the stoic art of living a good life

the stoic art of living a good life

“We should use our reasoning ability to overcome negative emotions. We should also use our reasoning ability to master our desires, to the extent that it is possible to do so. In particular, we should use reason to convince ourselves that things such as fame and fortune aren’t worth having—not, at any rate, if what we seek is tranquility—and therefore aren’t worth pursuing. Likewise, we should use our reasoning ability to convince ourselves that even though certain activities are pleasurable, engaging in those activities will disrupt our tranquility, and the tranquility lost will outweigh the pleasure gained.” 

― William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life

It’s worth investing our time, money and energy on learning philosophy. The secret to living a good life, enriched with fulfillment is not to go to your dream school, get a prestigious degree and secure a high-paying job, but rather it is to learn the art of living through philosophy. Having a philosophy is analogous to having a roadmap; it helps us navigate through the ups and downs of life and find treasures that hold the deepest meaning to us.

Philosophy calls for introspection and defining goals that align with what we desire. This prevents us from having any regrets towards the end of our lives. In this world of constant distractions and countless ways where our attention is robbed from us, we can rely on Stoicism to help us in setting goals that align with us. 

The path of Stoicism is that of moderation. It neither endorses life of misery and poverty nor a life of luxury and hedonism. 

A Stoic enjoys the pleasures that life has to offer but he does not become dependent on them for his happiness. 

Stoicism teaches us that we should never rely on external objects for happiness as it is short-lived.  Instead, we have to realize that the happiness and joy that we are seeking is always within us. 

The Stoics had two primary goals: virtue and tranquility. They considered these as the foundational pillars for living a good life. Being virtuous is important because unlike animals and other beings we have the ability to reason and we must put it to a good use. As our actions have the potential to affect the people around us, living a virtuous life not only helps us but also helps the people around us. Tranquility simply translates to eliminating all the negative emotions within us. In this way, we are in better charge of ourselves and don’t let these negative emotions affect our decision-making ability and sabotage our success. We are able to gain clarity in difficult situations. 

The Stoics always believed that a mind that is calm and free of negativity can tackle any kind of obstacles that come up on the way.

PS: If you enjoyed reading this essay and are inclined to learn the essential tools and strategies of Stoicism in these uncertain and difficult times, I encourage you to read my eBook Daily Stoicism which is the third book in The Daily Learner series. Through this book, you can be in tune with the Stoic philosophy on a daily basis as you face the challenges of everyday life with practical wisdom and inner fortitude. The wisdom of great philosophers such as Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius as well as modern authors such as Ryan Holiday and Donald Robertson has been distilled in a form that is easy to digest and consume (even if you’re not a reader!).  The condensed timeless knowledge in these meditations will guide you in navigating through the complexities that come with modern living, and help you in your quest to living a virtuous and meaningful life, especially in this global health crisis.