Chin up, everyone

The guiding principles to life with The Daily Stoic

When I hear the word “stoic” in casual conversation, the image of a straight-backed, stony-faced, usually male person comes to mind, determinedly not showing the toll of an emotional scene, or the pangs of an injury. But what I did not know until Ryan Holiday’s and Stephen Hanselman’s self-help guide The Daily Stoic came across my desk was that the word itself has quite an ancient history.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stoicism and the Stoics date back to the Hellenistic period of Ancient Greece (think 3rd century BCE), and later thrived in Ancient Rome, influencing various emperors such as Marcus Aurelius. The Greek Stoics believed in the weakness of those afflicted by fear, envy, love, passion, and lust, instead hailing only those sages that had attained “moral and intellectual perfection.” The Romans took it one step further, as they so often did, saying that only sages were free of the slavery of all other mortals, because only they are the truly virtuous.

To elucidate more upon Stoic philosophy would require much more explanation. Instead, I move now to the modern application of Stoicism as exemplified in The Daily Stoic. Holiday and Hanselman have not written a guide to free oneself of immoral slavery; instead they focus on “the art of living,” revolving around three disciplines.

1. Perception
There is a reason that a face belying little emotion connotes Stoicism. A true Stoic needs to possess an internal peace that enables a perception of the world unbiased by emotion or external interference. This peace is reflected in an external expression of serenity. A key way of achieving this is by focusing only on what is within their own power to control.

2. Action
After learning to control only that which they can, a Stoic is unhindered and unbiased. They act in the best interest of themselves and those around them, because they focus only on the attainable. Stoics’ actions are marked by kindness, cooperation, and righteousness. However, each action must be evaluated and weighed beforehand.

3. Will
The same ability to accept that which they cannot control means that Stoics can confront challenges face on, with determination. Their goal is to either overcome the obstacle or to learn from their failure. This willingness to confront those very challenges is what makes them ever stronger.

This might sound as if someone interested in Stoicism has a daunting task ahead of them. Which, in fact, they do. But as the subtitle of Holiday’s and Hanselman’s book explains, they have laid out 366 exercises in gradually learning how to practice Stoicism, as opposed to tackling it all in one go. Who is up for a year-long challenge?

Happy hump day, Instareaders.

Sarah for Team Instaread
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