The Greek & Roman Stoic teachings are intriguing, easy to practice, and can lead to a rich & satisfying life.
I have been practicing some aspects of Stoicism for a while, without knowing it, but stumbled upon the word & teachings recently.
Stoicism says being extremely rational, and not being swayed by emotions, is a great way to live.
A couple of tools the Stoic teachers advocate are easy to adopt.
1. Negative visualization – periodically contemplate the loss of things or people dear to you. This will lessen the impact if the loss really happens. Loss of a dear spouse, a coveted possession, or a satisfying job, is much bearable, if the loss was contemplated a few times earlier. Such periodic contemplation also makes us more aware of our relatively blessed lives compared to many less fortunate brethren, better appreciate people and things around us, and covet less. Indirectly, this leads to a much simpler zen-like lifestyle, which is the bedrock of much happiness & satisfaction.
2. Be aware of the trichotomy of control – know what you can control, what you can only partially control, and what you cannot control at all. This makes life easier, with lesser worries & frustrations. There’s really nothing much we can control 100%. Luck or randomness impact situations all the time. What we can really control is our response to such situations. If we are stuck in traffic, we can choose to not get frustrated. If we are diagnosed with cancer, we can choose to not get despondent. You can partially control some situations. If you want to run a marathon, you can start practicing in a disciplined way, and steadily boost your chances of finishing your first marathon. If you want to ace the job interview, study & prepare well, and you stand a better chance to get the job. Being aware of the trichotomy of control leads to a more effective and less frustrating way to handle life’s situation.
A few other techniques like self-denial, fatalism etc. are described well by William Irvine in his book ‘A Guide to the Good Life’, which is a good introduction to the Stoic teachings.
Some of these teachings remind me of the homilies spewed by Warren Buffet & Charlie Munger.
Of course, nothing beats the original writings of the masters – Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Rufus Musonius, & Epictetus.