Is it possible to live today with Stoic habits?

It’s not only possible, it’s actually doable and beneficial for your personal development! The Stoics left us a blueprint for living that can make life easier to manage, instead of fighting it and resisting the things that don’t go our way. And no, it’s not just pure philosophy; it’s specific tips on how we can navigate life more successfully. They already did the hard work of setting the strategy. Now all we need to do is follow it and incorporate it into our 21st century life.

It can be done.

Here are 10 habits to help you live like a Stoic.

Stoic habit #1. Don’t waste energy on pointless activities.

The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca devotes a section of his book On the Shortness of Life to this problem that plagued people even back then. He describes gluttony, vanity, focusing on materialistic things and trying to impress others. That’s not at all unlike our own world that’s focused on social media and often on creating a superficial image of lifestyles we see on Facebook and Instagram. There are ways to use your time more wisely: always focus on a specific goal you are striving towards. Don’t just keep it on an abstract level; actually create a plan to reach it. And don’t let random situations, chance, or other people’s behavior dictate how you lead your life. Seneca says that nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation.

Stoic habit #2. Practice gratitude for what you have today.

It’s common to focus on the things we see other people have, and that can make us feel frustrated and eventually unhappy. Meanwhile, there’s so much you already do have going for you. Think about what those things are. Set aside a few minutes each day to develop your own practice of gratitude. For example: list 3 things you’re grateful for in your life this very moment: having a home, a job, a skill you are good at, or a close friend who you enjoy spending time with.

Stoic habit #3. Don’t complain; get proactive about what’s possible.

It’s easy to complain, we tend to do it by default. We are human. And it doesn’t really take effort to do so. However, complaining won’t change a thing. What will is taking a proactive stand. What does that mean? It means do something about it. If there’s a situation you don’t like, think of ways to change it. Brainstorm what you will need to change it too: more resources, knowledge of a topic, or just more time to reach a goal. For additional support, ask a trusted friend or someone who is an expert in the field.

Stoic habit #4. Don’t make comfort your priority.

Being stoic doesn’t mean surrounding yourself with material things or other people so that you feel comfortable and you expect will make you happy. It means taking life in stride and making peace with discomfort. Why is this important? Because having something today can easily mean you take it for granted and expect it to last forever. What if it doesn’t? Learn to rely on yourself so that when tough times come around, you’re better prepared to deal with them. You can practice this by trying to solve problems by yourself first, even if that means making mistakes, before you give up or turn to someone else to help you fix the situation.

Stoic habit #5. Learn to manage your thoughts.

On any given day, you have thousands of thoughts running through your mind, and let’s face it, a lot of them are not exactly sunny and happy ones. They can also be negative, self-critical, dismissive, they can focus on past failures or tap into your insecurities. Think about this powerful statement for a second: you are not your thoughts. There are ways to manage your thoughts more successfully and even change your entire mindset. Start with a 10-minute meditation to calm your thoughts and read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset which can impact your entire attitude and how you experience life.

Stoic habit #6. Accept that you cannot control life, but there some things you can change.

Sure, you can’t control life, no matter how much you feel a deep desire to do so. But you can control how you react to it. That is always your prerogative and your right as a human being. Don’t think it’s possible? Read Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning. It is a manual describing the psychology of survival, a real-life story written by a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who found strength to live in circumstances where most people would have given up. There are many lessons to take from this book that can last you a lifetime.

Stoic habit #7. Do your hard work first, before you do anything for pleasure.

On any given day, we give in to the urge to start our morning by checking social media apps on our phone and sending messages back and forth with our friends. But mornings are the ideal time of day to get the hardest work out of the way. Try maximizing each morning by building a habit of doing your hard work early. It will help you deal with the feelings of procrastination whenever you have to study for an exam or finish up a project for work. Even better: it will improve your focus and concentration so that your brain can do its brilliant work more efficiently and effectively than any other time of day.

Stoic habit #8. Learn to practice self-discipline with delayed gratification.

It may not seem like an awesome choice at first, but putting off doing what makes you feel great and gives you pleasure has its advantages. It’s about instilling a good dose of self-discipline so that you do something difficult first in order to reward yourself later. There’s even science to back this up: Stanford University’s Marshmallow experiment showed how delayed gratification can increase your chance at succeeding in many areas of your life. You can practice it too. For example, if you want to watch a movie or go out with friends, leave it for the evening after you have completed what you planned to work on during the day. And if you don’t finish it, don’t assume you’ll do it at midnight after you’re done having fun.

Stoic habit #9. Turn obstacles upside down by making them an opportunity to do something different.

What often happens when we are faced with an obstacle is that we stop everything we are doing and we start reacting, often emotionally. Maybe it’s a sign that we should just give up! Maybe it’s just too hard! Those are all emotional reactions. You can change your approach in three ways. First, start anticipating that there will be obstacles you will encounter on your path. If you prepare yourself psychologically for them, they won’t feel so devastating when they actually do happen. Second, use the opportunity to learn something new, to take a different approach to the problem, to think it through, and to try something different that can yield better results. And third, take advantage of the tough times to achieve mastery in one area so that you can become an expert at something.

Stoic habit #10. Work with, and not against your nature.

The Stoics didn’t believe in having to change ourselves completely in order to lead a life of quality. They believed that we should take advantage of our unique strengths and abilities. You can practice this in two ways. First, take an honest look at yourself: who you are, what you are doing, where you are going with your life. Are you overestimating your abilities or are you being objective and realistic about what you can do and how you can reach your goals? And second, think how you can take advantage of what you have going for you: your personality, your preferences, the things you’re good at, the skills you possess and take pride in. Then focus on doing exactly that and on developing your strengths, instead of worrying about potential weaknesses or the things you don’t already possess.

There’s a wonderful quote by Marcus Aurelius that sums up Stoic life really well:

Objective judgement, now, at this very moment.

Unselfish action, now, at this very moment.

Willing acceptance – now, at this very moment – of all external events.

That’s all you need.

If you’d like to read more, here are some book recommendations to explore the Stoic way of life:

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