The Stoics get a bum rap.
There’s just no other way to say it. They seem to be remembered by history as the Spocks of the Roman Empire — all logic and no emotion. But they stood for so much more.
For those of you that don’t remember your high school history class, the Stoics were a group of Roman philosophers with the most famous being Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.
Reading them today is like reading a positive psychology textbook. They seem to know all the tricks to make you happy in a stressful world.
In fact, I think that pretty much everything I need to know, I can learn from the Stoics.
I recently finished “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William B Irvine. It is a fabulous introduction to the Stoics, and helped me to realize how relevant the philosophy is to our lives today.
Let’s take a look at some of their key principles:
* Focus on what you can control: Set goals around what you can control and ignore the rest. This often relates to people as well. You can’t control other people so just accept them for who they are and focus on yourself.
* The fates control much of life: Accept the role you are given in life, but play it to the best of your ability. Accept the past as destined by fate, but work to improve the future.
* Appreciate what you have: Many people are unhappy because they are focusing on the wrong things and always wanting more. The Stoics recommend imagining your life without your friends and family as a way to remember how precious they actually are.
* Live for yourself and not others: Don’t live according to others notions of success — choose your own. Don’t let insults disturb your happiness. Instead consider the source. If it’s from a good one then take it as an item to work on, if not, then simply ignore it.
* Don’t chase after wealth: It’s not the amount of money that matters, but the state of your mind.
If you haven’t read the Stoics for a while, take a look. I think you’ll be surprised at how relevant they still are today.