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Published On: Wed, Aug 8th, 2018

What is stoicism

Most of us live our lives in the real world, which means that we have jobs, be they more flexible or not, families and friends, and responsibilities. Rational people can sometimes look at philosophy with a critical eye because the common misconception is that individuals who are prone to developing theories are less likely to be anchored in today’s realities.

But did you know that one branch of philosophy actually speaks to those living in the real world? It’s called Stoicism and it was founded in the 3rd century BC in Athens, by Zeno of Citium. Famous practitioners range from Seneca to Marcus Aurelius.

Here are some things you might want to know if you’ve never heard of Stoicism before and if you’re finding it hard to believe that it’s actually quite practical.

photo/ Michael Shelmet

A love of fate

One of the core values of stoicism is that it teaches people that their lives are finite. It is, therefore, crucial to enjoy whatever’s happening in our lives. No matter if you face adversity as Epictetus did as a crippled slave, there are some things, be they in nature or in the social relationships you’ve built over time, that can leave you amazed at how wondrous everything is.

One Stoic exercise is to understand that things can sometimes be outside our control, so it is important for any human being to understand that he or she has to make the best of it. Embrace success and failure because they both shape you as the human you’ll be years from now.

Prepare for the worst

Since life isn’t neverending, nor can it be predictable, there are some negative events that will happen sooner or later. While it is not a good idea to dwell on them and worry about them occurring at any moment, Stoicism tells us that we should practice negative visualization. What’s this?

Be prepared for life’s setbacks. We don’t always deserve them, but they will happen. Seneca used to review his plans before taking a trip and then go over the things that might either prevent it from ever happening or the events that could make it turn sour. Disruption took him fairly rarely by surprise on account of him being so pre-emptive.

Have a general view of things

Marcus Aurelius loved taking the view from above. Some of his most famous quotes revolve around looking at the tiny details that make up the scenery, whether they are humans, events, objects, animals, or anything else.

The view from above can help us realize just how little we are in comparison to the rest of the world. Each of our daily worries, such as accumulating power or wealth, will inevitably seem meaningless when compared to how large the rest of the universe is and how important values like family and friendship can be.

According to Pierre Hadot, another Stoic scholar, realizing how small we are in the grand scheme of things is just one part of the exercise. We might be unique, but we’re also interconnected to the rest of our species and more importantly, to the people around us.

Author: Vlad George

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