Incorporating these stoic teachings in your life will change everything.
Have you ever had one of those days where the universe seems to be conspiring against you? A flat tire on your way to work. Spilling coffee on your shirt during a meeting. Losing your keys when you most need them. We certainly don’t have control over the things that happen to us in daily life, but we do have control over how we deal with them. A “stoic" person is someone who avoids emotional extremes when facing pressure and stressful situations. The word stoic comes from the philosophy of stoicism, a set of personal ethics on how to behave based on logic and our perception of the world. It is said that those who practice this philosophy are on the right track to happiness. So, what’s their secret, and how do we achieve this?
First of all, stoicism originated in ancient Athens, during Hellenistic and Roman times. It was developed by Zeno of Citium, who read Socrates’ books and learned from his philosophy. This is important because Zeno once lost everything he had, and instead of crumbling under depression, sadness, and defeat, he decided to accept the world as it is. There are many things to learn from Zeno’s stoicism, but the most important of them all is that living in accordance to universal reason (logos) is the happiest way to live. In other words, the universe’s plans are not to be questioned. If we allow our passions and emotions to influence our decisions, we won’t be able to find happiness. Here are four principles we all need from stoicism.
Wisdom: understanding the world around you and doing your part in nature's plan.
As was mentioned before, the principle of the philosophy has to do with how we see the world. We often attribute the things that happen to us to luck. Whenever we notice a pattern of negative events in our lives, we tend to feel depressed and disappointed. However, what stoicism tells us is that things happen, and that we don’t have a say on how or when they affect us. Instead, we must take things as they come, and this will result in a more positive and calm state of mind.
Temperance: actions speak louder than words.
Our thoughts do not necessary reflect our values. We can judge, criticize, and hate other people based on a number of reasons. Yet, in order to remain at peace and be in harmony with ourselves and others, we must behave in a civilized and cordial manner. Not doing so could result in a negative chain of events that will affect you and others. Because of this, keeping those things, that could hurt others, to yourself is much more than a philosophy principle: it's tolerance and respect.
Courage: not letting ourselves be controlled by pleasure or pain.
Stoicism teaches us that our emotions can have consequences if we don't keep them under control. For instance, remorse and regret. One of these powerful emotions that can lead to bad consequences is desire, like when you want someone you can't have. The other emotion is fear, which can keep you from doing things that would help you achieve your goals (for example, speaking in public). Desires and fears aren't easy to hide, but controlling them will set you on the right track to happiness.
Justice: working together and treating others fairly.
In Ancient Greece, slavery was legal and socially accepted, but stoic philosophers considered it to be a cruel, inhumane, and unjust practice. Seneca, for instance, a famous stoic philosopher, stressed that we all share the same fundamental humanity. What this tells us is that although although is about self-improvement, it is not to be confused with selfishness. We must treat others the same way we would like to be treated.
In order to survive in this world, Zeno embraced the four virtues listed above: wisdom, temperance, justice, and courage. His teachings inspired famous historical figures to implement stoicism in their daily lives in order to overcome the many challenges they faced. For example, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who over the course of his life lost many children, but won numerous battles and ruled an empire, and Nelson Mandela, who was unfairly imprisoned for 27 years. Just like these famous leaders, you too can make a difference in your daily life with stoic principles.
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