#9 TURN OBSTACLES INTO OPPORTUNITIES – PERCEPTION IS KEY
Our perceptions can be like a lead ball chained to our feet, holding us back and making us weak, or they can be a great source of strength like a magic potion. How we see the world around us, how we interpret what happens to us, makes a massive difference in how we get to live our lives. What we already learned from the Stoics, is, that they see external events not as good or bad but as indifferent.
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Expose yourself to difficult situations through imagination and you’ll be stronger and less vulnerable in real life situations. our anticipation of bad stuff to happen does not magically make everything easy-peasy to endure. But it helps us not to go to pieces when shit happens. We can face adversity much calmer, analyze it rationally, and decide to take smart action.
The good things include the cardinal virtues wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline. The bad things include the opposites of these virtues, namely the four vices folly, injustice, cowardice, and indulgence.
Indifferent things include all the rest, but mainly life and death, fame and bad reputation, pleasure and pain, wealth and poverty, and health and sickness. Indifferent things can be summed up as health, wealth, and reputation.
Take Stoicism, if you want to live according to virtue, you know, applying reason (wisdom), courage, justice, and temperance, then you necessarily need to be mindful of what you’re doing. You are mindful when you self-monitor and observe your thoughts and actions, as they happen, in the here and now. So that you are fully aware of what you are doing at each instant.
Let’s say something happened we wish had not. Now, which is easier to change: our opinion or the event itself? The answer is obvious. The event lies in the past and cannot be changed. But our opinion can. We can accept what happened and change our wish that it had not happened. Stoicism calls this the “art of acquiescence” – to accept rather than fight every little thing.
For the Stoics it’s not enough to think about how to live one’s own life, but to actually go out in the world and practice its ideas. You must earn the Good Life by taking the right actions.
You should not be satisfied with learning of abstract ideas about how to live one’s life, but you must vigorously apply those ideas. Talk and knowledge are cheap and useless if not applied.
Always apply reason and try to do the right thing. Act according to the virtues (practical) wisdom, justice, courage, and self-discipline. The results of your virtuous actions are not entirely up to you and therefore should not be the motive for the actions in the first place. Focus on what you can control, which is to act excellently in terms of your character.
The most appealing aspect of Stoicism is that we are responsible for our flourishing because all that truly matters in life is up to us. So the key lesson to take away here is to focus our attention and efforts where we have the most power and then let the universe take care of the rest.
‘Living in agreement with nature’ is about behaving rationally like a human instead of randomly (and out of passion) like a beast. In other words, we should always apply our natural ability ‘reason’ in all of our actions. If we apply reason we live in agreement with nature, because we act like humans are meant to act.
You have a plan and try everything to achieve your goal, but at the same time you should know that something may intervene and prevent you from achieving your goal. Accept that and adapt your plan to the new circumstances and again try to make the best you can. You can call it "The Process"
Stoicism is made up of conflicting writings, especially around God, determinism vs free will, happiness vs avoidance of pain etc. Today most Stoic fans are practicing a cafeteria approach: picking up the few useful bits, modifying others, discarding the rest.
But it’s important to know that this is what we’re doing. Because to the extent that we’re taking this approach, we’re not practicing Stoicism. We are abandoning it and relying implicitly on different (and often unidentified) philosophic ideas.
The Stoics prescribed the use of “exercises” to strengthen and internalize our intellectual understanding of Stoic precepts, so that we are prepared to meet a range of misfortunes, whether minor irritations or serious adversities, with equanimity.
This helps us to be more present in the world and to be better prepared to support those we love.
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by the fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world and to do one's part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.