How To Use Philosophy To Cultivate Peace Of Mind

It’s time to stop worrying so damn much.

Matt Lillywhite
Nov 9, 2020 · 7 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Photo by pipe gil on Unsplash

If you’d like to feel less stressed, less anxious, and a lot happier each day, how do you start? Most people don’t know the answer. And consequently, they never implement the necessary steps to improve their mindset for the better. But you’re not like most people, are you? Of course not.

Quite rightly, you want the best for yourself. You want to obtain mental clarity and peace of mind. Because without even knowing you, I can tell that you want to live an incredibly happy life.

Fortunately, all of that is possible. Because long as humans have been alive, we’ve been documenting ways to live an extremely fulfilling life. Which is why I’ve gathered several lessons from some of the wisest people that ever lived. Each of the following insights completely changed my mindset for the better. Hopefully, they will do the same for you, too.

Love Everything That Happens (Amor Fati)

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche described his formula for genuine happiness as Amor Fati (a love of fate). Because a great truth of life is that you cannot choose your circumstances, only your response to them. So instead of wishing for an external event to be different, take a moment to accept the current situation and make the most of it. He writes:

“That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.”

There is no use in trying to change circumstances outside of your control, as that often won’t have any effect on the outcome. It’s a waste of time. Instead, a much better strategy is to be grateful for everything that happens.

If you want to live an incredibly happy life, love your fate. Focus solely on the things within your sphere of influence and stop worrying about everything you cannot control. For example:

  • If you’re stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, Amor Fati. Use it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with friends, family, and other people that matter to you.
  • If you lose your job, Amor Fati. You now have an excellent opportunity to retrain in another field, move to another city, or do anything else that may have previously been difficult to do.
  • If your partner breaks up with you, Amor Fati. At least you know they weren’t the right person to love for the rest of your life, so you can begin finding someone else who will make you happy.

Adversity and moments of hardship are inevitable. However, you don’t need to let them define you. Instead, try to remember that everything happens for a reason. Do whatever you can to make the most of the circumstances and create a better future. Practice gratitude for everything that happens.

Amor Fati.

Always Do The Right Thing.

Although the truth may be uncomfortable in the short-term, people will always respect your ability to remain honest in every situation. Like the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius wrote thousands of years ago:

“If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it.”

Let me tell you a story. I used to be scared of judgment and criticism. Every day, I acted like a people-pleaser. I was a “yes man.” But then I realized something: when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing nobody. The reason? People find it incredibly difficult to trust someone willing to do and say pretty much anything to avoid getting into arguments or confrontations.

Over the past twelve months, I’ve started treating every single person I meet with radical honesty. I always tell the truth and accept that some people inevitably won’t like me. But as a result, the quality of my relationships has massively improved. After all, it’s much easier to build a meaningful connection on truth instead of lies.

One of my favorite philosophers, Nassim Taleb, once wrote: “You are rich if the money you refuse tastes better than the money you accept.” You want to be able to go to sleep at night with peace of mind and wake up with a smile on your face. An honest life is so much better than a dishonest one.

Doing the right thing is always the right thing. So every day, we must ask ourselves what we can do each day to maintain our integrity and self-respect. More often than not, the answer is telling the truth. Because if we cannot trust ourselves to do the right thing, how can we expect others to do the same? We can’t.

Maintain your integrity. Practice honesty. Respect yourself. If you can do those things every day, the effect on your mindset will be incredibly profound.

Remember That You Will Die (Memento Mori)

When I read the following quote from Seneca, my jaw dropped to the floor:

“You are scared of dying. But is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?”

For all I know, I could get hit by a car this afternoon on the streets of Toronto. Perhaps I could die in a fiery plane crash while en-route to Australia. Or maybe, in ten years, I could get seriously injured in a horrific accident and succumb to my injuries.

So many of us live each day in a state of complacency. We keep telling ourselves the future will be better and that we can’t wait until the day we retire. But what if that day never comes?

The truth is that none of us know what will happen in the future. We can’t do anything about the inevitably of our death, whenever that may be. However, we can certainly live in the present moment and act with a sense of purpose.

Remember that you will eventually die. Sure, it might be a depressing thought at first. But it doesn’t have to be. The odds of being born are approximately 1 in 400 trillion. Life is incredibly rare. You have a limited amount of time on earth.

Make the most of it.

Withhold Judgement Of Other People

Every single person in the world has flaws. You. Me. Heck, even Leonardo DiCaprio, and Dwayne Johnson. So if you judge other people for being imperfect, you’re a massive hypocrite. Marcus Aurelius said it best:

“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”

The same concept also works in reverse: Whenever someone judges you for any of your imperfections, they’re also a hypocrite. Because chances are, they’re not a perfect human being either.

Remember that some people will dislike you, but that’s okay. Because when you create a life and mindset that makes you feel proud of who you are, nothing else matters. The only person’s opinion of you that genuinely matters is your own.

That’s why it’s important to withhold judgment of other people. You’re just trying your best to get through this experience called life. You’re facing your own problems, hardships, and many other things that strangers won’t know about. And so is everyone else.

Remember That Overthinking Isn’t The Answer To Your Problems

Seneca once said, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” He’s right. If you worry about everything that might go wrong, you’re not allowing yourself to focus on the things going well in life.

All too often, worry about circumstances that we can’t control, and end up overthinking every situation to a point where we become paralyzed by fear. As you know, that sucks.

Overthinking is not the answer to your problems. Neither is running from them. Instead, a much better strategy is understanding your fear so you can overcome whatever’s holding you back from living a happier life. Quoting Seneca once more:

“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”

I’ll give you a personal example. My social anxiety used to prevent me from making new friends and meeting new people. Deep down, I was scared that other people would judge me for the insecurities that I saw in myself.

But one day, I decided to stop overthinking. I told myself that I would try to speak to more people since sitting in my bedroom and worrying about things wouldn’t solve the problem. And sure enough, most people I spoke to ended up being incredibly friendly.

If overthinking won’t change the outcome of a situation, it probably a waste of time. Focus on what you can do in the present moment to create a better future. That’s all that matters.

I used to wake up each day, feeling incredibly miserable. I wanted to obtain mental clarity and peace of mind. However, I didn’t know the necessary steps to make my dreams a reality. But once I started implementing the above lessons from philosophy, my entire life and mindset changed for the better.

Suddenly, I felt much less stressed and anxious. During times of hardship and adversity, I maintained an optimistic mindset. I knew that no matter what, everything would be okay since everything happens for a reason.

You can use philosophy to change your life, as well. Do the right thing. Love everything that happens. Remember that you will eventually die. Withhold judgment of other people. And finally, remember that overthinking isn’t the answer to your problems.

I’m going to leave you with a beautiful quote from Viktor Frankl, who perfectly sums up what I’m trying to say:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

The Apeiron Blog — Big Questions, Made Simple.

We know that Philosophy can seem complicated at times. To make things simple, we compile together the best articles, news, reading lists — and other free resources to guide you on your journey. To continue with us, follow us on Medium and sign up to our free mailing list.

The Apeiron Blog

Exploring philosophy — to find truth & better ourselves along the way.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store