I had the good fortune that I started taking an interest in stoicism around 2018 – because by then epidemic You came, I really needed it.
“The hour comes, the woman comes!” I said, Enchiridion Epietcus at hand, as the borders closed in March 2020 and friends began beating me up for stoic advice. “Put that stoicism in my veins!” They will write.
The Roman Emperor and Stoic Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “No role is so appropriate for philosophy as the one it now plays.”
it’s the truth. When life began to change rapidly – and fear was in the air – ancient Greco-Roman philosophy proved to be a remarkably useful tool. Even if there was no pandemic, stoicism was saving my ass every day: from dealing with FOMO to a cost-of-living crisis; From losing a job, to the climate crisis, to heartbreak and loss. Everything had the mold of the Stoics – or at least was deeply considered by them. Much of their advice is as modern today as it was in ancient times.
But where do you start? And how can you apply it to your daily life?
1. Find out what’s under your control
The cornerstone of stoicism is “the test of control,” as found in the Enchiridion – and during the first waves of the epidemic the test of control was invaluable to me. I still use it every day to make an assessment of what I should and shouldn’t worry about, and to see where I can take action and best channel my energy.
Epictetus—whose pamphlet was published around AD 125—writes: “Within our power are opinion, impulse, desire, aversion, in a word, all that we do; within our power are not our body, our possessions, our reputation, our office, and, in short, all that is not of our making.”
Our sphere of control consists primarily of our actions, reactions, desires, personality, and how we interact with others. The rest – including our bodies, the actions of others, our reputation and our wealth (personal and financial) – is beyond our control.
Snap lockdown means you can’t go to work? It’s out of your control, but you can work out how to deal with it. Virus spreads in society when there is no vaccine? It is out of your control, but your actions can help protect yourself and others. His stressed girlfriend gets drunk a lot and removes her loneliness on you? What you do is out of your control, but your reaction is not.
For every problem, there is a stoic solution – and control testing is often the most elegant and simple way to find our way to it.
2. You don’t need to judge everything
We make judgments quickly, often without enough information – and sometimes when we don’t need a judgment at all. Much of what we call “good” or “bad” is actually neutral, but our judgments are powerful and largely dictate how we respond.
I might apply for a rent I really want, and lose it – so I apply a “bad” judgment to this. But would it still be bad if the next week a better or cheaper place came on the market?
If we treat most events in a neutral way, we are less likely to get upset about the things that are happening.
3. Money, health and reputation are out of your control
According to the control test, money, health and reputation are basically all out of our control. If we can cultivate indifference towards them, we are less likely to get upset, and waste energy trying to control them.
Without any fault or action on your part, you could lose your reputation, then your job, then your money – then your home, and possibly your marriage. You will almost certainly lose your appearance as you age. If you live long enough, you may lose mobility, cognitive ability, and other aspects of your health.
Accidents and illnesses happen all the time too – also out of your control. You can be as careful as you like, but it’s not entirely up to you. A bus can hit you!
The Stoics warned against suffering twice: suffering from illness or injury, and the second suffering was the anger or anxiety surrounding illness or wound. It can happen to anyone, so there’s no reason why it can’t happen to you – and in any case, death eventually comes to all of us.
In order to avoid experiencing extreme pain due to these accumulated losses, it is best to practice being indifferent to what you have in the first place.
4. Practice the circumstances you fear
I make this sound easy – but how does it actually work? In order for the Stoics to get used to the suffering that awaits us all, they practiced voluntary hardship.
Seneca advised his friend Lucilius to fast in the event that one day he could not have access to food: “Allocate a certain number of days, during which you will be satisfied with a lower and cheaper fare, with the course and harsh dress, while saying to yourself: (Is this the condition which you feared?).
Often it’s not as bad as we fear it – and we are stronger than we think.
5. Practice imagining death
The Stoics believed that you should mourn your loved ones while they were still alive. In fact, they advised them to think about their death a lot while they were alive, in order to prepare.
You’re less inclined to hold onto a grudge if you fantasize that your friend might die suddenly — and you’ll be more inclined to make the most of your time. “Let us greedily enjoy our friends,” said Seneca, “and we should also enjoy our children, for we do not know how long this privilege will be for us.”
The same goes for our death. You can’t control it, but you can control the way you think about it. The Stoics seek to demystify this by repeatedly reminding themselves that they are going to die, which helps to focus on the one thing that matters: the present moment.
As Epictetus said, “I cannot escape death – but at least I can escape the fear of it.”
6. Don’t worry about other people’s reactions
Worrying about upsetting others is generally seen as a positive trait, but it can also lead to people pleasing or excessive worry. One of the most important things for Stoic is realizing that your personality is one of the only things you can control. The four Stoic virtues are wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. If you act with them, you are exercising an essential element of life that is under your control.
But how others react is beyond your control. You can try to persuade or influence them, but ultimately their actions and reactions are up to them.
Worrying about what other people think, or how they will react, is a waste of time. Just worry about how to do it it was you Act, your own personality.
7. Moderation is a virtue
Roman Stoics like us lived in a world full of excess and wine. Advise moderation When it comes to wine – but not to do much about it.
From Epictetus: “When a man drinks water, or does anything for the sake of practice (discipline), whenever he has the opportunity, he says it to all: ‘I drink water.’ Is this why you drink water with the intent to drink water? O man, if it is better for you to You drink and drink. But if not, you are acting ridiculous.”
The Stoic treated alcohol, especially expensive wine, carelessly. You will realize that addiction is dangerous because it weakens the mind. You’ll also realize that hitting abstain is boring.
8. Give without expecting anything in return
A lot of giving in our society is subliminal transactions. Say I brought you to a nice dinner; In some corners of my mind, I might expect you to return the favor. But if I apply the control test, I will remember that I have no power over whether someone behaves as I want them to act. It is better to give freely, without conditions or caveats, and without expecting anything in return. This way I will not be disappointed if a service is not repaid.
“We must give as we receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; there is no grace in benefit that sticks to the fingers,” Seneca wrote.
9. Say No to FOMO
The more I read of Stoicism, the more I realized that the fear of being lost was always there, and that the Stoics – of course! – She has ways to deal with it.
If you are not invited to something, they see it as a test of character not to be bitter or unhappy. Epictetus advised, “If these things are good, you must be glad that he has them; and if they are evil, do not be sad that you did not have them.”
Then they pointed out the trade-off. Let’s say you didn’t get tickets to a festival that were out of stock; Think about what you gained instead. Maybe you’ll have another try this weekend – you’ll definitely have an extra $200 to play with.
10. Try to relax
Contrary to modern usage of the word “Stoic,” the original Stoics did not have a solid upper lip—and they were not suppressed. Instead, they sought to maximize joy and minimize suffering—and strive to be as comfortable as possible. In this calm state, it was difficult to ignite anger, annoyance, or worry about things they could not control.
Aurelius wrote: “Never let the future bother you.” “You will meet it, if you must, with the same weapons of mind which arm you today against the present.”