April 5, 2013 at 6:15 am #31102Vincent NguyenParticipant
Quick! What are the first few things that come to mind when you hear “Stoic?” You probably think someone who is emotionless, maybe a sad face.
Stoicism is actually a great philosophy that I personally believe is the ultimate self-improvement philosophy. I’ve actually written an article on the subject, but I’ll try to briefly summarize it here.
The Stoics main goal is to remove or minimize all negative emotions from their lives. Negative emotions include: anger, sadness, dissatisfaction, etc. Their other goal is to learn to truly appreciate everything in life.
They achieve both goals through multiple mental practices that you can do on a daily basis.
The first technique they use is called “Negative Visualization.”
Here is an excerpt from my article so you can get an idea of negative visualization:
In a nutshell, negative visualization is the periodic practice of imagining the worst-case scenario almost at all times. You should mentally picture losing the ones you cherish the most and imagine being at your lowest.
You may think doing this would raise a pessimist out of you, but in actuality Stoicism forms full-grown optimists who don’t take things for granted, but instead love every second of life’s fortunes.
One of the examples from the book contrasts two fathers. One father plays with his daughter and obviously loves her, however, he does not spend every second truly treasuring her current presence. To him there is always tomorrow to spend time with her. The second father knows that life is short and fleeting. He truly loves his daughter as much as the first, but he does not take a moment for granted as he constantly and consciously thinks about her mortality.
Now tragically both daughters have passed away. The first father is miserable and is a complete train wreck, feeling guilty for having taken her presence for granted. The second father, emotionally damaged as the first, can take solace in the idea that he took advantage of every second he could with his beloved daughter and mentally prepared for her passing on a daily basis. There was nothing he could have done that had not already been done.
This practice makes you realize you are very fortunate to be enjoying your current possessions, whether material or psychological (you could be insane and mentally broken.) You begin to hold what you have in higher value as you’re living life and you begin to be grateful for everything while simultaneously preparing you in case of tragic loss.
Another idea that Stoicism tackles is the problem of “hedonic adaptation.” We all assume more money = more happiness right? Well… The truth is more like more money means temporary increases in happiness, but then you baseline and return to your previous state of happiness with more desires. It’s also called a hedonic treadmill and you can see why.
Stoics counter the hedonic treadmill by consciously wanting what they have. Whoa! Did you ever think about that? That’s a whole new level to gratitude. Being grateful and thinking about how lucky you are isn’t enough. You have to consciously want what you already have.
I didn’t want to make this forum post TOO long, but I do go more in-depth to Stoicism and even make book recommendations on the subject. I don’t think I’m breaking the no new thread for just self-promotion rule because this article is highly relevant in this case.
Hope you guys consider giving Stoicism a chance! I’d love to see a discussion kick off here.