What do a Roman emperor, a former slave, and a Greek Philosopher all have in common? All three were practitioners of the Stoic philosophy, a unique school of thought for its time whose teachings of tolerance, virtue, and self-control, have inspired thinkers and leaders for centuries.
Stoicism was developed by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. After losing everything to a shipwreck, Zeno wandered into a bookshop and discovered the teachings of Socrates. This led him to Athens to study philosophy and, eventually, develop and teach his own version of it.
What differentiates Stoicism from other schools of philosophical thought is that it is a philosophy of action. Stoics believe that thought and debate were only the means to an end: The application of their beliefs. They were far less concerned about why the universe works the way it does and more concerned about how to best live within its established framework.
The 4 Cardinal Virtues
Stoics believe that a happy, fulfilling life can be led by regular practice of four cardinal virtues:
The ability to navigate complicated situations in a calm, well-informed manner. The Stoic philosophy believes that ignorance and histrionics are the roots of all suffering. Logical reasoning and objectivity, conversely, are the keys to ending suffering.
Thoughtful self-restraint and moderation in all aspects of life. While Stoics believed in the virtue of restraint, they also believed in having the self-awareness to know one’s limits.
Treating others with fairness no matter what. Stoics believed in a shared fundamental humanity that existed outside of wealth or status. Seneca, a Roman statesman, and philosopher argued for the humane treatment of slaves at a time when such talk was unheard of.
The ability to face all of life’s daily challenges with clarity and integrity. We often think of courage as something you need only during high-stress situations, but really, even the act of living itself requires a certain amount of courage.
Incorporating Stoic Philosophy Into Everyday Life
Here are some simple ways to move through life like a true Stoic:
Always strive for improvement.
The one constant in life is change and stoics believe that, as the universe changes, so too must we. We are always learning new things about the world and our places in it and we owe it to ourselves to use this knowledge to our advantage. Where others see obstacles, Stoics see opportunities.
Face the world exactly as it is.
Traditional philosophy involves a lot of contemplation and debate about how the world should be. There’s nothing wrong with that–in fact, without it, we’d have no ideal to reach for–but we also need to acknowledge how the world actually is, warts and all.
Only worry about what you can control.
If you’re at the airport and your flight is canceled because of a storm, whose fault is it? No amount of yelling at airline workers can change the weather. Instead of fretting about what you can’t control, pour all your resources into handling what you can control. You’ll be amazed how much stress disappears from your life!
Journal every day.
Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and considered the most powerful man in human history, was an avid Stoic and wrote in his journal every day, which would later be compiled into the book Meditations. Journaling is an opportunity for self-reflection and self-evaluation; Aurelius often said that his best nights of sleep were on the nights he wrote in his journal before bed.
What ways do you practice the Stoic philosophy? Tell us about it on social media! Or, if you want to start integrating these practices into your own life, use the Fabulous app to set aside time for your habits.