Stoicism: 7 Days to Mastering the Stoic Art of Journaling
Our story begins with Zeno of Cyprus, son of a merchant and a merchant himself. On one of his trips transporting purple dye from Phoenicia to Peiraeus, fate had other plans for him. Shipwrecked in Athens, he decided to bide his time in a nearby bookshop, as one does. He found works from some of the most influential and prominent philosophers of his time. Just like many of us with our first interaction into the intrepid and mindboggling world of philosophical thinking, he was hooked.
Venturing out to find the company of his fellow thinkers, he eventually found himself gravitating towards a new school of thought years later, which came to be known as Stoicism. The Stoa Poikile, a magnificent public colonnade where Zeno and his pupils convened for discussion, gave rise to the name Stoicism.
What is Stoicism?
Virtue, tolerance, and self-control. The three defining pillars of Stoicism have become wildly popular in this day and age. What we know as the modern-day stoic is different from the adjective we use to describe someone cold and unfeeling. For Stoicism is not merely an attitude. It's a way of life.
Stoicism sees the world as it is, not ideal and sometimes unwavering. To live in a world where belief in goodness isn't enough is not easy. Encapsulated perfectly in the line "Sometimes, even to live is an act of courage", said Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca. Stoics believe that even if you can't control how the world works and how your fate plays out, you can control how you react to situations that may not be ideal. And while you face the world and all its problems, you try to achieve self-growth and learning along the way. So that by the end of your perils, you are a better person.
Stoicism is the belief that even in the most unsettling of situations, you trust yourself and all that you have learned in its ability to get you out of that situation.
How Can It Help With Everyday Life?
According to Stoicism, cultivating a significant mental state, which the Stoics connected with virtue and logic, is the key to a good, happy existence. A life in harmony with Nature, of which we are all a part, and a serene indifference to external events is a perfect life.
Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, and a Stoic himself wrote about his friend, from whom he had learned the way of life: "No man was ever more happy than he in comprehending, finding out, and arranging in exact order, the great maxims necessary for the conduct of life."
Stoics don't break down in tears and storm out of rooms, fists clenched. When the paper jams for the third time, Stoics don't break anything in the printing room. Stoics do not become inebriated and make bad mistakes in life. Are they suppressing their basic human desire to screw everything up, and will they eventually snap under pressure? Wrong! In reality, if lived correctly, the stoic way of life can help you become happier and more in control of your frantic, befuddling existence that you only pretend to comprehend.
For anyone whose life is falling apart at the seams, Stoicism can provide a sense of quiet and serenity that you've previously only experienced when summer finally arrives. It's about accepting the principles of fate that govern the world around you and doing everything you can to manage your destiny by recognizing what you can and cannot control.
Philosophy is Actionable
Philosophy isn't only about giving lectures or reading long, thick texts. It is, in reality, something that men and women of action utilize — and have used throughout history — to solve problems and achieve their most significant victories. On the battlefield, in the forum, and in court, not in the classroom.
According to modern philosopher and author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, A Stoic is someone who "transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation and desire into undertaking."
Enslaved people, poets, emperors, politicians, soldiers, and ordinary people wrote it down (and practised it) to assist them in solving their issues and those of their friends, family, and followers. This knowledge is still available to us. Stoicism is the most practical of all philosophies.
Even though many of the greatest Stoics never wrote anything down for publication, we still have access to their thoughts. Cato, on the other hand, did not. Meditations were never meant to be anything other than personal to Marcus Aurelius. Seneca's writings were just that: letters and Epictetus' ideas came to us via a student who took notes.
The only reason these ideas still exist is that they were pondered upon, written down, and implemented by people who faced adversity. Thus, journaling things down is an integral piece of living the Stoic life.
Why Journaling Is Critical
Why is journaling is a gateway into the teachings of Stoicism? In Book XI of Meditations, Aurelius wrote: "In writing, or in reading, be first taught yourself, before you pretend to teach others. Observe this much more in life." The more you write down about your life experiences, the better you understand what makes you you.
In the centuries afterwards, many people, whether Stoic or not, have fallen in love with and dedicated themselves to morning or evening journaling. And there's a reason for that: it works. It clears the mind, allows for peaceful, private thinking, and keeps track of one's thoughts throughout time.
However, the skill of journaling in Stoicism is more than just a regular diary. The philosophy is this daily practice. Getting ready for the day ahead. Pondering the day's events and reminding ourselves of our lessons from our teachers, books, and life experiences. It is not enough to merely listen to these lessons once; instead, one must practise them again, go through them over in their minds, and, write them down while feeling them flow through their fingers.
Journaling is Stoicism. Having one without the other is not possible.
7 Days of Stoicism
To invite the spirit of Stoicism into your life, we have carefully curated a 7-day challenge inculcating the tenets of Stoic philosophy and evaluating them with your own life experiences through journaling. We'll discuss Stoic teaching and its importance for all seven days. To help you gain perspective on each teaching, we'll also provide you with a journal question that you can take to writing on.
Remembering three basic steps will help you go through each day and come out having learned something and grown. The three steps are Understanding, Writing, Implementing. Understand what the teaching is trying to tell you, write about yourself in relation to it, do what needs to be done to implement it in your daily life.
Let us begin your seven days of change!
Day 1: Nothing Is In Your Control Except Your Reactions
Epictetus'teachings have two essential principles. The first is that we have control over certain things but not others and that most of our misery stems from our belief that we can control things we can't.
Epictetus claims that humans have very little control. We do not influence what happens to us, what the others around us say or do, and we don't even have complete control over our bodies, which are harmed, sickened, and eventually die regardless of our wishes.
This leads us to Epictetus' second core principle: it's not what bothers us but how we think about it. Things happen. We then pass judgement on what has occurred. If we believe something genuinely terrible has occurred, we may become upset, sad, or angry, depending on the circumstances. We may become terrified if we believe something horrible is about to happen. All of these feelings are because our decisions. Things are value-neutral in and of themselves because what we find repulsive may be regarded as insignificant by others or even embraced by others.
- Is it possible that I've lost control of my emotions today? What was the catalyst for it? Was it an appropriate response?
- What did I do today that wasn't typical of me? What was the catalyst for it? Was it an appropriate response?
Day 2: Learn to Face Adversity
Seneca understood all too well what it was like to be exiled, bereaved, and eventually compelled to commit suicide by Nero. He also understood that saying, "I'm not going to let these external things bother me", was one thing, but doing so and not being disturbed was quite another.
As a result, the Stoics devised several practical exercises to assist individuals in incorporating Stoic ideas into their daily lives. Seneca advised taking stock at the end of each day, noting when you get annoyed about something insignificant, react aggressively to someone who didn't deserve it, and so on. He intended to improve the next day by documenting his blunders.
In Book II, Marcus wrote: "Say thus to thyself every morning: today I may have to do with some intermeddler in other men's affairs, with an ungrateful man; an insolent, or a crafty, or an envious, or an unsociable selfish man." He knew he would have to face people who were angry and resentful, people that took it out on the rest of the world. He prepared himself to be better and calmer the next day with this knowledge.
- How does [person] affect and influence my life decisions, feelings, and behavior
Day 3: Accept What Comes At You
Another Stoic tactic is to remind ourselves of our insignificance constantly. We do not live in a world that revolves around us. In his Meditations, Aurelius frequently meditated on the immensity of the cosmos and the infinite of time that stretched into the past and future to put his brief existence into context.
According to Epictetus, if you expect the universe to give you precisely what you desire, you will be disappointed; however, if you welcome whatever the universe provides you, life will be a lot easier. Again, easier said than done, but an increasing number of individuals are heeding Stoic advice and attempting to incorporate it into their daily lives.
- Is it possible that everything is excellent and complete in its current state?
- What am I overlooking right now that a humbler person would notice?
- What am I avoiding or running from with my bluster, franticness, and embellishments?
Day 4: Guard Your Time Well
We all know that no one has infinite time in this world. However, most of us do not enjoy it as much as we should. In today's internet-powered society, we tend to waste time more and more.
Because he does not receive a better job offer, an employee fed up with his employer stays at his work for years. But he never considered the possibility of establishing a business, no matter how little, that would allow him to be his boss at the time.
Such people, according to the Stoics, are squandering their time. To put it another way, they are unaware of the potential value of time. People continue to perform the same things for years, but they are unsatisfied. However, they continue to do so for fear of being labelled as hustlers by society.
Seneca wrote: "We're tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers."
- How can I spend more time on things that make me happy?
- What and who are my life's priorities?
Day 5: Be Grateful
Gratefulness is a foolproof way to make yourself happy. It encourages us to focus on the positive aspects of our lives while avoiding destructive emotions or memories. Scientists can now substantiate this theory with research findings.
Being appreciative does not imply that we should stop striving for greater heights. It means we shouldn't dwell too much on what we don't have because doing so would bring us down and make us feel unworthy of everything we could otherwise achieve.
It fosters a positive outlook on life, the first step toward pursuing personal growth chances.
Consider all the things you have to be thankful for today. You are alive, live in a mainly peaceful era, and have good health, leisure, and internet access to read this post. "In everything, we should try to make ourselves as grateful as possible," Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius.
- What has [person] contributed to my life? What can I credit them with in terms of my wisdom, accomplishments, or fortunate events?
- In exchange, what value do I (or can I) add to [person's] life?
- Who motivated me to develop my best qualities and influenced me to develop them?
Day 6: Material Things Don't Give You Joy
Materialism is a terrible sickness that affects practically everyone in the modern world. Excessive materialism indicates that one is hollow and void on the inside. When we sense something is missing in our lives or within ourselves, we desire to seek more.
Our entire economy is based on the purchase of goods. Everyone makes a purchase. It makes no difference what you purchase. Simply put, buy. It makes no difference if you don't have any money.
Simply put, buy. Our entire civilization now operates under the idea that we will all continue to buy a lot of stuff regardless of what occurs. Purchase, purchase, purchase. Then go out and get some more.
"Don't set your heart on so many things," says Epictetus. Make it a habit to ask yourself, "Do I need this?" What happens if I don't receive it? The answers to these questions will surely help you in relaxing and eliminating all of the unnecessary activities that keep you too busy to be balanced or joyful.
- Consider a thing in your possession that you'd like to improve. Is your current product up to the task? What do you find appealing about it? What kind of long-term value will an improvement bring to your life?
- Examine your possessions and the things that are most important to you. If you didn't have them, how much would you want them?
Day 7: Failure Isn't The End
The word "failure" has a negative meaning. However, we must not consider it a negative feature of life. Failures are transient, and if we know how to get back on our feet and try again, they may become a source of inspiration. Only after a few minor or significant failures can we appreciate success entirely. Our life's ultimate goal should be to become the best version of ourselves. We can only do so if we go through various experiences, some of which fail us and others which succeed us, but all of which combined give us the ability to make our advancement worthwhile.
Aulus Gellius relates that Epictetus once said, "If anyone would take two words to heart and take pains to govern and watch over themselves by them, they will live an impeccable and immensely tranquil life. The two words are: persist and resist." Defy doubters, discouragement, and distractions by persisting in your efforts despite whatever barriers you may encounter.
- What can I do differently next time to avoid the same outcome? How can I better myself?
The decision to incorporate these Stoic values in your life will no doubt take time and practice; however, it will benefit you in the long run. With JournalOwl, your journal companion, make things easier by signing up for our free online journaling service so you can journal on the go!
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