Today I’d like to talk about the most important of stoic philosophy quotes, or stoic philosophy in general. Because I honestly don’t think we women talk about it enough. Or at all really. And it could be an amazing tool for us to be happier and more confident.
With (mostly male) life and bio hackers, personal development authors, Silicon Valley execs, bloggers, podcasters and lifestyle experts like Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday embracing it, stoic philosophy has seen a resurgence in popularity recently. And it’s not hard to see why.
With all of its ancient brilliance, it’s a powerful antidote to our frazzled, anxious modern lives.
Which is why I think we ladies need to talk about it.
Though there’s hardly a more masculine figure than stoic philosophy’s most famous champion, Marcus Aurelius, I believe that it, combined with our feminine energy, might just be an unstoppable force for progress and good in the world. (What did you just say, Dana? I know and I don’t even smoke pot!)
Or, it could at least just to help us calm down and be happier.
What is Stoic Philosophy?
Stoicism is an ancient philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the 3rd century BC (So yes, it’s crazy old). Stoics believe that virtue (like wisdom) is happiness, and that we should base our judgement of others (and ourselves) on behavior instead of words.
It also revolves around the idea that we can only control ourselves and our responses to the world around us. We can’t rely on external events or circumstances, over which we have no control, for our happiness.
The main tenets of its teachings are:
- That the world around us is unpredictable.
- That our moment of life is fleeting.
- How to be strong, steadfast and in control of ourselves.
- That our greatest source of unhappiness is our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses instead of our logic.
Stoicism is a philosophy focused on the self, rather than the world. It’s a simple way of living that focuses on taking control of ourselves in order to break the grip that our destructive, reactionary emotions have on our happiness. It’s a philosophy of action, not debate. And it’s main focus is to get us to act upon what we can act upon and leave the rest of the bullshit behind.
How Does It Apply to Our Modern Lives?
One of the most important of stoic philosophy quotes is from Epictetus:
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself, to the choices that are my own…”
As Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman say in The Daily Stoic (great book, btw) “The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t.”
There are certain things that no amount of wishing or worrying will change. The more time we spend wishing and worrying about them, the less time we spend making progress on the things we can change. The wishing and worrying in life is where we get tripped up and stuck and what makes us unhappy. If we can differentiate clearly between which parts of our day we control and which we do not, we’ll be much happier and we’ll also have a distinct advantage in life over those who can’t.
How Can It Help Us?
How much time in our lives have we spent wishing and worrying over things we can’t control? Like the weight we’ve gained, or whether or not that guy will text us back or why our boss is such a complete and utter asshole. When we could be working towards creating healthy habits or creating a life so fun we don’t care that we’re single, or doing such an amazing job that your boss can’t help but notice.
For instance, I can’t…
- Change the fact that I gained 40 pounds while pregnant but, I can eat a healthy lunch and go for a walk.
- Control that there’s a traffic jam and I’m late, but I can enjoy the podcast I’m listening to and not let it ruin my day.
- Change that the beauty industry has allowed toxic chemicals in products for so long but, I can vote with my dollars.
- Make that person like me but, I can decide to like myself.
- Help that my flight is delayed due to a storm but, I can have a nice glass of wine at the airport and relax.
- Help that the world is chaotic and scary but, I can clean up my side of the street and be kind to my neighbors.
This idea pertains to every circumstance in life. I can’t control this, but I can control that. And so that is where I’ll focus my energy and attention. In living our lives this way, Stoicism says, we’ll be much more happy, confident and successful.
So sign my ass up to be a Stoic!
What’s the First Step?
The next time you find you catch yourself worried or stressed about something, I want you to stop and ask yourself “Is this something I can change or not?”
I think the traffic example is great because it’s so simple and clear. If you are stuck in traffic and pissed off about it, ask yourself “Is this something that I can control?” The clear answer will obviously be “no.” So then ask yourself “what can I control right now?” The answer should be something like “I can call my friend and let them know” or “I can control how I respond to this situation” and then let go and try to enjoy a few minutes of quiet by yourself during an otherwise busy day. Or listening to some music you love. Or finally check out that podcast your friend’s been telling you about.
Take control over what you can take control over. Let go of the worry over what you cannot. See how that feels. I bet it feels better than the alternative, or the standard, reactionary response we all have to traffic which is fury or road rage.
Stoic philosophy is all about taking control of ourselves, and loosening the grip that our reactions to the world around us have on our happiness. We take control where we can take control. And we let the rest go.
What are your thoughts? Ever read up on Stoicism? Tried it on for size? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a note in the comments below!