October 18, 2017 {stoicism & ask better questions for a better life}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately that we’re more in control than we think, that we can control our thoughts and our lives. Not 100%, I get that, but more than we let on. It matters the way we choose to use our time or react to situations, those decisions can have profound effect on the quality of our lives.

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that teaches “the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. It was developed around 300 B.C. as a refinement of Cynicism.” Source. That’s freaking amazing. I don’t think it’s only self-control, really — I think it’s a choice to build good habits, plan for the worst and work hard when duty calls. Almost everyday I write in my journal that I’m grateful and looking forward to working hard and pursuing the life of my dreams…I think I’m really onto something there.

Life is good and we all seek pleasure, but it’s not all peaches and cream all the time. Bad things are going to happen, we will face difficulty…and that’s a good thing. That’s the point. It keeps us on our toes, it keeps us sharp, it keeps us learning and refining, humble, exercising our emotional muscles.

The desire to improve and grow is a must, the desire to work hard is a must. Actually working hard is a must, too. Both at our toolbox of skills but also at how we behave in the world, how we react to things and to other people.

I was upset about something that happened at work last week until I listened to a podcast featuring Ryan Holiday, talking about stoicism and about controlling thoughts. After hearing him speak I changed my thinking, changed the way I was choosing to react — I felt immediately better. The chip on my shoulder seriously washed away. Because I decided to worry about me and my actions and not those of the other person. I looked for opportunities to be better myself, to treat that person differently in the future {still kind but in a different way}, I decided to use the encounter as information and to move on. I can hold my head high because I know I’m a good person and that my intentions are good. I’m not perfect, but so what? I reflect and move forward.

Which brings me to my second very prominent philosophy to live by lately which is that questions are extremely powerful and should be used in any difficult situation {thank you, Tony Robbin’s!}. In Tony Robin’s book, Awaken the Giant, he devotes an entire chapter explaining that questions are the answer — that questions determine our thoughts and help us solve problems. In my mind, they provide perspective and often help me to feel gratitude, no matter the situation. When things get rough, ask yourself:

  • What could be way worse right now, is this really that bad?
  • What can I learn from this and make good from this situation?
  • What actions can I take right now to make things better?
  • What is out of my control or am I unwilling to do right now to make things better?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • Who loves me? Who do I love?
  • Won’t this be water under the bridge before too long anyway?

Before you react to any given situation, take a second to ask yourself a few questions and get your head right. Even if in gut reaction you think there isn’t anything good about a situation, usually there is. Usually there is information, lesson, opportunity.

Slow down and get in touch with your thoughts, so you can control them and ultimately behave in the way you desire, live life the way you desire. You can be more productive, poised, rational, level-headed. You can contribute better and make better decisions, be more kind — to others and yourself!

Happy hump day!


P.S. — Ryan Holiday is a really cool guy, super smart and a great writer — he has a lot of books but I’d suggest starting with this one: The Obstacle is the Way. xx

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