Stoicism is basically an ancient philosophy that is based on logical thinking skills in relation to the natural world. Best-selling author Ryan Holiday studied various writings of the Stoics (great philosophers) comprising more than 2,000 years of work. His studies compelled him to create a list of 50 life habits that are good for you. In this post, you’ll find 10 out of the 50. One of my favorite sayings from the Greek Stoic Epictetus is this: It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters most. Sometimes, you come across a quote or saying that has a significant impact on the rest of your life. That’s pretty much how old Epictetus affected me as a young woman, when I first read those thoughts. It has stayed with me and influenced many of my thoughts, decisions and actions over the years.
Epictetus also described the job of a philosopher in a very wordy, intellectual way. In a layman’s terms, however, we can translate it as such: Identify your beliefs and live by them. Epictetus and many other wise, stoic philosophers spent countless hours pondering, discussing and writing about life habits. I’m convinced that living by the 10 habits included in the following list will improve the average person’s life:
- Focus on the things you can control.
- Spend time each day considering your own mortality.
- Make time more of a priority than money or possessions.
- We are products of our habits, so choose wisely.
- Always look for the good in others.
- Learn something from everyone.
- Don’t follow the crowd.
- The obstacle is part of the journey– navigate it– don’t fear it.
- Forgive others and yourself.
- Associate with people who help you become the best version of yourself.
Life habits teach us to control our focus
How many times have you heard the saying, “Let go, and let God”? The first stoic life habit on our list is closely connected to that. Too much of the wrong type of stress in life can damage your health. In fact, it can even cause cancer. This is why we should always to let go (and let God) of things that are out of our control. Instead, focus on what you CAN control. Modern generations have been plagued with feelings of immortality and entitlement. It’s had a devastating effect on our society. If you make a conscious decision to be mindful of your own mortality, it might help you appreciate life more. It can also inspire you to ‘live in the moment’ instead of fretting over the past and worrying about the future.
Every person has good inside
Some time ago, we featured an article about what children really want from their parents. Most kids would rather have more time with their parents than lots of money or fancy gadgets. Materialism is a vice that has also corroded family life in America. Consider the advice of the Stoics, and learn to value time more than money. My mother always taught me about #5. She’d say there’s good in every person and we should always look for it in others. The fact is, we have NO idea what a particular person might be struggling with internally. Even people who seem downright nasty, mean, rude, cold-hearted, selfish, etc., have goodness inside of them. As a Christian, I believe we’re all made in the image and likeness of God. God is good. Therefore, His creation is also good. There is an inherent goodness in everyone. When we start looking for the good in others, our own lives will improve.
The right life habits bring life lessons
Life is a series of ever-changing events. We can learn something from every person we meet. One of my favorite things to do is to spend time with an elderly person and listen intently to his or her stories. (Oh, how I miss my grand-parents!) My mother, age 92, occasionally writes letters to my kids. She tells them about her childhood and memories that she cherishes. We read and re-read her letters time and time again. They’re like mini history lessons, and to have something written in my mother’s own hand is a treasure beyond compare!
Have the courage to be counter-cultural
What teenager hasn’t been warned to never follow the crowd? Now, more than ever, people need to use critical thinking skills (and logic, like the Stoics) in relation to the natural world! Too many people turn on their TVs, then accept whatever they hear as truth without doing proper, independent research to verify the information. Look around. You don’t have to look very far to see what happens to a society where its members simply follow the crowd rather than thinking for themselves.
An obstacle can be an impediment or an opportunity
There’s no such thing as a life without obstacles. Epictetus taught that our reactions to events are what’ most important. Each of us must choose whether to let obstacles in our lives hold us back or motivate us to forge ahead. Will you let the obstacles in your life be an impediment to living or an opportunity to grow? The choice is yours.
Forgive others AND forgive yourself
Forgiving someone who has wronged you doesn’t necessarily mean you will forget what happened or the pain it caused. It means that you release them from blame — that you want the best for them in life, including Salvation. It’s often hardest to forgive ourselves, even when we know God has forgiven us. Forgiving others and ourselves frees us from being trapped in anger, frustration, stress, resentment and hatred. When we forgive, we’re free to live joyful lives. Matthew 6:14 states, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Good life habits should include removing toxic people from your life
Toxic relationships are bad for your health. Surround yourself with people who inspire, encourage and support you to become the best version of yourself. It can do wonders for your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.
Check out the complete list of 50 rules of the Stoics that Ryan Holiday wrote. What are your life habits? Are they helping you grow, learn and live life to the fullest? If you answered, “No,” what can you do to get more out of life? Incorporating one or more of the stoic life habits might help!