Stoicism is self-responsibility.
It’s the idea that a person should own their emotional state and behaviors, and that having self-discipline is the key to fulfillment.
Stoic philosophy originated in ancient Greece. It’s now back in popular consciousness due to reinterpretations by authors like Ryan Holiday. It appeals to people seeking ‘a good life’ amid the pressures of the modern world.
It is results-oriented yet performance-focused. Hence, it’s highly actionable.
If you want to gain more control over your life, put these four principles to the test
1) Don’t blame others or weigh yourself down with judgement.
Focus only on things you can control. Don’t worry about things that are out of your control. Have goals but concentrate on doing the present task.
By focusing on mindset and behaviors instead of not uncontrollable outside events, performance shoots up.
Traffic jams in Saigon are frequent. Busses, cars, SUVs, motorbikes, street vendors, bicycles, push-carts and an occasional cyclo all vie for the same space. When stuck in the rumbling, smoggy parade, it’s easy to think about how terrible traffic is.
In these moments, I consciously stop those thoughts. I refocus on my own driving and the most immediate facts necessary to make proper judgments while driving.
In this latter mental state, I can maneuver through the crowded streets much more fluidly.
2) The obstacle is the way. Take on challenges.
Have you ever met anyone who has never struggled for anything?
It’s always apparent.
They give nothing full effort. Even if they’re well-traveled, their world is small. They are emotionally soft and entitled. If they are given any responsibility, it ends in disaster.
The reason is simple: the best thing is usually not the easiest thing.
Success is made by meeting and overcoming bigger and better problems. People who are willing to face problems succeed. They who aren’t, don’t.
In order to gain confidence and skill, you must leave your comfort zone. Approach challenges as if they are opportunities to learn and improve. Be grateful to misfortune for giving you the opportunity to overcome misfortune. See obstacles as your path to growth.
3) Greet people cheerfully.
I’m naturally introverted, so I have the most difficulty with this one. It’s also the most elegantly simple.
Happiness is an internal emotional state; cheerfulness is the outward expression of that state. But it’s a two-way street. Not only does happiness lead to cheerful behavior, cheerfulness can create feelings of happiness.
When you greet people cheerfully, you make them feel better. Over time, they associate meeting you with the positive emotions you inspire. Hence, they look forward to meeting you, and your presence will be more valued.
Maintain a cheerful disposition in your interactions. The positive feelings you create will lead to stronger connections and more influence.
4) Imagine the worst thing that could happen.
This one sounds counter-intuitive.
According to popular books like The Secret, we should only imagine positive outcomes. In reality, that is a terrible long-term strategy for overall happiness. By constantly setting our expectations unrealistically high, we routinely disappoint ourselves. There’s no limit on dreams, but a host of things effect outcomes. Instead of visualizing the perfect result, try the opposite.
In facing an anxiety-inducing task, vividly imagine the worst possible failure. Accept the possibility that a terrible outcome could occur.
Consider the consequences of a disastrous performance; feel and process those emotions. Next, put all of that aside. Finally, do the action anyways.
By mentally rehearsing the worst case scenario, performance looses its emotional edge. You will be more calm and collected if something bad happens. Most likely, the result of your actions will be far better than the worst possible scenario. Any outcome will feel more like a win. Even losses will take less of an emotional toll.
Use this principle to help you face obstacles and take risks.
Some of these principles are obvious in their simplicity. Others contradict most mainstream advice. But they are all timeless mantras for anyone under pressure.
What do you think? Which do you use the most, and how have they helped improve your life?
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