From Pick The Brain
Are you sad to hear people you care about calling you “a Stoic”? It might be time for you to refine your philosophy and show them how much the Stoic you are, love them and care for them.
Among the different schools of philosophy, Stoicism is one of the least understood. Yet, Stoics were among the most rationale and practical people of their time and we still have a lot to learn from them. Sadly, nowadays, the word “stoic” is generally used in a somewhat negative way describing someone who refuses to complain or show his feelings. Stoics certainly advocated a rather ascetic way of life but is it what Stoicism is solely about?
In this article, I would like to share with you, three Stoic principles that you can apply in your daily life in order to live, not a “stoic” and somewhat boring life, but a joyful life.
Stoics appreciate what they have and refuse to take anything for granted
One of the greatest sources of our unhappiness is our inability to be grateful for what we have. Stoics perfectly understood that and tricked their mind to fight against that natural tendency. One of the methods they used is negative visualization. They didn’t focus on what they wanted to have trying to visualize it to make it more real, instead they focused on the things they had and valued the most and imagined losing them.
Try to imagine right now how you would feel if your children, your partner or your parents just died today. What do you wish you had done for them today? Did you really show them appreciation and tell them how much you love them today?
Epictetus recommends that whenever we kiss our child, we silently remind ourselves that he/she might die tomorrow, or that whenever we part with a friend, we tell ourselves that it might be the last time we see him or her.
If you can fully appreciate everything you have right now in your life by reflecting on a regular basis on the possibility to lose them, then the loss of a loved one or of anything else you value will be less painful as you will have little regrets.
Are you fully appreciating everything you have in your life right now?
Stoics use self-deprecating humor to protect themselves
How do you react when people insult you or make fun of you? How do you think a Stoic in Ancient Greek would have react? One way he would have reacted is by laughing at himself.
Laughing off an insult is one of the most powerful ways to react to it. By doing so, you show to the insulter that you don’t take him seriously; you don’t give him any power.
I personally love this technique and like to use it whenever necessary. If you are able to make fun of yourself more than your insulter, you will never be troubled again and your offender will feel powerless.
What about you? Can you make fun of yourself? If not, what is holding you back?
Stoics focus on what they can change
Stoics refused to waste time thinking about things over which they had no control at all. They thought our time and energy ought to be spent only on things over which we did have control. For that reason, they advocated for a total acceptance of the past and the present, as it is useless to dwell on a past that cannot be changed or to refuse to embrace a present that is happening right now in front of us. They would forbid you to use sentences like “if only I had done this or that then…” or “I wish I told him how much I loved him before he suddenly died in this car accident”.
They carefully separated things over which they had control from things over which they had no control. For instance, we have complete control over our attitude and our values. We also have control over the goals we set for ourselves. However, we have no control over most of the things that happen in the external world.
Epictetus said we should set goals that are easy to achieve or even certain to be achieved and over which we have control. When setting goals a Stoic would likely focus on the process rather than on the outcome. From a Stoic point of view, it makes more sense to focus on doing the best you can at whatever you do, than on trying to be promoted, win the game or become a millionaire, as you have no guarantee you will achieve these goals…