Why become a Modern Stoic?
15 quotes explaining why the Stoicism is a perfect personal philosophy
I believe that all of the smartest philosophies on earth are already invented. I do not need to reinvent the wheel, I simply need to resurface the ideas of the past, and then build my mindset like a puzzle finding practical applications of the forgotten ideas to my life.
I live in an amazing time of the history of humanity — the pace of change is unprecedented. And life keeps getting faster. In order not to get gone with the whirlwind of helter-skelter that a new day on supersonic speeds brings me I need to anchor myself down with a strong mind and a deep fundamental philosophy within.
Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus — the teachings of these men became pillars of what we know as Stoicism. I am convinced that this philosophy alone has everything one should know to live a good life. Its time has come.
Here is my list of pearls of wisdom that are extremely practical and applicable in today’s life and become your core mindset and contribute to your personal philosophy.
Know your freedom.
No man is free who is not master of himself.
Whatever the life situation I find myself in I face a dilemma. Between the external stimulus and my reaction lies a choice. I always have a choice to take my time and breathe and decide what is the best way to respond. I have a choice to say something or not to say it. I have a choice to keep my position or to walk away. I have a choice to let people stay in my life or to let them go.
I should take the responsibility for growth of my emotional intelligence, as, for the most part, the EQ is not the understanding of the emotions, and reasoning about where they come from and how to react, but the habit of taking a pause. This pause is the difference between ReaCting and CReating.
The self-mastery is a skill to move the body at will, to speak at will, to focus the attention at will. And as all skills, it is absolutely attainable. The path of self-mastery is the hardest yet the most rewarding journey one will ever start.
Define the Circle of influence and Circle of Concern.
Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.
This is one of the most powerful instruments of Stoicism. Two circles represent the things that I can control, and the things that I might worry about.
Circle of Influence includes things like:
- Where I work
- What I buy
- What I read
- What skills I learn
- What people I meet
- My attitude towards the life
Circle of Concern includes:
- Political views of other people
- Natural disasters
- Wars, weapons, and terrorists
- Sex lives of celebrities
- What other people think
Both lists can be continued. The life-changing question that I constantly ask myself is: “How much of a change this particular thing I am interested in at a present moment can bring to my life?”. This is the tipping point. This is all that matters.
Develop the right attitude towards the death for once
It’s not a death that man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.
The sooner one defines his attitude towards the death the better. The fear of death is somewhat abstract, it is something like a fear of not being born. Of course, I might be afraid of a horrible death, but deep inside I still believe that it is not going to happen to me.
The only solution I see practical is to keep myself busy being driven by other fears. For example, a fear of being mediocre or a fear of living a life full of regrets.
I don’t avoid the thoughts about the death at all, quite the opposite, I do think about it, but not more than 5 minutes a day. Otherwise, it becomes counter-productive.
Choose discomfort. Constantly challenge yourself.
Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.
Hardships make me question the life, but the memories of them are sweet. I greet discomfort, I cherish it, as with the slightest signs of it I know — I am growing. It takes discipline to be a captain of my ship, to live by my own rules, to acquire the value that I am able to gift to other people.
By deliberately choosing discomfort I seek discipline by
- Taking cold showers
- Giving public talks
- Getting to the top of the mountains
- Waking up early
- Long sessions of deep work
I learned so much about myself in the situations when life was not comfortable.
I have developed stress resistance seeking resilience.
I developed gratitude that taught me kindness and compassion.
Every time I start a new challenge I know I am not gonna like it.
But I will come back for more.
Envision and create yourself.
First, say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.
Can I move a pen with the power of thought?
Yes, I can.
Here, I stretch out the hand, take a pen in my hand, and I move it.
Now I have just become a person who moved a pen.
Sounds stupid, but this is exactly how we shape the reality around us. This is how our thoughts materialize themselves. Some ideas are big hence have bigger inertia and take a longer time to materialize. Others are doable within 2 minutes and will bring instant result. But the principle is same.
I have to stretch out the hand.
I have very clear pictures of my past selves, and the image of my future selves in 5 years or more are so blurry, yet all of them already exist within the present me.
All the ‘I’ ’that I was, and those ‘I’ that are destined to come, are all one. I shall not treat my future selves as strangers, rather I shall meet them like old friends.
Here is a simple practice that gave me tons of the insights.
I write letters to my future self. It is so much fun to read congratulations for the Birthday from myself after a year, and it also helps me to meditate on my progress and set new goals. Highly recommend.
Embody your philosophy.
Waste no time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.
There is no direct way of changing the world. I can only change it by changing myself. I can’t contribute to other people’s lives if I don’t have good within.
It is solely my responsibility, to make sure that everyone who happened to touch my life leaves enriched.
Honestly, the life is a tough thing by itself, no need to complicate it further, we should help each other to get through it. And we can only do so by making ourselves better.
The knowledge that you possess deserves distribution if it can inspire someone, and there is no better way to live but to be a person to whom others look up to. Elevate others, stay with those who elevate you.
Keep company with those who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.
Be on a Mission
If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.
Here is a Mission letter I wrote to myself:
Goals change. I change.
Mission stays the same.
Formulate it. Crystallize it. Embrace it and live by it.
- Grow a tree. Build a house. Raise a child.
- Love your partner. Take care of your parents. Hold dear your friends.
- Build your business. Foster your relationships. Leave a legacy.
Be a life student.
As long as you live, keep learning how to live.
When I asked my Grandma who is now 82 years old: “When did you learn about life?”
She said: “I still do.”
The humility is the secret to be open to new knowledge. Every person I meet in life is my teacher.
Even someone who I know from the bad side only can teach me about the false ego — the anger, the greed, the jealousy, all of the qualities that I don’t want to absorb. Ancient stoics whisper through centuries:
Don’t try to be happy. Be happy.
The essence of philosophy is that we should live so that our happiness depends as little as possible on external causes.
By fostering the right adequate attitude towards reality I learn how to stay calm and proactive.
I learn how to master my mind.
Happiness is an illusion. As a concept, I think of it as something that always lingers somewhere in the future. I used to think: “Oh, I need this, I need that, I will go there, and on that day I will be happy!”.
Truth stays when illusion fades away.
I can’t be happy chasing happiness.
However, the blissful serenity is within my grasp. The present moment is here and it is real. I just have to
Begin to at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.
It takes a reading of hundreds of books to find a way to these two.
These books are essential for our evolution as human species to the new level of consciousness.
Staying present is an achievable skill, and practicing it lets me live my life to the fullest.
Take 100% responsibility
Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.
Great things happen to those who take action. To those who show up, speak up, and are audacious.
Playing the main role, or standing aside watching is a matter of choice.
The life is the movie that is already happening. Am I an actor, or am I the director?
It is not about what kind of movie I watch, it is about what reel do I load in my projector and show to myself.
There are people who think that things happen to them, and those who make things happen. There are people who watch the movie and those who announce a showtime.
I shall make no excuses.
No parents, no government, no friends, no society, no system decide who I am.
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
If I imagine that I am in somebody’s home, and the host tells me to go away. I wouldn’t be angry. Why would I be, right? It’s their home.
Now, if I imagine that I have a guest in my home, and he tells me: “Get outta here!” What would my reaction be?
Pretty pissed off, I suppose. Most people in my place would be like: “What the hell?! This is my place!”.
The point that I am trying to make is that we must develop an understanding that nothing belongs to us here.
This planet is not my place. I am a guest. I am here temporarily.
This planet is my home, but there are other tenants to come after me — my children. When the time will come, in what condition will I give them my home? I should try to make it a better place while I am here.
I will not be able to take my house, my money, my car or that shiny new phone. It will all stay here. This could sound like a bitter truth but it sobers up.
It reminds me that the best things in life are not things at all.
Serve to your loved ones
If you wished to be loved, love.
This word is overused.
There was always too much hype about love. There are as many definitions of love as there are people on this planet making it a very abstract thing to talk about.
Abstract things are impractical, they don’t tell me what to do. They don’t teach me how to keep my relationships sustainable.
There are no guidelines on how to learn how to love. But there is one thing that I can learn — I can learn how to serve.
Service is the thing that helps families stay strong at dark times. Service is unconditional.
Service is something as simple as seeing the dirty dishes in the sink and washing them without mentioning it. Service is taking care of my wife when she is sick. Service is taking care of parents and raising children. Service is sacrificing my own resources for the benefit of my friend.
I struggle to find a definition of love, and maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to know it at all. All I need is the service, and that alone will be enough.
Keep it light
He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh.
“Why so serious, son?”
Life is fun. My friends are fun. I am fun.
The best thing about the sense of humor is that once developed in the early years of the life it stays the same. Well, certainly in case of some people it could be the worst thing too.
I keep it light. I learned how to laugh at myself. And I don’t take myself seriously.
Life is too short to take it seriously.
This essay too.
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