A basic introduction to Stoicism

Stoicism is a Greek school of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium. Among its greatest proponents are philosophers like Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. More recently stoicism has experienced a renaissance as more and more leaders embrace its philosophy. The greatest asset that Stoicism provides to Gazelle CEOs is the ability to have a greater control over your emotions thus allowing you to make better decisions.

What is the aim of Stoicism?

Stoics aim to live a virtuous life by only worrying about things that are within your control (hint: not many things in life are in your control) and developing the following abilities:

  • Wisdom: the ability to make the best decision available at any moment.
  • Justice: engage in social activities that are not inward looking
  • Temperance: or self-control. The ability to do things with the right measure.
  • Courage: do the right thing and face situations that are unpleasant.

For a Stoic, virtue of character if the ultimate goal. Living a life of integrity.

A moral life and preferred indifference for material things and pleasures

A Stoic does not try to avoid material possessions or comforts, but rather develops a preferred indifference towards these. All forms of material wealth do not give you an advantage or allow you to better live a moral life, thus are inconsequential. A moral life is accessible to all and a Stoic has to be ready to loose all possessions and comforts and not regret the loss.

Apatheia as a goal

Apatheia or peace of mind is the ideal mental state of a Stoic. A Stoic looks to create a difference between the emotions an event generates and the reaction he has. This difference gives a Stoic a sense of inner calm allowing him to maintain a clear judgment and equanimity in life.

Stoic Excercises

Becoming a Stoic takes great dedication and practice. A few exercises that can help are:

  • Morning meditation: find a quiet place each morning and think of your day ahead. Think of the challenges you will face, the people that will disrespect you, the events that can make you loose control over yourself. Remind yourself of the virtues you will need to maintain equanimity.
  • View from above: Visualize yourself from a distance. Remind yourself that you are part of a much bigger community and world. That as mighty as your problems might seem they are not consequential. Put them in perspective.
  • Premeditated Molorum: Think ahead to all the bad things that can happen to you. You need to accept all of them could occur. You can’t prevent these events from happening but you can control your reaction or mental perception of them.
  • Evening meditation: Going over your day and reviewing the challenges you faced. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? (not as a way to criticize or regret but rather as a learning tool) What could I have done otherwise?

Having more control over our emotions and being mindful are great ways a Gazelle CEO can improve his performance. Stoicism provides a great toolbox.

For more information on Stoicism read: