“Our life is what our thoughts make it.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
In my previous post I showed that Epictetus thought we should concern ourselves over those things we have control. These are:
and our actions
Why? Because no matter what others tell us, we can and do choose these for ourselves! Stoicism teaches that if we internalize these we will be on our way to achieve happiness.
This relates well to the opinions we have in placing value in things. I would argue that Stoics should place more value on the quality of our possessions than the quantity.
Seneca states several times that it is up to us whether we consider ourselves blessed or not. Even when we are sick, he reminds us that at least we are alive! As we age, the increasing ailments and sicknesses are a kind of “tax” for living.
If we internalize our goal we can rid ourselves of much grief that we experience. When we aim for that prestigious job or to win a distinguished award we encounter much stress and anxiety as to whether we will receive them; it’s particularly injurious to us because we do not control the outcome. If we replace our goal with striving to perform at our best, we will achieve greater results without the extra stress and anxiety.
This is one of the hardest feelings to internalize, but the rewards are the greatest. Instead of pursuing the newest fads and gadgets to satisfy our desires, we should instead try to want what we are already blessed to possess. We can use the technique of Negative Visualization to help us find contentment in those objects we already own.
Fear is one of our strongest emotions. Instead of being cowed by fear, Stoics can use it to temper their resolve and character so that in hard times they are even more resilient.
How often are our greatest fears only present in our imaginations!? Instead if we do not let ourselves be overcome with fear before it reaches us we may not needlessly worry about something that never materializes. The unknown can be the most debilitating of fears, especially for entrepreneurs. How much happiness has been lost because we do not take a Stoic approach to overcome this fear!?
Seneca teaches that even if approaching doom is advancing we should focus on the present and think about our good circumstances while we can. If the worst comes to pass, then we will face it. If it doesn’t come to fruition we have saved ourselves much distress. It is remarked several times that the true test of a Stoic comes as death approaches. We cannot know if we will act as Cato the Younger or give way to our fears. Seneca has much to say on death as we shall see.
No matter our circumstances we can each choose to live by a set of standards that we set for ourselves. Stoics teach that it is not what we say, but how we act that shows if we are living well. Each person has their own ethical code by which they live. Cato the Younger lived by such strict moral standards that he is still immortalized almost 2000 years after his death!