You live a stoic life by becoming better at overcoming adversity, practicing self-control, being aware of your impulses, understanding how short your life is, understanding how little time you are allocated and how to achieve inner peace.
Exercises have been used by millions of people for thousands of years.
They can be implemented in real life and the reason why they work is that they are rooted in life experience and common sense.
You do not need any equipment, course, book or be at any “level” to perform them.
You just need to put in the time and energy. It is important that we understand the obstacles we face instead of fleeing from them.
It is necessary that we learn to use them as fuel for our fire.
More in-depth look on how to live a stoic life
How do we live a stoic life? You live a stoic life by controlling strong emotions (pathos) of envy, fear, anger, desire and even compassion that we can live in harmony, according to Stoicism.
Compassion for the self was also undesirable and therefore suicide was considered a fully achievable solution to save oneself and others’ suffering.
For the Stoics, bodily things were to be restrained, whether they were sensual desires or torments.
This is done by shifting all focus to thoughts and reason. In Self-Considerations, Marcus Aurelius writes, “When you are troubled by external circumstances, immediately enter into yourself and do not let yourself be brought out of balance more than is inevitable.”
From a psychological point of view, it is of course possible to object to a way of life so fully based on a rational basis and without special interests for the one person.
That everything, regardless of being “satisfied with everything that happens to me” is one of the stoic principles that requires a lot to comply with.
The Roman philosopher Seneca describes in On the Happy Life one of the basic ideas of Stoicism, namely to live in adaptation to nature.
We must largely be content with what nature equips us with and not let “the possessions of others have power over us”.
The ideal prescribed by the ancient Greek Stoics has today lived on in the word Stoic with meanings such as calm and controlled (the Stoics themselves used the word ataraxia, peace of mind).
Whoever behaves stoically retains his composure no matter what happens.
12 ways to live a stoic life
1. Exercise poverty and discontent
Here are the reasons:
- Being rich means nothing if you lose control of reality, and it becomes difficult to maintain wealth if you have no other happiness in life.
- Emotions such as fear and anxiety almost never have their roots in experience. Therefore, you should make yourself comfortable with the worst possible outcome, because the truth is that it is rarely as bad as you expect.
2. Stoicism and physical training in self-control
This exercise consists of purposefully experiencing physical difficulties and living without “everyday luxury”.
In a way, you can see it as a practical version of negative visualization. I think it’s important to see everything as transient.
You, the things you own and everyone you know will one day disappear. Imagine that you have everything on loan.
Instead of saying “I have lost it”, say “I have given it back”. Physical training in self-control serves a dual purpose: To prepare for physical difficulties or to lose some, or all, of what we have.
To train us not to want things that are beyond our control.
Remember that we can only control our thoughts and our actions.
3. Train your observation skills
What we can do to train our observational ability is to see every adversity as a chance for learning.
For a Stoic, there are no good or bad situations.
Only observations, personal experiences and consequential actions.
4. Negative visualization
Hedonic Adaptationmeans is a phenomenon that means we are constantly getting used to things we have and then start taking them for granted.
Negative visualization is a simple and insanely effective exercise from Stoicism that can remind us how good we are.
This has been my favorite exercise to make me appreciate the present instead of postponing happiness, peace of mind, satisfaction or whatever you are looking for.
Even if you do not believe in this type of pessimism, it is a leading step towards a happy and meaningful life.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. ” – Marcus Arelius
5. Remember how insignificant everything is
The key is to remind yourself how small you are, and how small everything is.
Newfound success and wealth will soon become the status quo, and your possessions exist only for a moment in the timeline of your life.
So if nothing matters, what does matter? To be here and now. To be a good person who does what is right.
Steve Jobs, as an example, was motivated by this:
“We do not get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So, it better be damn good. It better be worth it. ” – Steve Jobs
6. Self-retreat also called meditation
Meditation is for the Stoics a way to gain self-insight.
It is a chance to reflect on your life, your choices and your actions. Part of the meditation is to remind you that you are mortal, that life is short and not to waste your time on unnecessary thoughts and feelings.
Constantly reminding yourself that you will die is only depressing if you do not understand the point.
It’s about self-motivation, achieving what you want with life and not postponing things until the next day.
Nowhere else are you as free as in your own mind.
You may be different there, right now. All you need is five to ten minutes a day to shut out the outside world and look inside yourself.
Some things you can reflect on when practicing a self-retreat or meditation are:
- You are not disturbed by events, but by your opinion of events.
- Everything is constantly changing and there is nothing you can do about it.
- You will not live forever.
7. Practice seeing things from a larger perspective
Just like the previous exercise, this exercise teaches us to see how small we are in the big picture.
It gives us perspective to think of all the 10 million people living in Sweden, the 1.5 billion living in China, and the 7.7 billion people in the world.
Is there anyone who is worse off than you?
If you were to sit face to face and compare problems, would you be ashamed to tell about your adversity?
The right perspective makes our small problems disappear, and understand that we may not have it as bad as we might think.
8. Cultivation of charity
So how do we cultivate charity?
Our goal should be to try to reach everyone in a closer layer.
Think of your family as an extension of yourself and your fellow human beings as your family, all the way to thinking of humanity as countrymen and women.
The Stoic philosopher Hierocles went so far as to say that we should see our siblings as if they were parts of our own body, like an arm or a leg.
Of course, it requires a big change in perspective and a lot of effort, but it has its advantages.
- Start talking to a stranger.
- Let your close friends know that you consider them part of your family and that they should be able to trust you as such.
9. Ask yourself, “Is this something I have control over?”
This is the most important principle in Stoicism:
To be able to distinguish between what we have control over, and what we do not have control over.
You can wish for as much as you want, but you will not get taller or shorter. You will not be able to revive a deceased relative, and no matter how much you want, you will not win the lottery.
The time you spend wishing, wanting, trying is wasted.
What you have control over, however, are your actions and feelings towards these desires.
Can you do anything to actually get one step closer to your desire? If you can, why have you not done so yet? If you have not done so yet, is your desire really strong enough?
Stoicism teaches us to distinguish between what we can control and what we cannot control.
10. Reflection / Journal writing
You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand this.
Reflection is good. It’s not just about planning what to do that day but also about how you can react to what you are going to do, what others are doing and how you can act in the best way.
Be thankful that you woke up today.
Many people did not have this privilege. Plan how you will embrace your virtues and avoid your vices.
Choose a practical philosophical thinking or a personal strength you want to cultivate and think about how you can implement it during the day.
Prepare for how you will be able to handle any difficult situations that you know may arise.
Remind yourself that the only thing you can control is your thoughts and actions.
Everything else is uncontrollable. Instead of thinking about what will happen, you should reflect on what has happened.
Play the day mentally and then ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I act in accordance with my principles?
- Did I treat people I had contact with in a friendly and caring way?
- What loads have I struggled with?
- Have I made myself a better person by cultivating my virtues?
In other words: Learn from your mistakes!
Write down one thing you want to improve the next day, no matter how small. You will be amazed at how you change if you continue to do this for several months in a row.
11. Amor Fati – Love everything that happens
Although the Stoics were obsessed with having this attitude to life, it was Friedrich Nietzsche who described the greatness of man as “Amor Fati” – a love of destiny.
Amor Fati is perhaps the ultimate exercise to learn to take advantage of all the opportunities that are given and not to waste them.
Realizing that all the obstacles and setbacks you experience are like the logs being thrown on an already burning fire.
It is the fuel for you to keep moving forward, and to take advantage of every opportunity along the way.
12. The consideration of the perfect man (or woman)
This exercise is designed to provide a catalyst for change towards becoming a perfect human being.
One thing to keep in mind is that the pursuit of becoming the “perfect human being” is a goal that cannot be achieved.
Where do we start?
For the sake of simplicity, we say that the Greek and Roman statues represent physical perfection, so let’s focus instead on the psychological aspects.
Think about the qualities that make up the perfect person.
What are the characteristics of this perfect character? In some respects it is a difficult question to answer and it can be easier to focus on what the perfect person is doing in any given situation.
From their actions, you can then try to determine their inner qualities and hopefully begin to emulate them.
Just remember that the ideal person does not exist…
Stoicism is an ideal philosophy for today’s world. In a world (and in a country) where the most trivial events can be blown up to become grand popular drives is unfortunate.
Do you get closer to your dream job because you will be sad if your job application is rejected?
Probably not. Is there anything you can control at all?
Absolutely, you can check your education, how to apply and what is in your application. You can do no more than your best.
Will you get less back pain because you complain about how much back pain you have?
No. If you take a step back, and try to imagine how people in your seat feel in e.g. Cambodia, Pakistan, some parts of India – are they feeling better or worse?
If your job is affected, can you get another job?
Asking for help is the greatest strength you can have. For most people, the help we need is already within us.
The principles of Stoicism can help you along the way, or they may not.
It’s up to you, and no one else.
How to worry less about money
I know I write about how to make money easy, and so on. But I wanted to share a video I found on Youtube that does not necessarily fix your finacial problems directly, but instead helps you get a more stress free look on your wealth.
Hope you enjoy!
Seneca. (2012). About the shortness of life and other writings
Book by Marcus Aurelius – Meditations