Your mind has been playing tricks on you for as long as you’ve understood language.
That’s the truth.
And it’s going to keep playing tricks on you for many years to come. The the mind has a particularly clever way of making meaning about virtually every event in your life. Think about it. Why did you get fired from your job? Your mind had an answer for you. Why did you get dumped by your once significant other? Again, whatever the reason, that voice was there convincing you of the truth.
As human beings, we are meaning making machines. With the gift of language we have been given the curse (at times) of rationale and justification. When something happens to us, our gut reaction is to ask, why? This important question has the ability to stifle us and keep us in a state of stagnation. We replay over and over how things could have been different.
A part of life is having difficult things happen to you. That’s inevitable. Another crucial part of life is how you respond to these external circumstances. This philosophy lies within the core tenants of Stoicism. Stoicism stresses the importance of not succumbing to the follies of emotion in response to the inevitable externalities that show up in life.
The philosophy’s creation is credited to Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C.E. Many took up the torch in spreading these ideas of Stoicism from Epictetus and Seneca of Ancient Rome. Stoicism found mass appeal in the personal diary of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations.
Today, a modern interpretation of Stoicism can be found in Ryan Holiday’s Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Art. With this book, Holiday takes the ancient philosophies of stoicism and applies them to modern day using paragons of success and their stories. These paragons include Emilia Erhart, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, and many more.
Much adieu can be gleaned from Holiday’s bestselling work. Below are key tenants that when followed will have a profound impact on changing how you deal with life’s obstacles.
“Think progress, not perfection.”
Everyone sees themselves where they want to be in life. We see an ideal self and we don’t always know how to get there. When things happen we tend to dwell and fall backwards. Perfection will never be achieved. There is never an end destination that will provide unwavering happiness. Progression is the goal. Working towards something, achieving that goal and moving onto the next.
“We’ve all done it. Said, ‘I am so [overwhelmed, tired, stressed, busy, blocked, outmatched].’ And then what do we do about it? Go out and party? Or treat ourselves. Or sleep in. Or wait. It feels better to ignore or pretend. But you know that deep down that that isn’t going to truly make it any better. You’ve got to act. And you’ve got to start now.”
Action breeds results. Stagnation breeds anxiety. The mind is very adept at mulling and procrastination. This holds us back from taking action on what needs to be done. If we keep trying to silence these responsibilities that lay in front of us only compounding anxiety will result. We need to act and we need to act in the present moment.
“You know what’s better than building things up in your imagination? Building things up in real life.”
Nothing is real if it remains in your head. It’s completely fugazi. Things only exist when the ideas have left the brain and either brought others into the fold or when actual work has been manifested. We can build and build and build the greatest idea ever. If we don’t do anything with it, and put it into the real world, it meant nothing.
“You’ll have far better luck toughening yourself up than you ever will trying to take the teeth out of a world that is- at best- indifferent to your existence.”
You are going to fail. You are going to have setbacks. This is part of living. Taking action can be scary. It involves putting your self and your ideas out into the world. It’s a vulnerable experience. There’s a very high probability that the world won’t accept it. When you are rejected, you learn. You learn what works and what doesn’t. Those are invaluable lessons to learn.
Your life can change with how you receive the things that happen to you. Life doesn’t stop for you just because you complain or wish or hope for something different. So why do you keep do it?
Change your perspective, the world will follow.