What Is Stoicism?
Stoicism is a philosophy that has been around since ancient times, but it remains relevant today. Many think about Stoicism as "self-control", that's all of it. However, It is more than that, teaches individuals to live a life of virtue, self-discipline, and inner peace.
Stoicism consists of two pillars that work together to provide a comprehensive worldview. The first pillar is the four cardinal virtues, which guide an individual's ethical decision-making. The second pillar is the concept of the dichotomy of control, which helps individuals to focus on what they can change in their lives and accept what they cannot.
The Two Pillars of Stoicism
The two pillars of stoicism work together to provide a roadmap for individuals who seek to live a good life. These two pillars are the four cardinal virtues and the concept of what we can and cannot control.
The First Pillar: The Four Cardinal Virtues
The four virtues of stoicism are wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. These virtues provide a framework for ethical decision-making and guide individuals in living a good life. Here are some examples of how each of these virtues can be practiced:
Wisdom is the ability to make rational judgments and act on them. It involves using reason to discern what is truly important and valuable in life and making choices that align with those values. Examples of practicing wisdom include:
Reflecting on one's values and priorities and making decisions based on these principles.
Seeking out knowledge and education to make informed decisions.
Using critical thinking skills to evaluate information and make reasoned judgments.
Courage is the willingness to face challenges and endure pain or hardship in pursuit of what is right or good. It involves overcoming fear, taking calculated risks, and persevering through adversity. Examples of practicing courage include:
Standing up for what is right, even in the face of opposition or criticism.
Facing one's fears and taking action to overcome them.
Enduring pain or hardship for the sake of a higher goal or purpose.
Justice is the sense of fairness, equality, and morality in all dealings with others. It involves treating others with respect and compassion and acting in a way that contributes to the greater good of society. Examples of practicing justice include:
Treating others with kindness, empathy, and respect.
Advocating for social justice and equality for all people.
Volunteering or donating to causes that benefit others.
Temperance is the ability to restrain one's desires and to practice moderation in all aspects of life. It involves avoiding excess and living a balanced life, in which one's actions are guided by reason rather than impulses or emotions. Examples of practicing temperance include:
Moderating one's consumption of food, alcohol, or other substances.
Practicing self-discipline and avoiding procrastination or distraction.
Cultivating a sense of inner calm and tranquility through practices like meditation or mindfulness.
The Second Pillar: The Dichotomy of Control
The second pillar of stoicism is the concept of what we can and cannot control. Stoics believe that some things in life that are within our control, and other things are outside of our control. By focusing on what we can control and accepting what we cannot, individuals can find inner peace and freedom from the stress and anxiety of trying to control things beyond their power.
According to stoicism, the only things that we can truly control are our thoughts, actions, and values. We can choose how we think about and respond to situations, and we can act by our values and principles. However, many things in life are outside of our control, such as the weather, other people's opinions and actions, natural disasters, and the passage of time. Trying to control these things can lead to frustration, anxiety, and unhappiness.
"It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance." -Epictetus, Stoic Philosopher
This statement emphasizes the idea that it is not external events that cause us distress, but rather our thoughts and beliefs about those events.
By changing our perspective and focusing on what we can control, we can shift our attention away from external factors and cultivate a sense of inner peace and contentment.
Stoicism also emphasizes the importance of accepting the things that we cannot control. This does not mean that we should be passive or resign ourselves to fate. Rather, it means that we should focus our energy on the things that we can change and accept the things that we cannot. By doing so, we can avoid wasting our energy on things that are beyond our power and instead focus on improving our own thoughts, actions, and values.
One practical way to practice the second pillar of stoicism is to make a distinction between things that are within our control and things that are not. This can be done by creating two lists: one list of things we can control and another list of things we cannot control. By reviewing these lists regularly and focusing on the things that we can control, we can cultivate a sense of inner peace and reduce our stress and anxiety.
In summary, the four virtues of stoicism provide a framework for ethical decision-making and guide individuals in living a good life. By practicing wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, individuals can cultivate inner peace, happiness, and a sense of purpose. Also, it is important to identify what is under our control and what is not, to avoid putting effort into things that have no paybacks.