The Three Stoic Disciplines
Turning the Obstacle Upside Down
Focusing on What You Can Control
• Stoicism has been around in many forms, but the most widespread and modern version comes from Marcus Aurelius, the famous philosopher king of the Roman Empire. It is a direct philosophy on how to live better and remain more fulfilled in the face of a harsh world full of suffering.
• Stoicism is driven by three main disciplines: the discipline of desire (your unhappiness stems from your desires and unwillingness to accept other outcomes), action (act toward others regardless of how they do to you), and assent (be mindful of your thoughts and actions, as they are entirely within your control and in fact manmade).
• So what do we get when we combine these three Stoic disciplines of acceptance, philanthropy, and mindfulness? We create a life philosophy that preaches introspection and self-awareness to remain calm and rational no matter the circumstances, even to those who would seek to maliciously hurt you. Focus only on what you can control (your emotions and actions), and let everything else play out as it will.
• You must learn to turn the obstacle upside down. This means our happiness depends on our perception and judgment of external events. In fact, all events are neutral, and we only assign them value due to our perceptions. We actively prevent ourselves from turning the obstacle upside down and viewing hardships through a more positive lens. If tragedy happens, life must move on. This is entirely up to you.
• Turning the obstacle upside down is not easy. Controlling your emotions and responding rather than reacting is the focus of many philosophies. Stoicism takes a different view on how to train this type of non-reactiveness. We must induce voluntary discomfort and also practice negative visualization. This dramatically changes our expectations and sense of gratitude and allows us to become more resilient in our thoughts.
• Finally, Stoicism encourages you to focus only on what is within your control and accept that which is not. You can control your efforts and actions but almost never the outcomes. This is life. One path leads you to happiness, while the other leads you to perpetual dissatisfaction. Again, this choice is entirely upon your shoulders.
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