“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment;MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 9.6
action for the common good in the present moment;
and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.”
These 3 are most critical principle of Stoicism and can become a guiding principle of life if understood correctly. It is summed up by Ryan Holiday in his book as
Control your perceptions.
Direct your actions properly.
Willingly accept what’s outside your control.
1. Control your perceptions
Most of the perceptions in our life, about things, our circumstances, people around us, our decisions are based on reflex. There is so much unconscious bias inside each of us that we don’t even realize how much it shapes our day to day life. There is nothing wrong in having bias, it is part of being human. We have been conditioned so much for so many years that our thoughts and our perceptions are almost like a reflex. So, here we need to be a little conscious and take few steps so that we control our perceptions rather than our perceptions controlling our life decisions:
- Question your decisions and examine your assumptions. When you are making assumption about someone ask whether you will make the same assumption about yourself? Ask how will you justify your actions to others? If you are not getting acceptable answers to these questions, then there is a need to reevaluate your presumptions
- Don’t be reactive to things. Follow the framework of listening -> processing -> reacting. Don’t miss the middle stage. If you are having having a strong reaction about something or someone is having a strong reaction about you, pause and ask why? Seek input from people to get various perspectives
2. Direct your actions properly
Now a lot can be said about action. Nothing can be achieved in the world just by wishful thinking. You might have grand ideas for your life, breakthrough ideas to change the world but nothing happens if you don’t act on it. Now sometimes it seems daunting to start but you can always take baby steps.
- Make actionable plan for your ideas. The stress here is on the word ‘actionable’. It shouldn’t be elaborate but at least it should give a basic framework on how you want to peruse your idea. As you go along you can figure out the minute details
- Build a routine. As much as the motivation helps in kicking off the project it can’t help you sustain in the long run. It’s the routine that keeps you going on the days which are not so good.
3. Willingly accept what’s outside your control
Ability to identify things that are under out control and letting go of things that are not is a virtue in itself. I have said a lot about this in my post Control and Choice but I would like to add here is the practice of gratitude. When it’s difficult to let go the things that is out of our control sometimes, it can be made a little easier by practicing gratitude. Once we start to look for our blessings, it is easy to let go of hardships.