How Stoic Mindsets Build Emotional Resilience
Today’s post comes from Jonas Salzgeber, author of The Little Book of Stoicism. He’s an expert in Stoic philosophy, and passionate about self-made dark chocolate and buttered coffee with collagen. Jonas also blogs for a small army of remarkable people at njlifehacks.com.
5 Stoic Mindsets for Ultimate Emotional Resilience
1. Prepare for the Day – Think Negatively
Every day, you can almost be certain to meet someone who seems like a jerk. The question is: Will you be ready for it? If you prepare yourself in the morning, chances improve that you’ll be ready to face tough situations and interactions with patience, forgiveness, understanding, and kindness.
To be clear: You do not prepare to be against the world, you prepare to act reasonably within a chaotic world where not everybody is as well prepared as you are. Challenges will come your way if you want to or not.
“Mortal have you been born, to mortals you have given birth. Reckon on everything, expect everything.” Seneca reminds us to expect everything – from minor blows to major tragedies. This mental preparation in the morning will help you focus on the important things and you will be ready to meet difficulties with calmness, resilience, and patience.
2. Love What Happens – The Universe Has Your Back
Accept rather than fight every little thing that happens. If we resist reality, if we think things are going against us, if we fight with what already is, then we will suffer.
It’s much smarter to be grateful for what happens and imagine that those things happen for us, not against us. Hey, The Universe has your back! It’s looking after you, and the challenges you face will only make you stronger.
“If this is the will of nature, then so be it.” That’s a maxim the Stoics lived by. There’s something bigger than us, and we don’t control everything that happens. Nature is immensely complex and it’s impossible to tell whether anything that happens is good or bad.
Stoic acceptance has nothing to do with passive resignation. We shall not fight with reality, but bring our will into harmony with it, focus on where our power lies, and do what’s necessary.
3. Focus on Yourself – Play Your Given Roles Well
We all have different roles to play: Mother, son, friend, banker, or baker. If you fulfill your duties toward others, you will find peace within you and ultimately live a happy life.
Focus on yourside of relations with others. It’s possible that you’re a great daughter, but your father isn’t a great father, and he doesn’t play his role well. That has nothing to do with you. You were given this role as a daughter and must play it well. You can only do your side of the relation. Focus on yourself. Fulfill your duties as a daughter even if your father doesn’t fulfill his duties as a father to you. That’s ultimately his loss, not yours. He’s doing damage to himself.
Play your roles well, even if others don’t. Find satisfaction in that.
4. Buy Tranquility – Your Judgment Harms You
You are disturbed not by what happens, but by your opinion about it. That’s a classic Stoic principle. Your troubled mind comes from judging an outside event as undesirable or bad. Often in the form of whining, moaning, and complaining about it.
Nothing but opinion is the cause of a troubled mind.
Harm does not come from what happens—an annoying person or unloved situation—but from your reaction to it. Your harm comes from your belief about the event. So when someone pushes your buttons, it’s not this person, but your interpretation that hurts.
We let small things arouse our anger, and our consequential actions arouse anger in others, and so forth. It doesn’t need to be this way. Before you react to whatever arouses anger within, say to yourself: “I buy tranquility instead.” Then smile, do what needs to get done, and move on with your life.
You will soon realize that the small things that usually irritate you are not worth the hassle. Smile and move on. No reaction needed.
5. Beat Adversity – Recognize the Opportunity for Growth
“Who is there to prevent you from being good and sincere?” asks Marcus Aurelius.We have the inborn power to choose our actions and craft our character. “So display those virtues which are wholly in your own power—integrity, dignity, hard work, self-denial, contentment, frugality, kindness, independence, simplicity, discretion, magnanimity.”
We can turn what seems like adversity into advantage by using it as practice. As warrior-philosophers, we use these situations to practice being the best we can be.
While others see adversity as bad, as something preventing them from achieving goals, we recognize the opportunity for growth and flip it around—we see opportunity where they see evil.
In every challenge lies an opportunity for growth. If we’re aware of that, we can make sure that what impedesus—setbacks and struggles—will actually empowerus.
Every headache is a chance not to curse. Every annoying person is a chance for patience, kindness, and forgiveness. Every tough situation is a chance for perseverance and hard-work.
No matter what life throws at us, we have a choice: Will we be blocked by challenges, or will we fight through them? Either we shrink or we grow.
What’s your favorite of the mindsets?
Mine is “buy tranquility instead.” This helps me countless times every day. You observe a situation that arouses negative emotions within, choose it’s not worth losing your tranquility, and move on.
The funny thing is that you will forget about it immediately. You didn’t get hurt, you didn’t react whatsoever, and just move on calmly. Like magic 🙂
The mindsets are short excerpts from practices in my book The Little Book of Stoicism. If you like these Stoic mindsets, feel free to download my favorite 20 Stoic Exercises or check out the book.
“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”
– Epictetus, Stoic philosopher