In a world saturated with stimuli and anxiety in which relationships are increasingly ephemeral, including the relationship with ourselves, Stoicism stands as a redemptive philosophy. This current of thought that emerged in 300 BC and which many consider the "first self-help manual in the history of mankind" starts from three key precepts: to develop our "I", to worry about others and to distance ourselves from material goods .
One of the greatest exponents of Stoicism was Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor who in his book "Meditations" addressed various topics, with which we can feel fully identified even after centuries. Marcus Aurelius's thoughts encourage us to search within, learn to be self-reliant, and stop worrying about what others say or think.
Marcus Aurelius' advice for a fuller, happier and more balanced life
1. Your happiness depends on your thoughts
“A man's life is what his thoughts make of it […] Your happiness depends on the quality of your thoughts; therefore, act accordingly and be careful not to entertain yourself in notions inadequate for virtue and reasonable nature.
“Remember that everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. All we see is a perspective, it is not the truth [...] If something external afflicts you, that pain is not due to the event itself, but to the meaning you give it, and you have the power to eliminate it at any moment [... ] You have power over your mind, not over events. Realize this and you will find strength. "
Stoic philosophers viewed self-knowledge as a way to achieve happiness. They believed that much of our unhappiness and frustration are self-induced, because we don't usually react to events but to the idea that we have them. It is about learning to separate facts from our expectations and try to look at them from a more useful point of view.
2. Don't waste your energy criticizing, use it to grow
"The inability to see what goes on in another person's mind rarely makes a man unhappy, but those who do not observe the movements of their own mind cannot help but be unhappy [...] Don't waste the rest of yours. life making conjectures about others, unless you are looking for a common good. Imagining what they are doing and why, what they are thinking and what they are planning, stuns you and separates you from your inner guidance.
“I've always wondered why if we love ourselves more than others, we value our opinions less than those of others”.
These thoughts of Marcus Aurelius encourage us to focus on our personal development and to stop worrying about what others think. Spending time and energy mulling over the words and attitudes of others is useless. It is more profitable to spend time and energy on improving as a person. Indeed, we must be aware that we can only influence the thoughts, attitudes and behaviors of others through our example. It is no coincidence that Marcus Aurelius said: “Don't waste time discussing what a good man should be. Be one. "
3. Accept what you can control and let go of what you cannot control
“It is ridiculous not to try to avoid your own wickedness, which is possible, and instead to try to avoid that of others, which is impossible […] You always have the possibility of not having an opinion. You don't have to be nervous or harass your soul for things you can't control. These things don't ask you to judge them. Leave them alone. "
One of the most precious teachings of the Stoics is learning to distinguish the difference between what we can control and what is beyond our control, so it is not worth losing your inner peace. Interestingly, by letting go of the need to control, we liberate ourselves and reach a new state of mental balance that helps us make all things flow better. After all, in the words of Marcus Aurelius we read: "nowhere can man find a quiet and peaceful place as in the intimacy of his soul".
4. Live the present completely
“Don't act like you can live 10.000 years. Death is upon you. While you are alive, when it is still possible, improve as a person […] It is not death that man should fear, but never having lived. "
This thought of Marcus Aurelius is not pessimistic, on the contrary, it encourages us to be fully aware of our mortality so that we can give the best of ourselves every day. The fact of living continuously looking to the future or with a look to the past takes away the present from us. For this reason, he considered that we should not fear death, but not having lived, having spent our whole life doing things that do nothing, that do not allow us to connect with our essence or even become obstacles that prevent us from realizing. our dreams.
5. Prepare for the worst, in the best way
"Begin each day by saying to yourself: today I will encounter obstacles, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill will and selfishness."
One of the most important teachings of the Stoics is the importance of controlling our expectations, which are often the basis of our anger or frustration. Marcus Aurelius does not encourage us to develop pessimistic thinking, but not to have unrealistic expectations, so that reality does not hit us hard. It encourages us to prepare for the worst in the best possible way, so that nothing catches us by surprise and we don't feel so overwhelmed or downcast when adversity knocks on our door. It's about foreseeing all the possibilities, even the ones we don't like, and preparing for the final scenario.