Stoicism

2019-08-13

People misunderstand stoic philosophy. Here’s the core idea: you shouldn’t lose your shit about anything which is out of your control.

Which is not the same thing as saying that you shouldn’t care about anything. You should care hard about the things you can control. But you should be realistic about what you control and what you don’t.

Stoicism also doesn’t mean never feeling anything. It means aspiring to let your reason control your choices and actions - and there’s nothing less reasonable than making decisions and taking actions based on something you don’t control. But it’s an ideal to strive for, and getting caught up in your emotions doesn’t make you a bad stoic, it makes you a human being.

You don’t cry when it rains, even if you were excited to go out. You have no control over the rain. Getting upset isn’t going to help anything; it won’t make it stop raining, and it won’t help you plan better next time. So why do it?

It’s easy to see when talking about the weather. It’s harder when we think of getting laid off or getting hit by a drunk driver. But the principle is the same. You have limited control over your company’s decision to fire people. You have limited control over another person’s driving. So even when it negatively affects you, getting worked up about it is like shaking your fist at a thundercloud.

Stoicism is hard. You can work at it all your life and find that you still have things you need to improve. Humans are not good at being stoic. But stoicism is a virtue, and that means it’s worth practicing even when it’s hard.