By Kai Whiting & Santara Gonzales
The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius used Stoicism, conceived by Zeno of Citium, to solve imperial family squabbles, balance the many roles associated with running an empire at war, and face sickness and death during a pandemic. For us, Stoicism is the key to unlocking wisdom. It helps us to deal with the stresses of modern life.
In line with the ancient Stoic method of encouraging people to think about a problem differently, here are a few Stoicinfluenced principles that have helped us.
1. Aim For A Life Worth Living
Many of us lower our bar of living well to getting to work on time, pleasing our boss and family, and cleaning the house. If we have spare time, we find another list of tasks, which rarely includes finding time for ourself. This is list management rather than sowing seeds of a meaningful life. The Stoics argued that our happiness hinged on our ability to cultivate a good moral character. Ask yourself what it would take to start cultivating the kind of character you would look up to. Tip: A life worth living often requires you to do less, not more. Instead of squeezing more into your day, look at what needs to be cut!
2. Don’t Try To Fake It Until You Make It
People may advise you to “fake it until you make it”. The Stoics didn’t. “Faking it until you make it” is tiring, often causing you to move away from own your ideals, to chase someone else’s. Just be you. Learn to get comfortable in your own skin and appreciate the journey of enjoying whatever you do. Don’t just do things for your sake but also for those around you and the wider world. Do them well. Tip: Don’t restrict your thinking to doing your job well; you are more than a job title. How might your hobbies add to your personal development?
3. Know What Is (And Isn’t) In Your Control
The Stoics held that we can only control our thoughts, actions, and attitude. Everything and everyone else are outside of our control. Learning to let go of things like people’s opinions of us, our career progression, and geopolitical events not up to us, allows us to focus on improving our circumstances. We will also worry less about things we cannot change by our choices alone. Tip: Environmental issues are a global problem, but our daily choices make a difference. Including a few more vegetarian options in your shopping list will automatically reduce your meat consumption. No need to be extreme, just a little bit better than you were.
4. Recognize Luck
The ancient Stoics believed that no one is deserving of all their successes nor responsible for all their failings. Sometimes success really is a matter of being the right person in the right place at the right time. By recognising luck, you won’t be so hard on yourself when things don’t go the way you wished. Recognizing luck also allows you to sympathise with others who have fallen on hard times. While they may have made poor choices, they may also have been unlucky. Likewise, when you hear that someone is highly successful, appreciate that they owe at least some of their success to a stroke of good fortune, not just their talents and hard work. Tip: Next time you criticise yourself for not achieving a goal, ask yourself how much of reaching that objective depended on other’s people actions, not in your control.
5. Live According To Nature
The Stoics taught that the happy life was one lived in “accordance with Nature”, meaning a life lived in harmony with the natural world. How we do so depends on many factors, including our age, location, occupation, likes and dislikes. For instance, if we practice yoga, we could ensure our equipment is produced in an environmentally conscious way. We can go beyond our mat and make a commitment to being eco-conscious in our daily choices. This will influence how we parent, what we buy, and how we engage with the natural world. Tip: Add some plants to your garden, balcony, or kitchen windowsill. Don’t see your plants as merely something you have to care for, but as living beings that help take care of you and the planet.
Putting these five timeless tips into practice might not change the world, but we believe that they will change your world for the better and have a ripple effect that touches the lives of those around you.