A while ago, I had the chance to read about stoic philosophy from the book The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness by Jonas Salzgeber. According to Wikipedia,
Stoicism is predominantly a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one’s mind to understand the world and to do one’s part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.
There are interesting and practical 55 Stoic practices discussed in the later half of the book. What I particularly liked about the book is the idea of a Stoic triangle you have seen in the figure above. Here is an explanation from the book.
- Eudaimonia: At the core of the triangle is eudaimonia – the ultimate goal of life all ancient philosophies agreed on. As touched in Chapter 1, this is the main promise of Stoic philosophy and it’s about living a supremely happy and smoothly flowing life. It’s about thriving in our lives. That’s basically what we all want, to thrive and live happy lives, right? That’s why it’s at the core of the Stoic Happiness Triangle. Do you remember the Greek origin of the word? It means being on good terms (eu) with your inner daimon, your highest self. And how can we achieve this? By living with areté.
- Live with Areté: Express your highest self in every moment. If we want to be on good terms with our highest self, we need to close the gap between what we’re capable of and what we’re actually doing. This is really about being your best version in the here and now. It’s about using reason in our actions and living in harmony with deep values. This is obviously easier said than done, what supports this ambitious goal is to separate good from bad and focus on what we control. Focus on What You Control: This is the most prominent principle in Stoicism. At all times, we need to focus on the things we control, and take the rest as it happens. What already is has to be accepted because it’s beyond our power to undo it. What’s beyond our power is ultimately not important for our flourishing. What’s important for our flourishing is what we choose to do with the given external circumstances. So no matter the situation, it’s always within our power to try to make the best with it,
and to live in harmony with our ideal self.
- Take Responsibility: Good and bad come solely from yourself. This follows the first two corners that say external things don’t matter for the good life, so living with areté, which is within your control, is enough to flourish in life. Also, you’re responsible for your life because every external event you don’t control offers an area you can control, namely how you choose to respond to this event. This is crucial in Stoicism, it’s not events that make us happy or miserable, but our interpretation of those events. This is when a tower of strength can be born—the moment you decide to give outside events no more power over you.