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8 Important Lessons Stoic Philosophy Will Teach You About Being Happy

8 Important Lessons Stoic Philosophy Will Teach You About Being Happy

Stoicism is a movement founded by Greek philosopher Zeno during the Hellenistic period (around 300 BC) that places great emphasis on virtue and living a life in accordance with nature.

Although the word “stoic” commonly refers to someone indifferent to pain, pleasure, grief, or joy, the great Stoic philosophers were definitely not indifferent to these feelings and emotions. They were thinkers and dreamers just like you and me. Marcus Aurelius, a famous Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, once said, “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” And Seneca once wrote, “The happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast—a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it.”

Clearly stoicism as a philosophy of mind goes much deeper than just ethics, reason and logic.

In this post I’ll share 8 inspiring quotes from stoic philosophy that can lead you to a life filled with purpose and happiness.

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1. Connect with the world around you.

Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things that exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the structure of the web.

-Marcus Aurelius

2. Live in the present moment.

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.

-Seneca

3. Live a life of virtue.

He who is making progress has learned that desire is for things good and that aversion is for things evil, and further, that peace and calm are only achieved as a man gets the things he wants and avoids the things he doesn’t want. Since virtue is rewarded with happiness, calm and serenity, progress towards virtue is progress towards its benefits and this progress is always a step towards perfection.

-Epictetus

4. Harness the power of your mind.

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.

-Marcus Aurelius

5. Don’t get worked up over stuff that doesn’t matter.

Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.

-Epictetus

6. Stop caring what others think about you.

I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.

-Marcus Aurelius

7. Cultivate strong relationships by doing selfless acts for people you love.

When one partner looks to his own interests alone and neglects the other’s, or (by Zeus) the other is so minded that he lives in the same house, but keeps his mind on what is outside it, and does not wish to pull together with his partner or to cooperate, then inevitably the union is destroyed, and although they live together their common interests fare badly, and either they finally get divorced from one another or they continue on in an existence that is worse than loneliness.

Musonius Rufus

8. Be thankful for what you have and stop worrying about what you don’t have.

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.

-Epictetus

Featured photo credit: Lawrence OP via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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