing in life or within, we develop this urge to keep wanting more and more.
It is as if there is a gap in our hearts that we want to fill with material things. This concept is further reinforced by advertisements and promotion campaigns of fancy products and brands.
There is some truth in getting happiness out of material things, but that happiness or joy is always short lived. Real void can be filled with love and fulfillment, and by living our life to our maximum potential. Wise people seek long lasting happiness by spending time with their loved ones and doing things they are passionate about.
7. Change Your Perspective On Failure
Failure obviously has a negative connotation to it. But it should not be seen as a negative aspect in life. Failures are temporary, and can become a source of inspiration; if we know how to get back on our feet and move on to try again. Success can only be truly enjoyed if it comes after failure.
The ultimate mission of our life should be to become the best version of what we are. That can only be achieved if we go through various experiences, some of which fail us while others give us success, but all of which give us the capability to make some progress.
Any failure can become a stepping-stone towards great success. It is all about how we take it. It should not be difficult in today’s day and age to gather information, gain knowledge, attain insights and turn any failed experience into inspiration for future success.
If only we can convince ourselves all failures are temporary, we can gather the strength to strive again and in a better way.
8. Reflect On How You Spend Your Time
How many of us can say that we take out time on daily basis to do what matters most to us? Spending time with family, expressing our thoughts in any form of writing, or working on a different kind of craft that we like, are all activities that can give us true happiness.
But nowadays, most people like to spend their free time scrolling through social media news-feed, gossiping with friends, or randomly browsing through the Internet, thinking these could give them happiness.
If we try to reflect on the way we spend most of our free time, we would realize that we are actually wasting it. In search of happiness, we are exposing ourselves to fake stuff, which can at the most give us fake or short-lived happiness. If we observe the behavior of high-achievers, we will notice that they always prioritize their activities based on how productive each is and how good each makes them feel in the long run.
8 Stoicism Quotes by Marcus Aurelius
- The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
- Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
- Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
- All that you see will soon perish; those who witness this perishing will soon perish themselves. Die in extreme old age or die before your time — it will all be the same.
- When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
- Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together.
- If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
- You can discard most of the junk that clutters your mind — things that exist only there. And you will immediately make vast space for yourself by grasping the whole universe in your thought, by contemplating the eternity of time, and by reflecting on the speed with which things change — each part of every thing, the brief gap from birth to death, the infinite time before, and the equally infinite time that follows.
These Stoic principles can be a great means to identify the necessary changes we need to make to our mindset and routines, to enable us have the life we dream to have. Through these principles, the Stoics can teach us how to open up our mind to our full potential.
We all want a happy and comfortable life, and would ideally like to get it by working at our full potential. Think about it. If you are able to become what you have always dreamed of, and feel happy in the process, what more could you ask for from life?[Stoicism can be one of the ways to cut down your stress. Read how: 10 Easy, Effective Strategies To Beat Stress]
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Authors’ Bio: Isabell Gaylord is a professional essay writer and journalist. Sandip Roy is psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog.
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