Why Stoicism

My motivations

3 minute read

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” ― Socrates.

Why then must you not strengthen your mind the same way?

The bedrock of stoicism is this one thought: Control what you can and accept what you can’t. An offshoot of accepting that way of living is that you learn to turn obstacles to your advantage.

Put in other words - chose what you want to give a F*$k about. You have a limited number of F’s to give so why spend them on things you can not possibly control or change?

But why spend any time and mental energy rewiring your brain to think a different way at all?

I believe there is a strength in the stoic way of thinking and living. Even if you never come close to achieving the stoic ideal - there is a process that makes you more refined, puts you in the fire and on the anvil and you end up better for it.

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school…it is to solve some of the problems of life not only theoretically, but practically. - Thoreau

So what is my problem?

I notice myself being sensitive to the attitudes and words of people around me. A bad tempered person sours me, a rude comment sets off a train of thought in my mind, and foul moods are infectious. All these vulnerabilities diminish me and my potential. So often have I turned in a sub-par performance because someone was difficult. Too often have I not been conscientious because someone was nasty. When the choleric clouds disperse I find myself lacking faith in myself and feeling like a lesser person.

To many it seems elementary. Why give a fuck about people at all? It is so obvious. My point is, it is not obvious to me - so indulge me.

The stoic sage is an impossible ideal - to be sick and happy, disgraced and happy, in danger and perfectly calm. But it an ideal worth aspiring to because of the path it takes.

The first step is the Discipline of perception. How can it help my case?

When dealing with difficult people, I like to tell myself: People are not evil. They are stupid, incompetent, looking out for themselves or ignorant. But people are not evil. It has helped me separate the words from the voice. I can not help that someone has a nasty disposition, that someone loses their lid when they can’t help you, that people find it offensive to their person if you do not immediately see their ability. All that stems from things I do not know - ego, self doubt, a difficult day or simply not being able to communicate - things I can not control and are not my fault.

I do not want to feel anger in the face of inability, frustration is the face of disappointment and hostility in the face of misbehavior. The first step is to internalize that I can not control the way people act, only the way I react.