It’s no secret that we live in an incredibly chaotic time that call more than ever for stoic principles.
Psychologist Rollo May called it the “age of anxiety”. (And this was back in the 50s)
This is even more exacerbated by the cascading nature of change, brought to us by the Information Age.
The Information Age and modern society have done the following things:
- Allowed for an easier access to information (no longer a “walled garden”)
- Given opportunities to previously excluded or oppressed groups
- Made it incredibly easy to access previously scarce resources
These are all good things. But the Information Age has emphasized reliance on the external rather than the internal.
Drugs, Internet, food, gambling, sex – these are ways to cope with the outside world and numb the mind into a state of submission, pushing problems out of consciousness.
Obviously, using these to cope has a 100% failure rate and will eventually lead to addictions.
Instead of relying on external things to make you “happy”, you need to cultivate a rich inner world you can rely on at will. One way to do this is through adopting a philosophy of Stoicism.
What is Stoicism? Who were the Stoics?
The Stoics were a group of Roman philosophers who emphasized self-discipline as a way to overcome and mitigate the inevitable change that is a part of life.
Stoics say: “The world is a changing place. How can I adopt myself to these changes?”
I’ve already gone through the basics of Stoic philosophy in relation to young men, so I won’t do it here.
Stoic principles have helped me tremendously in my young life.
I’m a huge advocate of stoic principles and as a result, I’ve read a lot of stoic philosophy. To help you, I’ve distilled seven key stoic principles that will make you a stronger man.
After reading and applying these to your life, you’ll be like a solid oak standing defiantly in the wind as the storms and pressures of life come bearing down on you.
This is what every man should aim for.
Let’s get into it.
Stoic Principle 1: Be aware.
Self-awareness is the key to surviving and thriving in this world.
You should not only be aware of the world around you… but of yourself as well. Marcus Aurelius puts it bluntly in Meditations:
“You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, ‘What are you thinking about?’, you can respond at once.”
How to put this stoic principle into practice: What I believe the great Roman emperor is saying is… “know thyself” (thanks, Emerson).
To “know thyself”, you have to be focused on the present moment. You shouldn’t be focusing on who you were or who you will be, you should focus on who you are NOW.
In the digital age, the best way to counteract this is to practice the art of sustained focus and concentration. Practice concentrating on only one thing at a time.
Pay attention to your breathing. Your posture. Your feet as you’re walking. Just take it all in. How does it feel?
Stoic Principle 2. Every day is a dying day
“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.” – Seneca
In this sobering passage from On The Shortness of Life, Seneca tells us the sand is slipping through the hourglass. We are on death ground every day of our lives. From the moment we were born, we’re dying. Pretty grim…but also pretty liberating at the same time.
You could die tomorrow and the world would keep spinning. You know what this means?
Get off your high horse.
Stop with the bullshit. Stop trying to look “pretty. Stop trying not to “offend” people. Start living the way you want to. The way you have to.
Self-consciousness is the most selfish trait in the universe. You think you are the most important person who ever lived, so you don’t want people to hurt your feelings.
So you don’t take chances on anything. You don’t endure the pain of discipline.
So what happens? Nothing.
How to put this stoic principle into practice: Act as if you have no limits on your potential. Act as if nothing is closed off to you. Surely, there’s some things you won’t be able to do but it’s a liberating mindset to think this way.
After all, you can die at any time. After a few close calls, I’ve found that to be too true.“Once you've lost everything, you're free to do anything.” Click To Tweet
Stoic Principle 3. You own nothing.
Your house… it isn’t yours.
Your car…it isn’t yours.
Your girlfriend/wife/fuckbuddy…she isn’t yours.
Even that fly polo you’ve got on… it’s not. fucking. yours.
Everything you have belongs to Fortune. Fortune bestowed it onto you and Fortune can easily take it away.
How to put this stoic principle into practice: Practice non-attachment, especially in regards to material things. Enjoy the things while you have them, but realize that it is foolish to have a deep-rooted personal investment in these things.
I had a car get destroyed by a flood. Was I sad? Initially. But then I realized that it was useless to be sad because the car belonged to “Fortune”. I had the good “fortune” to have a method of transportation.
I then got something better. It was something that I couldn’t have until I made space for the old car to “drift” out of my life (so punny).
And it’s a better car too.
What comes from “the all” will return to “the all”.
You can’t make room for new liquid to come into your cup if you don’t get rid of what’s in there first.You can't make room for new liquid to come into your cup if you don't get rid of what's in there… Click To Tweet
Stoic Principle 4. Stop overindulging.
“First we have to reject the life of pleasures; they make us soft and womanish; they are insistent in their demands, and what is more, require us to make insistent demands on Fortune.” – Seneca
Pleasure is nice. A little spice makes a steak taste great.
But overindulgence in pleasure is destructive to a personality.
Part of the reason why humanity is where it is today is because we’ve been through a lot of bullshit. We came up in conditions you can’t even imagine. As such, we had to evolve to meet those demands.
Now, everything you want is at your finger tips.
Click a mouse and you can order virtually anything online. Why wait?
Type in a site and you have access to thousands of hot babes. Why talk to women?
Why step out of your car? Just go through the drive-thru. Everything’s so easy.
Too damn easy.
You would think there would be no consequence to this.. but there is.
All of this ease is slowly leading to a modern “malaise” of sorts.
When you rely too much on the comforts of life and what they can give you, you lose your work ethic, your drive, and your ability to make a better life for yourself. Not what we want.
How to put this stoic principle into practice: Stop trying to take “the path of least resistance”. This weakens your ability to do anything constructive. Take the challenge to improve
Usually what’s easy has few rewards…but the path is so seductive. That’s the problem. Don’t fall for it.
If you’re liking this article, check out my (somewhat biased) advice to a young man.
Stoic Principle 5. Stay present.
“But life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future. When they come to the end of it, the poor wretches realize too late that for all this time they have been preoccupied in doing nothing” – Seneca
This goes along with the first point, but is a wider expansion of it.
This quote is really sad when you think about it. If you meet that description, you aren’t really “living”, you’re just rehashing past events and being anxious about future activities (which may not even happen).
How insane is that?!?!?
You can only experience life in the present. Past and future do not exist. You cannot alter your past, so why bother feeling remorse about it? Start to realize that the only way you’ll be able to influence the future is through the present.
How to put this stoic principle into practice: You can see how essential present moment awareness is in Stoicism.
When you do something, do it wholeheartedly. Do it 100 percent. When you’re present and “concentrate like a Roman” as Marcus Aurelius puts it, you won’t feel any anxiety that your present efforts won’t work out. You feel no anxiety because you are completely engaged in “the now”.
Stoic Principle 6. Are you disciplined?
If there’s one trait that everyone you look up to and admire have – it’s that of self-mastery and self discipline.
The Stoics were VERY disciplined people. Except Seneca…because he didn’t always practice what he preached.
Discipline to me means this: following through on what you say you will do, even if you don’t feel like it.
Why oh why is self-discipline important? Well…
It takes discipline to be able to link to follow a personal improvement plan.
It takes discipline to read books and apply them to your life circumstances.
It takes discipline to be able to face the inevitable challenges that life presents.
It takes discipline to think long term.
Whatever you want to do, discipline is the key.
How to put this stoic principle into practice: How will your life turn out 5 years from now if you continue your current path? The only way to ensure that your life gets better is to implement discipline into your life. Don’t just work out for one day…work out for 5 days. Don’t just read one page of a book…read all of the pages.
See where we’re going here?
Stoic Principle 7. You can count on…yourself
You can find dozens of quotes that relate to self-reliance in the writings of the Stoics.
Because to be honest… you’re the only one you can count on. You can have all the friends in the world…but are they going to go to grad school for you?
Are they going to go to work for you?
Are they going to do the deliberate practice in your quest for learning more and doing more?
You’re the only one who can get you from point A to point B. People can help you to the fountain…but they can’t make you drink.
How to put this stoic principle into practice: Start to see yourself as responsible for every action. You may have not caused it, but you are responsible for your reaction to it. Stop wishing for someone to come to the rescue. Start to use the tools you have right now at your disposal to make the most out of where you are.
Seven principles. Seven ways to make your life better. Only you can decide if you’re going to take action on them.
Implement one of these principles TODAY and write in the comments which one you’re going to take action on. Which one of these will make the biggest different in your life if you started it today?