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5 Practices of Stoicism That Are Useful in Modern Life

  • November 6, 2023
  • 5 min read
5 Practices of Stoicism That Are Useful in Modern Life

Once Zeno of China, disillusioned with his teachers Kratetas, Stilpon, and Diodorus, created his school that promoted the philosophy of Stoicism. Zeno’s teachings quickly became popular among free men and slaves alike. Surprisingly, thousands of years later, this philosophy is still relevant because it helps us fight destructive thoughts, confront toxic people, and tame the chaos we face every day. Sometimes you just need to stop, stop struggling, and consider the next step. Let’s find out what other stoicism practices you should adopt.

Look at the Problem From a Different Perspective

Sometimes intrusive thoughts don’t give rest and poison life, and you can not focus on really important things because of them. The “View from above” technique helps get rid of them. Marcus Aurelius, who learned from Heraclitus that the world is constantly changing, regularly performed this exercise. Its essence is the following: look at your problems from the other side. As the saying goes, if you can’t change the situation, change your attitude toward it. For example, you agreed to go on a picnic with your friends, but at the last moment they had urgent business. You can worry about it, blame your mates for all the troubles, or you can devote the evening to your hobby, reading recent sports insights on, a walk around the city, or any other activity that brings you pleasure. Remember the last time you were alone with yourself, dreaming and making plans? If it’s been a while, turning your friends down will be a great chance to do so.

Don’t Try to Impress

With the popularization of social media, society has come to demand continuous status updates, photo reports, and stories detailing everything we do. Friends, acquaintances, and ordinary people who “pass by” our page want to know what we eat, where we vacation, with whom we spend our free time, how we fight life’s challenges and win. It’s exhausting.

It’s interesting that Epictetus noticed such pride and narcissism in his students, and at that time, there were no telephones, computers, and the Internet. The philosopher never ceased to remind them that these qualities carry a hidden threat because living a life of ostentation distracts from the true purpose and deprives them of strength. Trying to get the approval of others, we stop living for ourselves and no longer enjoy what we do. And if friends give a negative assessment of our actions, it becomes the cause of the development of depression.

Control Your Emotions

The Stoics didn’t waste their energies on things they couldn’t change. They focused their attention on things within their control. Yet Epictetus was born a slave, abused by his master, and died in poverty and captivity. However, the Stoic wasn’t thinking about this. Even if the body wasn’t in his power, thoughts, desires, and insights always remained exclusively under his control.

At first glance, it may seem that this is negligible. But the most important possession is always intangible. If you think about it, it isn’t the things themselves that make us happy or unhappy, but only our perceptions of them. As soon as we give free rein to negative emotions, everything falls apart. It turns out that if we have control over our thoughts and aspirations, then happiness is also in our hands. We must not allow external conditions to influence our inner perception.

Meditate in the Morning

In his Discourses, Epictetus wrote that immediately after waking up, you should take time to reflect. Think about who you are, what you lack for equanimity, what you have done unkind to others, what duty you have failed to fulfill.

Take Epictetus’ advice and come up with a personal morning ritual. For example, devote time to meditation or exercise. Another option is to keep a journal in which you write down your hopes, thoughts and doubts every morning. The main point here is not the rituals themselves, but the reflections that accompany them. Take some time in the morning to look inside yourself, identify your fears, and tune in to the day ahead.

The Stoics considered such a pastime important, as philosophy and hard work can lead to better answers. Marcus Aurelius always found a few minutes to make a few notes, but not for someone else, but for himself. Take the example of the Stoics and start each morning with reflection by asking yourself challenging questions.

Cherish Your Time

Time is the greatest asset because unlike material possessions, it cannot be recovered. Therefore, it shouldn’t be wasted. People who devote time to useless activities, sooner or later realize that they haven’t achieved their goals. The same problem is faced by a person who freely gives time to others. Letting circumstances and others steal your precious minutes is a big mistake. We make commitments, sacrifice vacations for work, or solve friends’ problems without thinking about how it will turn out for us. Calendars, planners, and schedules were supposed to help us organize our day properly, but we still don’t have time for anything. We should realize that we don’t have a lot of time, so we need to take care of it and manage it properly.

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Alyona Jain