The great minds of our past: like the “Philosopher Kings” Plato and Socrates, Epictetus and Seneca, or the Stoic Emperor himself Marcus Aurelius, all have one theme in common — Be A Master of the Mind. Over two millennia later, the stoic philosophy has become extremely pertinent in today’s world.
Why? Because with so much innovation, advancing technology, steady change, and impactful events that create levels of adversity — the stoic way of looking at things allows you to control your own destiny within all the noise. And all you need — is you.
Modern Stoicism is alive and well in the 21st century. Giving way to lifestyles like minimalism marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. Yearly events like Stoic Week, an entirely free online stoic summit to discuss best practices and theories to be applied in life and business, and Stoicon, another annual meet up that gathers people face-to-face from around the globe to witness the power of change drawn from the stoic philosophy. Change that perpetuates in the power of free will, and the ability to take conscious, rational, and most effective decisions. Resolutions that will benefit not only your entire life — but how seriously you take your business and make your vision an empire.
Move On UP
Stoicism doesn’t tell us exactly what we should do. It simply teaches us how to spend time wisely on ourselves as a lifestyle and how to perceive the things that are happening around us to take action in an effective and practical manner.
Think of it as the first official “self-improvement” or “life-hack” guide. It gives us a personal perspective to act on and upon the real world. Add that to a contented state of mind — so we are in agreement with our inner voice, feelings, desires, and thoughts. It provides us with the key to the lock, to unlock what troubles us, and to learn how to face adversity. So we are happy at the end of a day — not only with ourselves, but with our place and work in the world. As Nassim Taleb elegantly puts it in his book The Black Swan, “My idea of the modern stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.”
Once you´ve understood and learned that all you need in this life to navigate forward and accomplish your objectives — is yourself — you´ll soon come to the next realization: “What do I need now to move forward?”
The answer: Courage. It´s also the 100% antidote to laziness and the essence of leadership. Having courage is a major key to take the leap, undergo hardships, face adversity, and overcome on top of the risks you undertake. Or simply put — make a move. Courage is not exclusive to any one individual or group of people. It’s found in each and every one of us. Courage is made up of the following core inner elements (in no specific order):
- Endurance: the ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue.
- Confidence: a state of being clear-minded with the idea that either a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. To be sure of one’s actions.
- High-Mindedness: having or showing high values, principles, and ideology with the belief that we should always strive for our highest ideals.
- Cheerfulness: the quality or state of being noticeably happy, positive, and optimistic with the ability to spread or cause happiness onto others.
- Industriousness: constant attention and strong determined effort as to one’s own occupation, life goals, and objectives. Keeping your eyes on the prize.
Once you´ve obtained the powerful ability to invoke courage at your will, and have learned and understood the core elements that makeup courage — follow this sage advice:
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love… Do every act of your life as if it were your last.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Room for Self Improvement
Fortunately, once you manage to muster up a mountain of courage to use at your will, you must conquer 3 fundamental things for you to Be A Master of the Mind:
- Your attitude — how you handle internal and external thoughts to influence your actions and behavior in your daily activities and tasks.
- Your feelings — fortification of strong mental health that can handle anger, grief, joy, and other emotions.
- Your body — treating the body as a temple to house your wealth of knowledge and a healthy system for the mind to best work at peak performance.
These 3 life keys take time to develop, and you need the patience to grow, persistence, and resistance to any possibility of the lack of self-control in order to flourish. To be a master of one’s self is a beautiful transformation that allows you to wield your skills, abilities, and thoughts to the highest of your power. An ideal recipe for any aspiring entrepreneur!
This new road will be tough, and you´re more than likely to sweat and feel pressure as you’re forged into your best self, as Seneca foretells, “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.”. Or as this ancient stoic philosopher puts it best:
“The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast — and one day you will build something that endures: something worthy of your potential…No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I will answer that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” — Epictetus
Now that this article has planted the seed of the stoic philosophy in the garden of your mind — it’s time to start watering, take care, and let it grow. So next time you find yourself in a situation of struggle or extreme adversity that causes you mental or emotional distress, take time to think, let the process sink. In and out — just breathe. Relax. Relate. Release your full potential.
The acquired abilities of self-control, ego management, perspective, and drive are of long lifetime value. It is applicable in all of life’s facets from daily life, to a career, or business, or a possible new venture. Having a stoic mindset will only help you move forward, or to whatever direction your life or business plan appoints you to. Take the leap of faith — while being absolutely sure of yourself and confident of your abilities.
The essence of stoicism is to differentiate between the things that you can influence or change, and the things that you can’t have any control over. Even if you cannot change a situation — change your attitude towards it. Once you´ve taken the time to fully understand this, you´ll be able to Think Like a Roman Emperor — taking care of even the smallest daunting tasks with a laser focus to build his/her own empire. Even if it’s not a grand empire, it’s your life, your dreams, and your vision of work — that alone is worthwhile. Be happy by what you’ve accomplished and what you hold dear as valuable. As one of the last of the 5 great Roman Emperors grandly puts it himself in very simple words,
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself — in your way of thinking” — Marcus Aurelius
So, what do we truly need to be happy? Keep one’s mind at bay? And grow beyond your wildest imagination? As far as the Stoics are concerned — not much. Literally. Because when the mind is content with its own self and knows that the pursuit of the superfluous or that external forces has no real control over you or your personal happiness — it can be truly free.
What a mind hack! So strive for what you want to be, be content with what you’ve achieved thus far, and learn to adapt to change in our current globalized operating system — functioning in high-pressure environments. The modern stoic absorbs knowledge, information, and data from mistakes and errors — to practice peace of mind in the face of chaos.