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A Philosophical Concept That Will Make You Live a More Peaceful and Fulfilling Life

A Philosophical Concept That Will Make You Live a More Peaceful and Fulfilling Life

I’m sure you’re all more than familiar with the common clichés, “mind over matter,” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But what you may not have known, is that these familiar turns of phrase are actually the paving stones of an ancient ideology: Stoicism. A disciplined system of living where you never sweat the small stuff, and keep all of your priorities in check.

Stoicism is meant to be practiced, not discussed.

Stoicism is the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint. It is a unique philosophy in the respect that it is meant to be practiced, and not just pontificated and debated upon. You must find your true passion, your true calling, and nurture it. The practice also emphasizes the importance of virtue, and a distinct separation between emotion and reaction.

Practiced by historical and modern men alike, the ideology is finding it’s way back into the mainstream.

The word Stoic is derived from the Greek term Stoa Poikile meaning literally, “the painted porch.” It is influenced by an open market in Athens where the Stoics would famously gather to discuss important matters and teach philosophy to young, eager minds.

The philosophy itself was founded as a Hellenistic [1](the time period between the death of Alexander the Great who was himself a Stoic, and the beginning of the Roman Empire) philosophy circa 300 B.C.E. by Zeno of Citium.

Stoicism is not the practice of avoiding issues, but rather transforming them into opportunities.

Incredibly misunderstood, the belief system has been given a negative stigma [2], as well as those who choose to practice it. It has been said that those who choose to lead a Stoic life choose to lead a life of avoidance and denial. A bleak existence where nothing is faced head on. Hardships are tolerated and accepted instead of challenging and overcoming the obstacles.

Perhaps for some Stoics this may be true. Acceptance is a virtue of high regard, and must be mastered to truly achieve mental strength. But the premise of stoicism is not the avoidance of obstacles; it’s the transformation of the obstacle. Turning every obstacle into a new opportunity. Instead of mindlessly running into the same dead end, creating a way around it. That is the Stoic way of thinking.

Core Values of Stoicism

As you might imagine, after centuries of discussion by the most intellectual minds throughout history, the complexity of Stoicism has developed many facets. As mentioned, many intellectuals, artists, writers and entrepreneurs live their life by these guidelines to inspire creativity and install discipline [3].

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• This system is built for action, not debate.

• The source of our discontent is derived from our impulsive need to act on emotion rather than reason. I.e. many of us don’t think before we act.

• Stoicism reminds us how short life is, and how unpredictable it can be.

• Always be in control of yourself, unwavering in your solidarity.

• It helps us to overcome toxic emotions, training ourselves not to get upset over things which we cannot control.

• All emotions come within ourselves. No one can make you feel any emotion, no matter how strong. How you feel and how you react is all entirely mental.

Example: A stranger is rude to you during your commute. You have the choice to be upset, to feel sorry for them for being miserable, or to disregard it and feel absolutely nothing at all. Whether or not you feel justified with your reactive emotions is irrelevant. You are in charge of the reactive emotion. It is too easy to place the blame on external objects.

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• Find a mentor or model- use them to inspire and encourage yourself to do better and do more.

“Without a ruler to do it against, you can’t make the crooked straight.” – Seneca

• Realize that if you fail, you will survive. You will learn, you will adjust, and you will overcome. Failure it not the enemy. It feeds fuel to the fire.

• Read books that inspire you and expand your knowledge in the areas that you want to grow in. Apply that knowledge to further yourself.

• Stop candy coating things – speak honestly and with conviction. People will respect you for your bluntness. Everyone needs a friend who will tell them the truth when they need to hear it.

• Consider what you spend the most time on. Is it beneficial to your growth? Unless your goal in life is to become a social media super star, browsing Instagram probably isn’t going to advance any opportunities for you. Pick up a book. Listen to a seminar. Do. Something. Productive.

• Fight procrastination. This one I particularly struggle with. But it’s true, get your obligations sorted out in a timely manner, leaving time for leisure and your personal goals.

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• Time is your most precious resource. Don’t waste it.

• Engulf yourself in your passion and what you love. Don’t waste your time being lazy and taking it easy. Push yourself.

“You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat.” – Seneca

Three Men famously set the standard for what it truly means to be a Stoic.

Although many powerful individuals throughout history have famously practiced and helped to shape the foundation of Stoicism, three men in particular brought Stoicism to a new platform, creating a place for it among the scholars.

Marcus Aurelius

The Emperor of the Roman Empire, the most powerful man in existence at the time, ordained by the Gods and with wealth beyond comprehension, preached words of humility, compassion, and restraint. Each day he would write in his journal, notes about what it truly means to be a Stoic. Although that was not his intention at the time. He was merely just trying to better himself.

“Run down the list of those who felt intense anger at something: the most famous, the most unfortunate, the most hated, the most whatever: Where is all that now? Smoke, dust, legend…or not even a legend. Think of all the examples. And how trivial the things we want so passionately are.” – Marcus Aurelius

Epictetus

Born as a slave, he managed to gain his freedom as a teenager. After years of enduring the horrors of slavery, he learned how to channel his emotions and overcome his circumstances by maintaining psychological control. He studied Stoicism as a slave, and went on to open his own school to pass on his teachings after having been freed from slavery.

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“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus

Seneca

A man of noble and wealthy upbringing, a Philosopher who was a close consultant of the emperor Claudius. Claudius exiled Seneca for eight years for supposed adultery. During his exile, he wrote to his family to comfort them, taking no pity on himself or his circumstances. He was released from exile to tutor Nero, son of Claudius who would later rise into power. Seneca stayed a loyal consultant until his suicide was ordered by Nero. Even then he took no pity on himself, just the people who would mourn over his death.

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” – Seneca

How can you practice Stoicism in your everyday life? It’s quite simple, really.

Separate Yourself from Your Comforts

As Seneca suggests, we need to take the time to practice poverty to realize how little we really need. [4] He meant quite literally to go sleep on the streets with nothing but the clothes on your back and what little food and water you need to get by. You can practice this by actually spending a night living on the street, it would be shockingly humbling for sure. A less extreme option would be to go for a trip with a very small bag of limited items. You are not allowed to buy anything else, only bring what you actually need. By the end of the trip, you’ll probably have a few items that you didn’t even touch.

Turn The Obstacle Upside Down

Train your perception to look at things from a broader perspective. Not every occurrence is either cut and dry negative or positive. Perhaps you are faced with an issue, and it can be a bit deterring and it feels like everything is falling apart. Not too quick. Take a moment to walk away and refresh for a moment. Look at it through a new light. There is an opportunity here, you just have to find it. Use it as momentum to better yourself and your goals.

Everything is Temporary

Do not dwell. If something didn’t work out, get over it. Everything is fleeting, especially passion. Think of the things that you so passionately wanted that are bland to you now. A shirt, a new phone, a love interest. It all becomes old and dull at some point. Those things are all pointless on the grand scheme, because you yourself have such a small part in this world that we live in.

Most importantly, don’t get caught up in your passionate emotions. They eat away at your well being and distract you from your goals. Sure, someone may have done you wrong and for that they bite the big them. Maybe they’re horrible, but let them be. Someone else’ shortcomings won’t dull your shine unless you let them. So don’t sweat it.

Related Articles Recommended To Live A Stoic Life

A Really Strong Predictor of Success: Self Awareness (with Ways to Boost It) by Craig J Todd

Why Our Personal Values Matter More Than Ever Today by Heather Poole

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy: Stoicism
[2] aeon.co: Indifference is a power
[3] 99U: The Stoic: 9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos
[4] Daily Stoic: What Is Stoicism? A Definition & 3 Stoic Exercises To Get You Started

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

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