I have been studying the Stoic philosophy for about three years. It has really made a difference in my perceptions and acceptance of the world around me. I let myself drop out during the worst of the government tyranny last year, but getting back to Stoicism gave me the incentive to get back to working out, and not waste time yelling at the TV. Maybe this will help someone else to decide on a path and stick with it.
This is the book I am following.
Another good read.
I like this one also.
Disclaimer: I’m not your Supervisor. These are my opinions after reading through these books a few times.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.5.4–5
To me, this is the essential essence of Stoicism. In order to keep yourself from stressing out or worrying about the things you can’t control and focus your energy on the things you can control, it’s vital to know which is which.
I struggled with this for many years and would get mad about things WAY outside of my control. I still do, but have learned to question myself more and try to stop the anger by talking to myself about how stupid it is to be angry over things I cannot change in any way.
“What is the fruit of these teachings? Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated—tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom. We should not trust the masses who say only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.1.21–23a
Now we get into why I study Stoic philosophy. It has helped a lot with being able to not get upset over little things. It also goes a long way to help me feel better about myself and a provides a framework for analyzing choices I do make and why.
“How many have laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements—how little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!”
—SENECA, ON THE BREVITY OF LIFE, 3.3b
This goes with knowing what is in your control and what is not. How you spend your time is up to you. Before my surgery I was running 4 times a week, and going to the gym 3 times a week. To do this I would wake up at 5:00 am and either run or workout. After work I would go to the gym on Mondays and Thursdays then go to bed at 10:00pm. The most common reaction I get from people is “I don’t have time for that.” I always wondered how many hours a day they spend watching TV. Not that working out is the best way to spend time, nor should you never waste time by watching TV. You have to find a schedule that works for you and doesn’t leave you regretting how you have spent your day.
“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment;
and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 9.6
Once you’ve made a decision, don’t second guess yourself. Ensure that whatever you are doing is for the best outcome and not a selfish or unhealthy reason. Appreciate any blessing you receive.
All of these concepts are in the present moment here. He’s not talking about past circumstances haunting you, or distracting you from what is happening now.
“Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad.”
—SENECA, ON TRANQUILITY OF MIND, 12.5
If there is no end goal then it’s easy to get knocked off track and distracted by what all the cool kids are doing.
It doesn’t have to be specific, it can be as simple as “not get out of breath going up stairs” or it can be “I will be debt free in 2 years” with a scheduled plan and specific timeline. If something happens to disrupt that, the goal doesn’t change, just the timeline.
“A person who doesn’t know what the universe is, doesn’t know where they are. A person who doesn’t know their purpose in life doesn’t know who they are or what the universe is. A person
who doesn’t know any one of these things doesn’t know why they are here. So what to make of people who seek or avoid the praise of those who have no knowledge of where or who they are?”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 8.52
Who am I? It seems like a simple question, but if you really get into it, is it?
I am a husband and I try to be the best one I can, I am painfully honest and have no patience for dishonest people.
I am also easily angered and frustrated when I can’t do things. I am currently recovering from surgery and have times where I rage at the world because I HATE being couchbound. (this falls under the first lesson, there is nothing I can do about it, so the anger is a waste of time and energy)
“The proper work of the mind is the exercise of choice, refusal, yearning, repulsion, preparation, purpose, and assent. What then can pollute and clog the mind’s proper functioning? Nothing but its own corrupt decisions.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.11.6–7
Choose what kind of person you want to be. Refuse to participate in things that go against that. Yearn for proper things, and repulse that which is negative. Prepare yourself mentally and physically for these choices to keep on towards your purpose. Be careful about what you approve of and endorse.