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In life, it’s generally best to try and acquire positive habits that will improve our circumstances, make us happy, and guide us towards success, without us having to sacrifice our wellbeing and struggle dramatically in the process.
Nonetheless, it is sometimes necessary to use sheer willpower to push through difficult times, find the light at the end of the tunnel, and win the rewards we are seeking. A demanding profession such as being a skilled personal injury attorney, for example, will invariably require some force of will — both to qualify in the first place, and then to practice successfully.
For this reason, it can be immensely helpful to have a philosophy at hand that helps us to thrive and become more resilient in high-pressure situations.
Here are some ways that the ancient art of stoicism can help you to become more resilient.
By reminding you to focus on what’s in your control
The key focus of stoic philosophy is to understand what is completely in your control, what is outside of your control, and to know the difference.
The reasoning used by the ancient Stoic philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus led them to conclude that the only thing that was ever truly in our control was our own thoughts and responses to things. That’s because we hold on to these things when all else is taken away from us.
For this reason, the Stoics argued that everyone should focus primarily, if not exclusively, on their reactions to situations, rather than to the situations themselves.
Everything outside of a stoic’s immediate control is considered “indifferent” — either a “preferred indifferent” or a “dispreferred indifferent”. What this means is that there are some external circumstances that you’ll enjoy more and less than others (including everything from wealth to violent death), but that the only true “good” is behaving virtuously.
In life, it’s often not possible to know for sure what the future will hold. But we can always act properly.
By reminding you that virtue is more important than popularity or comfort
The stoic understanding of “virtue” can be a bit confusing and perhaps contradictory, but the basic idea is that acting and thinking in the “right and honorable way” is the only true “good” in life.
Everything else — from popularity to comfort — is seen as an indifferent (as mentioned above).
This stoic doctrine can help us to consider that, even if we’re not completely content with how things are working out in our lives, we can always take pride in acting with virtue, courage, and honor.
By encouraging you to enjoy the simple pleasures in everyday life
One thread that runs through much of stoic philosophy, is that it is good to appreciate and take pleasure in the small blessings we encounter in our everyday lives, rather than always feeling displeased and discontented until we achieve our next great goal.
As stoicism encourages the enjoyment of “preferred indifferents”, as long as they don’t interfere with virtue — will have free license to properly revel in those moments over the course of the day that makes you smile. The taste of your breakfast, the sight of a beautiful sunset, or the cool breeze on a hot summer day.