Stoicism can help you have a more appropriate perspective, increased contentment, and equip you for challenges in the present and the future.
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You’re listening to the Stoic Solutions Podcast – practical wisdom for everyday life. I’m your host, Justin Vacula with episode 79 – Perspective. Stoicism can help you have a more appropriate perspective, increased contentment, and equip you for challenges in the present and the future.
Stoic authors often encourage taking a long view understanding that the present moment and even our lifetime is but a blip in the long span of time in which empires fell, many have died, and people most fearsome exert no influence in the modern day.
In a time of crisis, sadness, or anger we may jump to conclusions such that our world is collapsing, that there is nothing which can make our current situation better. We view events as bad news, misfortune, or bad luck thinking consequences we do not like will have a significant lasting negative impact on our life instead of injecting some gratitude, humility, and acceptance into the present moment. We embrace depair rather than having hope. A change in perspective, taking a longer view, can help us cope with trying times which can shake our Stoic resolve.
Reflect on times in your past, particularly when you were a child, when you were in states of despair perhaps when a grandparent or great grandparent died or when you felt a sense of separation – maybe being lost in a public place – from your guardian. Recall a time in your teenage years when a romantic interest did not return your admiration and you felt crushed.
In the moment, we can feel overwhelmed, but now, removed from the situation and with additional wisdom, we feel more at ease. We can create an inductive case when thinking about the future, past, and present: if we have recovered from very difficult times in the past, we will likely feel more content about our current struggles in the future. Can we recall, for example, our greatest struggles in elementary school or high school? What rules we didn’t like when living with our parents?
Perhaps that feeling of loss, too, some experience of a negative emotion, led to a realization about ourselves and the human situation in general – too much dependence upon a certain person may have been revealed as toxic when we reflect on our past, we can resolve to be more independent and not so fixed on the support of another. One who is overly propped up by another will crumble when and if that person fades for whatever reason – stoic authors often draw to our attention the fact that life is fragile, that chance events can change everything for us as nothing last forever.
We humans can be quite resilient bouncing back from difficult times. Stoic Philosophy should help us cope with inevitable adversity. We ought to accept the fact that challenges are ever-present because much is largely outside of our control including others’ behavior and even our health, wealth, and reputation.
We can strive to improve our status in life, focused on a solid process rather than relying on chance or others to save us, but cannot guarantee results we crave. We’re to be largely detached from outcomes and prepare for possible undesirable results so we are not overwhelmed when our expectations are not met. Reduce desire and expectations to reduce anguish. An attitude of acceptance having a realistic view of life should help us have better perspective and ability to cope.
We should be grateful for overcoming adversity and parts of life we value rather than overly focusing on what we perceive as negative happenings. Others, perhaps without Stoic training and wisdom, will not cope as well when faced with particular events. Structuring our lives in a particular way – avoiding temptations we value as not worthwhile, exercise moderation in areas like finance, being able to delay gratification, and having reasonable goals and a schedule of some sort will help us have more contentment or tranquility compared with those who seem to have very little structure in their lives tossed about by whims and impulses. Take the time to think about future consequences of behavior and have a longer-term perspective rather than living in a state of stagnation perhaps resigning to a lifestyle of living paycheck to paycheck making excuses for poor financial habits and misplaced desires.
Make some effort, even small efforts, to improve your situation rather than being resistant to change talking about how it’s “too much work” or “too much risk” especially when, in the modern area, we have so many resources and people to draw upon for guidance, inspiration, and direction – lots of free information around the internet and in books!
Surely we have made improvements earlier in life and can continue to improve. Humble yourself and be willing to accept help from others understanding that we don’t have all the answers, we can overlook certain ways of solving problems, and are conceptualizing in a mistaken way. We can accept that we have particular strengths or talents, but can’t be a master of all things. We can engage with society-at-large, be helped by others’ contributions to the human community and even ‘give back’ in our own ways to make this world a better place.
The Stoic shouldn’t strive for seclusion and a life free from adversity, but rather should be strong and actively engaged with life welcoming appropriate challenge often coming out of adversity with more wisdom, appreciation, and resolve. We strive for moderation, some engagement with society, but not so much that we lose our personal identity and time with our own thoughts. Welcome adversity, but do not desire to be overwhelmed by pain and challenges we aren’t equipped to handle. We can work to accept that which we cannot change, but also try to influence that which is in our power to change. We can reflect on the past and future, but not lose sight of the present moment. We can be mindful of the present, but not dismiss consequences in the future. Plan ahead, but don’t spend forever getting started.
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Podcast music, used with permission, is brought to you by Phil Giordana’s symphonic metal group Fairyland from their album ‘Score to a New Beginning.’ John Bartmann offered free consultation and audio edits for episodes 51-63. Thanks to generous patrons and fans of this podcast who help support my work. Have a great day.