Stoicism in modern world
I practice Stoicism more or less successfully for more than a decade. I would like to share with you brief practical cheatsheet, that will show you what (I think) Stoicism is about in real world situations and how can it help you to be better person and live better life.
My 9 rules
Stoicism is a philosophy. A way of living. Created by ancient greeks, popularized by ancient romans and used throughout following centuries until these days. I don't want to talk history, or the academic/dogmatic stuff here, check the Wikipedia article for detailed overview. I just want to summarize my "real life scenario" stoic rules:
- Everything changes. Wealth, health, people, social status, reputation, work career, relationships... Don't build your personal integrity on volatile stuff. The only thing that matters is to be a good person. The rest is less important than your moral. Never keep any of it at the top of your priority list for more than a short time, because you may lose your presence awareness and focus.
- If you can't fully control something then you shouldn't heavily rely on it.
- If you can't solve the problem, then it is not worth worrying.
- Don't live in past or for future. Live in present moment, acknowledge it and live it through with awareness.
- Don't fight the fate, because you can not win. Embrace what comes and try to act in all those life situations as good as you can and use those events to get better.
- Don't strive for what you don't have, but enjoy what you already have.
- If a situation, a relationship or a thing is not going to serve you well in your goal to be a good/better person, then you should avoid it.
- Analyze your day at the end, to find your mistakes and realize what to improve.
- Analyze your day when you wake up, to prepare yourself for what will come. Imagine the worst scenarios, and prepare satisfactory plan B. Then it is harder to catch you off guard, which many times results to suboptimal behaviour.
First rule is self explanatory. You, your actions and personal integrity is the only thing you can fully rely on. If you believe in monotheistic religion, then you can wrap this rule with a God formula like so: All temporal things are less important than my moral integrity based on God's commands.
Common denominator for second, third, fourth and fifth rule is: If something is not fully under your control, then you should consider it not worthy of making you feel bad (anxious, sad, nervous, depressive...) and the only thing you have under your control is yourself. So it applies on everything else. On moments that happened and still make you emotional, on situations that are about to happen and their outcome make you nervous or anxious, on actions of other people and things that may happen randomly on daily basis, like dangerous drivers, rude people, selfish actions, bad weather, broken love, or tragedies.
Sixth and seventh rule is about being minimalistic. If you read these lines, there are high chances you live a life where you don't really need to care about your basic needs. If you consider Maslow's pyramid of needs, you need to solve only top 3 to 4 floors in your life and it is up to you how you'll do it. Do you need a house, car, computer, phone, vacation twice a year, 550 friends on social networks, admiration from your virtual or living friends? Desires are subjective and individual, but the lesser is the amount you will define as a needed, the sooner you will achieve the goal and the easier it will be to maintain it, therefore feeling fulfilled. Therefore try to declutter your life from things and people, especially if they have time, energy and money demanding maintenance.
Last two are about checking your status and progress. Developers would call it code review. People who believe in God may call it prayer or conscience questioning. Scientologists will call it an Audit. Output is the same, you need to track and evaluate past life situations if you want to be conscious of your actions, of your progress when trying to achieve your goal. In case of Stoicism, the goal is to be a wise, kind, strong and helpful person.