Stoicism is a school of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy derived from ancient Greek concepts such as apatheia (“apathy”) that teaches a detached detachment from worldly desires and emotions. Stoicism emphasized control over one’s destiny, acceptance of one’s lot in life, and the development of self-discipline.
Stoics were concerned with the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, with the belief that because “virtue is sufficient for happiness“, a sage was not subject to influences outside their control but rather than being affected by others’ actions was capable of responding rationally and appropriately to any situation that they encountered.
Stoicism taught that “external things…are neither good nor bad” but rather that people impute value to them and are only responsible for imputing value to things outside of their control.
So how does one start practising stoicism?
The goal of practising stoicism is to live your life as if it were a well-played game of chess. The objective is to achieve success in all things you do, and to accept the outcome, however bad or good that might be.
The key steps in practising stoicism are:
1. Acceptance of the fact that whatever happens, happens.
It is what it is and there’s nothing you can do about it. There is no point in wasting time wishing things were different. The outcome is not your choice to make. If you have a dog and it’s barking, you can lock it out of your room, but now you have a nuisance barking on the sidewalk, where it will be going next time you pass by.
You cannot stop or control everything that happens in the world; accepting this fact is important in order to feel at ease with yourself and not frustrated and angry with everything that happens.
2: Determine what’s in your control and what isn’t
By defining and acknowledging the things that are not under your control, you will reduce your frustration when they don’t turn out how you want them to turn out. You may not be able to control whether or not it’s raining on a certain day, but you can control how to dress for the weather. You cannot control the price of bread, but you can control whether or not you buy it.
Even the smallest details matter when practising stoicism. For example, if you lose a button that’s attached to your shirt, stop what you are doing and find a needle and thread to fix it before moving on with your day. It is much more important in life that minor things are in order than that they are perfect.
3: “Don’t wish for things you haven’t got, all you’ve got to do is wish for anything.”
If you want to be a champion in life, think like one. You cannot win a race if you are wishing that everyone else trips and falls. You have to perform at your highest ability, or another will come along who will.
Stoicism does not necessarily mean being emotionless or indifferent to the world around you. Stoicism is about accepting the world for what it is and taking control of your emotions, allowing you to make rational decisions. The stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote: “Man is disturbed not by things, but by the view, he takes of them.”
In summary, practising Stoicism is all about having control over your emotions and your own fate, instead of being a slave to outside influences. If you accept that you cannot have everything your way, then others will be more likely to accept the fact that you cannot have everything theirs. If everyone gave up control, would there be any need for rulers?