10 principles for a Stoic life:
We would like to share the principles summarized in the book "How To Be A Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living" by Massimo Pigliucci who begins his book by insisting that Stoic Philosophy was not created to debate how to live better. The ultimate goal is the practical side.
It is a book (and a highly recommended one if you are interested in this philosophy) but this is a blog and we seek to share in a very simple way the basic principles and how to get started.
The first key is to have a small notebook that accompanies us and a pen. This will allow us to reflect on the difficulties or mistakes we have made throughout the day, to face the next day a little wiser (stoically speaking).
With the notebook ready, we should write our principles on the first page to review them when we wake up to get ready for the day!
The principles (the author shares 12 but here the idea is to simplify):
Examine your impressions and determine whether or not "what's bothering you" is under your control.
This is one of the keys and although it is simple to explain and summarize, in practice it is very broad and applies in both, positive and negative (to stop being a psychopathic controller but also to change what does depend on me and I am delaying).
Remember impermanence. Of things and people.
With things, it's relatively simple but with the loved ones, it's not easy at all. Epictetus recommends that we think "we're kissing a mortal" every time we kiss a loved one.
It sounds sadistic. It may give the impression that this is forced detachment and unhealthy. It's really the opposite he's looking for.
To be aware of how important it is to enjoy that person's company for as long as we can. To show how much we care. To share as much as we can. It has personally made me reduce a lot of discussions. Especially with older people. I remember that they won't always be there and I enjoy them just the way they are.
Imagine the WORST possible situation, and enjoy the one that will really happen.
In a soft world (which is where we are now) we are pretty bad at imagining the "worst possible situation". I have a trick that makes it a lot easier. First I think of my Absurd-First-world-problem like "I have an important meeting and I don't have all the documents I'd like to", then I imagine it goes awful & I get kicked out of the place without getting anything positive, and now the trick: Just as I leave I get terrible news from someone I love.
So, no matter how fatal the meeting goes (it never goes as bad as in our dramatic brains) there is always positivity.
Visualize each situation as a challenge to exercise your virtue.
We can perceive new situations as threats or as challenges. For example, when you meet an idiot or an uncivil person you can spend one hour hating people (I do it frequently) or understand that they have the right to exist, and that they are the small tests that will show you that you are learning to deal better with the world as it is (not as you would like it to be). Every time we are faithful to a principle, we are strengthened in our will. It doesn't matter if we're talking about a cake to avoid or a deep imbecile to ignore.
This is my favorite and at the same time the one I do the worst. To otherize is to interpret what has happened to you from the outside. Imagine that instead of being you the "affected", it's one of your friends and you need to help him with your advice.
What do you say to him? How do you think he should behave? What are your infallible pieces of advice? Perfect, you have them clear.
Now apply them to yourself.
When I have a stressful situation with someone, I'm pretty good at controlling myself during the situation itself, but then I have hours and sometimes days of thoughts about what might have been, what should have been, etc, and a lot of inner emotions and judgments. I would recommend another behavior to a friend :)
Speak little and well.
Let silence be your goal and say only what is necessary. DO NOT SPEAK TOO MUCH about yourself. (Maybe this is the one I do the worst). It is interesting to reflect at the end of the day on how many conversations have served us to increase our ego or place us in a "better social position". We are subtle, but we do it non-stop. Self-analysis is a great exercise because it allows us to work on what we are worried others may think about us and it is the first step to work on doing it less and less.
Choose your company wisely.
Key point. My mother (and all of them) used to say that when I was a teenager. Choose well the people with whom you spend most of your time and your life will be much fuller.
Respond to insults with humor.
Learn to laugh at yourself, learn not to take yourself too seriously. Learn to fit the criticisms, even the absurd ones, with humor. Avoid praise. They make you settle for who you are. Feeling "proud" of who you are. And that, for someone under-construction is not positive. Better criticism than praise.
Do not judge other people's behavior.
An American (lost in history) says, "You can't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes".
Marcus Aurelius (Meditations) says: "When you are about to find a defect with someone, ask yourself the following question: Which of my defects is almost like what I am about to criticize?
Both reflections serve well to remind us that each person has his or her own circumstances and that we ourselves have a long way to go before we can judge the behavior of others.
Reflect on your day-to-day life.