Stoicism is a school of Philosophy that intrigued me at a time where my self-defeating behavior was at its peak.
I had trouble dealing with frustration, failure, stress, and fear.
It felt nearly impossible to adapt to a new mindset to guide me to a more fruitful and productive lifestyle — until I read one of the most revered stoic’s teachings, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
Aurelius was known to be one of the most powerful men on earth, as well as the last of the “Five Good Emperors.”
He ruled the Roman Empire, untainted by wealth, praise, or power. His ability to practice humility, compassion, and mindfulness is nothing short of inspiring.
“The mind is the ruler of the soul. It should remain unstirred by agitations of the flesh — gentle and violent ones alike. Not mingling with them, but fencing itself off and keeping those feelings in their place. When they make their way into your thoughts, through the sympathetic link between mind and body, don’t try to resist the sensation. The sensation is natural. But don’t let the mind start in with judgments, calling it ‘good’ or ‘bad.”
It will be difficult to apply at first, because in any unfortunate event, it’s almost natural for you to stamp a label that says “bad.”
But that’s only one side of the story.
The other side will show you that you survived this event, and have learned from it. So now you are better off. Instead of viewing yourself as a victim, choose to view it as a lesson learned.
You are now stronger because this specific thing happened. It didn’t kill you; it only made you wiser and more experienced.
“Leave other people’s mistakes where they lie.”
I am certain that what he means is when someone attempts to harm you or stir up anger and frustration, that is not your problem.
It is their problem.
It is degrading their character and ruining their mind. Not yours. If you choose to view this as an attack, an unfortunate event, your mind perceives it that way and causes you to feel anger and frustration as well.
We are responsible for ourselves. That includes how we feel, the thoughts we tell ourselves, and the actions we commit. When someone attempts to obstruct you, realize that it is their mistake, not yours.
“You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves.”
It’s easy to throw your hands up once your ego is under attack. But why add needless suffering to your life? Why pay mind to needless judgments and opinions?
I always say there’s two sides to a story. You can choose to be angry or frustrated or stressed out — that’s the easy way out — or you can choose to move forward, adapt, and learn from this event; which in most cases, is always the hardest thing to do.
So now you’re left with something that easy versus something hard. The outcomes are pretty obvious.
Which one do you want for yourself?
“Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?”
I try to go through my days with my own efforts and determination. It’s a good practice, sure, but sometimes it’s best to combine your efforts with someone else, such as a friend or family member or peer.
Many times, we are unaware of the valuable skills our network possess.
Some are better at certain skills like time management than we are. Instead of trying to get it all done by yourself, why not ask for some help? Get your team involved.
A helping hand isn’t one that you should smack down.
“Either pain affects the body (which is the body’s problem) or it affects the soul. But the soul can choose to not be affected, preserving its own serenity, its own tranquility. All our decisions, urges, desires, aversions lie within. No evil can touch them.”
The stoic mindset is difficult to adapt to; I find myself losing sight of Marcus’s teachings, because the behavior that has carried me my whole life never made me aware of how much control we have over ourselves.
Once you start changing your perspective on things — and believe in it — only then can you really start to negate the false dangers that we’ve been conditioned to accept.
Everyday we battle plenty of distractions. We can choose to be frustrated, angry, and resentful … or not, which is an extremely powerful responsibility.
Choice is Always Present
Choose not to be affected by the distractions that come your way, and you can continue staying focused on what truly matters in your day-to-day life.
You can spend your energy efficiently and give your attention to the things that really deserve it.
What are your thoughts on Marcus’s teachings? Do you have any quotes of your own that help you get through the day? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.