Embrace The Life You Have

Thursday, 04 May 2023

Here is a school of thinking that is really appealing to me of late. Stoicism is a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life, rather than some esoteric field of academic inquiry.

What Are The 4 Virtues of Stoicism?

  • Courage.
  • Temperance. 
  • Justice.
  • Wisdom. 

They are the most essential values in Stoic philosophy. “If, at some point in your life,” Marcus Aurelius wrote, “you should come across anything better than justice, truth, self-control, courage - it must be an extraordinary thing indeed.” That was almost twenty centuries ago! 

It can be easily understood by saying do what you can with what you have – nothing more or less. In many ways Modern Stoicism is similar to ancient Stoicism: both advocate a virtue ethics in which flourishing is achieved by living like an excellent human being rather than, for example, trying to maximise happiness or follow a set of rules. Both deem virtue as necessary and sufficient for flourishing. I like it! 

Stoicism has its intersect points with Circles of Concern and Control. Popularised by Stephen Covey (1), this concept explores three spheres:

  1. The Circle of Concern – the wide range of worries we might have about a topic
  2. The Circle of Influence – a narrowing of the first circle into those worries we can do something about – either directly or indirectly
  3. The Circle of Control – an even smaller circle, representing the things we can actually directly do something about

Human beings can choose where they focus their energy and attention. If we focus on the concerns outside our influence, we risk increasing our stress and falling into the space of accusing, blaming, and victimisation.

By choosing to focus on the circle of influence – we move into a more proactive space. Rather than spending energy on things we can do nothing about, we can take steps that make a positive difference – calling on our strengths and connections. And we can also choose to let go of concerns that are not serving us well.

Facilitating this thinking in yourself, or in others, helps to limit wasteful rumination and inaction. Altering thinking to a proactive focus can enhance productivity, help people see a greater connection to progress and achievement, and also to build resilience.

This is something children can readily respond to. Helping them understand that some issues are outside of their control can alleviate the anxieties associated with the problem.

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