We all have been in states where we have gotten a little too angry than we should have. We’ve been in circumstances where we let other people and situations take away our peace of mind. When everything gets over, we regret wasting our time on them. We ponder upon things that we could have gotten done in the time we wasted. All of us have made promises to not react so much the next time. Notwithstanding, very rarely do we allow that to happen.
The cycle of pessimism, gloom, sadness, anger, anxiety, worry, jealousy, fear, and regret continues in our life. Most of us try to turn to meditation and religious spirituality but for a bunch of us, it turns out to be futile.
Amidst all this, there is a forgotten school of philosophy that dates back to the 3rd century BCE. A school that is now shaping the minds and habits of corporate heads, athletes, and global leaders. This school of philosophy is called Stoicism or what, in popular culture, is called the art of indifference.
The word stoic means suffering pain and hardships without any complaint. This is a fundamental principle of stoicism. However, Zeno, the founder of stoicism says, “Not only from the negative emotions but people should further be free from passion, unmoved by joy and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessities (of life) through rational behaviour.”
Now, more than ever, we need principles of stoicism in our lives as we rush to meet deadlines (like I did with this article); We get bombarded with all this jealousy of how good our peer’s life is and how there is always a bunch of things we nevertheless have to buy.
The tranquillity that we can get by applying stoic principles in our life would be a liberation that we would grant ourselves with – something, we’ve never acknowledged before.
Stoicism teaches us that it is okay to have material possessions but it is not a good choice to be swayed in our endless pursuit to have them. Stoic philosophy believes that we must assign ourselves to live without such possessions once in a while so that we can ascertain to not be entirely dependent on them for our happiness and contentment and to apprehend how insignificant they are.
Instead of self-indulgence, stoicism is a philosophy of self-improvement. It believes that humans have two domains- external and internal. It suggests that while we can’t have control over the external domain (i.e., anything outside the self), we can control our inner domain (comprising our thoughts, feelings, and behavior).
Stoicism is not a philosophy of the Utopian world. Stoics propose that we must see the world as it is. It advocates that we must be indifferent to our external domain and keep control over our internal domain. It also argues that nothing is good or bad but it’s rather our thoughts about it which decide such. Hence, we must control them.
These principles cannot be adopted in a single day but we must be willing to adopt them through virtue and character. As per stoic philosophy, there is nothing better than high virtues and excellent character.
Stoics have based this philosophy on 4 virtues:
1. Practical wisdom: The strength to navigate through complex situations with logic, information, and calmness.
2. Courage: The ability to do the right thing and face daily challenges with clarity and integrity.
3. Justice: Practice to treat everybody regardless of stature in life with fairness and kindness.
4. Temperance: To exercise moderation of the other virtues and self-control in all aspects of life.
In a world where we crib and cry over petty issues, this philosophy teaches us to keep going in pursuit of our goals irrespective of our physical, mental, and emotional state. Furthermore, it suggests that we were all born with a purpose in this life and we must pursue them because “We weren’t born to huddle in our sheets and stay warm.” Each of us must spend our time productively.
We cast a gloomy shadow over our misfortunes, but one of the greatest stoic philosophers, Seneca, quotes, “I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through any misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent- no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
This teaches us to take every misfortune and turn it into opportunities and strengthen our being. While some of us rush through our lives to achieve academic and professional milestones, it poses another question,
Should we focus on living today or dwell on worries of tomorrow? Stoicism indoctrinates, when we persist the things outside of our control, the things of the future will provide us ultimate happiness, we allow ourselves to become trapped in an endless loop of dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
While stoicism might seem like a bunch of principles, it is a way of life, whilst an indifferent one to achieve tranquillity and intrinsic happiness.
We might be far from Universal transcendence but we can achieve peace and happiness amid this rush that we call our lives. Stoicism lays the foundation for that.
P.S. Also read our article on Why Is Self-Care An Absolute Important?