Stoicism, a philosophy born in ancient Greece, is all about living a life filled with meaning and becoming your best self. It’s like having a moral compass based on logic and understanding the world around us. Imagine striving for a meaningful life, where being virtuous leads to happiness. It’s about being ethical and believing that this can truly make our lives better.
Now, you might wonder what it means to pursue virtue. It’s pretty simple, really. It’s about striving to be the person you ideally want to be, the best version of yourself. When you become the person you aspire to be, happiness naturally follows.
“A good character is the only guarantee of permanent, carefree happiness.” – Seneca, Ethical Letters – Stoicism in Life
Stoicism also teaches us that happiness is our own responsibility. The first step? Taking charge of who we are and our life’s situation. Only then can we transform into the individuals we aim to be, finding satisfaction and joy in our journey.
But, embracing Stoicism and achieving a fulfilling life isn’t a walk in the park. It requires patience and practicing its principles with an open and relaxed mindset.
1. Stop Worrying About What You Cannot Control
In Stoicism, there’s a powerful idea: you can’t control the world around you, but you can control how you react to it. This is crucial for understanding why letting go of worries about things you can’t control can lead to a happier life.
“There is only one way to be happy and that is to stop worrying about things that are beyond the power of our will.” – Epictetus, Discourses
Think about it this way: life is full of things we just can’t control. This includes external events, other people’s actions, nature, our genetics, or our past. Trying to control or worrying about these things is a bit like trying to stop the rain – it’s simply not going to happen, and it only adds stress and difficulty to your life.
The discomfort, sadness, or frustration we often feel usually comes from trying to control these uncontrollable aspects. By accepting that there are things beyond our control, we can start focusing on what we can control. This shift in focus is freeing. It allows you to concentrate on your reactions, your attitudes, and your actions – the real areas where you have power.
When you stop worrying about the uncontrollable, you free up a lot of mental space and energy. This can be invested in actions and thoughts that actually improve your life. This is the Stoic way of finding peace and, ultimately, a path to a happier existence. You’re no longer fighting a losing battle against the uncontrollable, but rather working productively within your own realm of influence.
2. Focus On What You Can Control
In Stoicism, the key to happiness lies in focusing on what you can control – mainly your thoughts and actions. While the world around you, including external events and other people, is often out of your hands, your reactions and judgments are not.
“Some things are within our power, while other things are not. Within our power are our attitudes, motivations, desires, aversions, and, in a word, any what we do.” – Epictetus, Enchiridion
Imagine your life as a play where you can’t control the script, the other actors, or the set. What you do have control over is how you perform your role. This is where Stoicism shines. It tells you that even if you can’t control external events, you can control how you perceive and react to them. This perception and reaction are the true determinants of your happiness and well-being.
“Where then should I look for good and evil? Not in uncontrollable external things, but within myself in the face of my own choices…” – Epictetus, Discourses
By focusing on your thoughts and actions, you’re investing your energy where it counts. You’re not wasting it on things outside your control. This shift in focus is empowering. It helps you realize that your power lies in your responses, not in the events themselves.
Remember, it’s not about the events that happen to you, but how you interpret and respond to them. This is where your strength lies. When you constantly remind yourself of this and practice it, you’ll find yourself less fearful and worried. You’ll be better equipped to invest your efforts in becoming the person you want to be, leading to a more fulfilled and happier life.
3. Desire Less
In Stoicism, the concept of desiring less is a key to happiness. Often, people believe that acquiring more – be it success, money, fame, talents, time, or possessions – leads to happiness. But this constant pursuit for more can actually make life more complicated and less satisfying. It turns us into slaves to our own desires.
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” – Epictetus
Stoic philosophers teach that by simply desiring less, you can free yourself. If your happiness hinges on what you don’t have, you’ll likely be unhappy. The real wealth and power come from how you utilize what you already own. It’s not just about having things, but how you use them that adds value.
Expecting life to give you everything you want sets you up for constant disappointment. Instead, accepting and appreciating what you have, and then making the most of it, is a more fulfilling approach.
Of course, it’s natural to have desires – for necessities, a comfortable life, and to dream and aspire. You should strive to improve yourself and your circumstances, building a better life for you and your loved ones. These are part of self-improvement and life enhancement.
Stoicism doesn’t ask you to eliminate desires altogether. Instead, it encourages you to desire wisely, cherish what you have, and use it to your advantage. By focusing less on acquiring more and more on appreciating and utilizing what you already possess, you pave the way for a more contented and happier life.
4. Simplify Your Life
Simplifying your life is a core principle of Stoicism that can lead to greater happiness. The Stoic philosophy emphasizes living simply and focusing on essentials, arguing that true contentment comes from within, not from external possessions or achievements.
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” – Seneca
The key here is understanding that most of what we need for happiness is already within us. Yes, there are basic physical needs that must be met, but beyond that, our lives often become cluttered with non-essentials. Simplification isn’t just about physical belongings; it’s also about clearing out unnecessary thoughts and actions that don’t contribute positively to our lives.
Regularly ask yourself whether your thoughts and actions are helping you move forward or improve your life. Essentials are things that help you progress, become better, and happier. If something isn’t essential, consider removing it from your life.
By continually questioning the necessity of things in your life and eliminating the non-essentials, you create more space for personal growth and peace. This simplicity allows you to focus on what truly matters, reducing stress and increasing happiness.