Two years ago I was doing some article browsing online and stumbled upon something written by the writer Ryan Holiday. I liked the way he wrote. He had an ability to cut to the heart of something and speak a truth I needed at that time.
The focus of his writing then, was on a thing called Stoicism. You may know what that is already but I didn’t. I’d never heard of Stoicism, Stoics, Seneca or Epictetus. I had heard of Marcus Aurelius because he was the old King in Gladiator, but that was it.
Stoicism is a Philosophy and Seneca and Marcus Aurelius are two of its most famous teachers. I lived with a girl when I was at University, who studied philosophy. I had no idea what it was until I discovered Stoicism. How I would describe it now, is a way of looking at life. Some central beliefs and principles about the world, which exist outside of religion but guide your behaviour.
Stoicism changed my life.
It changed my life because it changed my perception about things. It changed my life because it opened my eyes to the way I was expecting results but not acting in a way which would bring them about.
Stoicism introduced me to the following fundamentals that I live by:
1. “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” – Marcus Aurelius
This means holding yourself to a higher standard and not being injured or judgemental if others don’t do the same. It’s such a liberating philosophy and relieves you from being stressed by other people’s behaviour.
2. “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
Embrace what you can control fully and let go of what you cannot. When you’ve tried your best, even if you don’t succeed, you get peace.
3. “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus
Epictetus is often set aside from Stoic philosophy but his ideas resonate with me in a similar way. When I read this I realised I needed to become the person I wanted to be outside of opportunity. I needed to become that person full-stop. Otherwise the opportunity would never present itself.
Want a promotion? Work on being worthy of it. Think you’d write a brilliant novel IF you were given a book deal. If you’re not gonna write one without the book deal you’re possibly deluding yourself. Do what you have to do to be the person you want to be.
These are a sprinkling of the philosophies which have shaped the last couple of years of my life. Years I’ve actually started to move towards the kind of success I’d always pictured for myself.
Lauren Bosstick who founded The Skinny Confidential is a vocal advocate of the role Stoic philosophy has had on her success. In her words:
“Philosophy isn’t about books and big words and theories and complicated metaphysics. It’s about getting better, in a real practical sense. It’s about realizing your potential—intellectually, morally, spiritually.” – Lauren Bosstick [read here]
I have bought The Daily Stoic for many people and every single one has acknowledged the positive impact it has had on their lives.