Before I knew more about stoicism I thought it`s a cult of thrifty, half-naked old men teaching how to resent life to a bunch of unmotivated students. As I grew up, however, and read more about Seneca, Epictetus, and the great Marcus Aurelius, I became fond of what these great people taught.
The core of stoicism is to be able to keep your head up despite setbacks or as Epictetus once put it: “Sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy. It`s living in harmony with the universe and enjoying inner peace.
If you want to have courage, build supreme confidence, and have peace of mind, then these 10 nuggets of stoic philosophy will help you.
Rule #1: If life is short, then that’s your doing.
Stoic philosophers believe life isn`t short. It`s the huge amount of time people waste that makes life seem like a quick breeze of air. As Seneca once said: “We are not given a short life but we make it short and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.”
Heedless luxury and activities of subpar importance are what one should beware of so he can live the happy life. To achieve this, begin by making a list of the 20 percent of tasks that wastes 80 percent of your time. List these behaviors from easy to hard, then stop doing the easiest three of them. It will save you hundreds of hours.
Rule #2: Plan for complete failure.
“For by foreseeing anything that can happen as though it will happen he will soften the onslaught of all his troubles.” — Seneca
Ever heard of the term Project Pre-mortem? It’s is a famous stoic principle usually used by big business enterprises a week, or less, before launching new projects. In Pre-mortem, managers and teams visualize the project as if it has failed, then work backward to determine what potentially could lead to that failure.
Seneca once wrote: “For by foreseeing anything that can happen as though it will happen he will soften the onslaught of all his troubles.” He believed a good stoic should expect bad storms and plan accordingly as this is the wise man`s way to survive.
To stoics, all conditions can change and anyone is susceptible to fate`s unpleasant surprises. What can happen to one, can happen to all, and only those brave enough to think in negative can endure the dangers of life.
Rule #3: Fear will kill you.
Both Seneca and William Shakespeare agree on this idea. The first said: “You will only receive more severe wounds and stabs if you don`t know how to offer your throat. He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man. ”
Whereas the English playwright was famous for saying: “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.“
Great stoics honored bravery so much and believed that people will hate a gladiator if they seem him willing to save his life by any means. Stoics also believed that if two fighters were about to die, the man who receives the blade bravely will suffer less than the man who ducks and withdraws his neck.
Rule #4: Don`t waste energy on goals you can’t have.
For whatever work you do, it should never be in vain. According to stoics, the worst thing to do is waste your energy on a pointless goal you`ll never achieve, or a goal that will make you realize too late that it wasn`t worth it.
As Seneca once wrote: “The next thing to ensure is that we do not waste our energies pointlessly or in pointless activities: that is what we cannot achieve, or for what, once gained, only makes us realize too late and after much exertion the futility of our desires.”
Rule #5: FOCUS.
Overindulgence and lack of focus are the two most common diseases shared by mankind. Many people are not aware of where they`re going. They interfere into other people’s affairs while giving the impression of being busy. In reality, these people neither have the intention nor know where they’re going. They`re, as described by Cleanthes, dogs tied to a cart compelled to go wherever it goes.
The key to freedom is to understand that life will distract the hell out of you. You must then keep your goals in front of you and limit distractions as much as possible.
Rule #6: See Things for What They Are.
To Stoics, the best way to rid yourself of overindulgence, and over attachments with life, is to look through things and people and see them for what they really are.
As Aurelius wrote in his memoir: “Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig. Or that this noble vintage is grape juice, and the purple robes are sheep wool dyed with shellfish blood. Or making love as something rubbing against your penis, a brief seizure, and a little cloudy liquid.”
To Epictetus, the best way to limit false attachments with people is to remember, when you embrace them, that you’re embracing a mortal. Thus, when someone close to you dies, you can handle it with tranquility.
You want to do this with everything, from your favorite cup to your girlfriend or spouse. It may sound harsh, but that what stoics believe is the best way to recover from life`s unpleasant events and avoid being clingy as well.
Rule #7: Time is Money.
A study once found that people are more optimistic about how much time they have than how much money they can make. This ill thinking is usually why most people neither have the money nor enjoy their time.
According to stoics: “No person hands out their money to passers-by, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives. We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”
Rule #9: Feel Empathy for People.
To love people despite their flaws, that`s the noblest thing a man can do. As Aurelius laid it: “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.
But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own —not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine, and so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”
Rule #10: Always be present.
Stoic philosophers believed a man should remember two things:
That everything has always been the same and keeps recurring, and it makes no difference whether you see the same things recur in a hundred years or two hundred, or in an infinite period.
That the longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose
As Aurelius wrote: “Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already or is impossible to see. The span we live is small, small as the corner of the earth in which we live it. Small as even the greatest renown, passed from mouth to mouth by short-lived stick figures, ignorant alike of themselves and those long dead.”
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