10 wise lessons from ancient Greek philosophers to help you become a more resilient person

Ever heard of the ancient philosophers from ancient Greece? You know, the ones who would sit around, think deep thoughts, and then share their wisdom with the world.

Well, we’re going to take a trip back in time to learn from them.

But hold on, this isn’t just another boring history lesson.

We’re here to discover ten surprising life lessons from these Greek philosophers.

And these aren’t just any lessons, these are tips to make us tougher and more able to handle whatever life throws at us.

These ancient Greek thinkers had a special way of looking at life.

They didn’t just accept things as they were. Instead, they asked questions, turned ideas upside down and inside out until they understood them better.

And guess what?

A lot of what they said still makes sense today.

But here’s the thing: some of the lessons might seem strange at first.

They aren’t the usual ‘stay positive’ or ‘work hard’ advice we’re used to hearing.

These philosophers had a different approach.

They wanted us to think differently, to see things from new perspectives.

And once we get what they’re trying to say, we can use their wisdom to become stronger and more resilient.

So are you ready for this journey into the past? Let’s go!

1. Embrace Change – Heraclitus

Heraclitus, a philosopher famous for his doctrine of change, once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.”

Sounds simple, right?

But when you think about it, it’s pretty deep. Here’s what he meant: everything in life—people, situations, even you—is always changing. And that’s okay.

We often resist change because it’s scary or uncomfortable. But Heraclitus tells us to accept it and roll with it.

Why?

Because fighting change is like trying to swim against a strong current—it’s exhausting and gets you nowhere.

So next time life throws a curveball at you, remember Heraclitus. Don’t waste energy fighting the change. Instead, embrace it and adapt.

This might be tough at first, but with time, you’ll find yourself becoming stronger and more resilient to life’s ever-changing conditions.

2. Know Yourself – Socrates

Here comes Socrates with his famous saying: “Know thyself.”

Now, before you roll your eyes and think, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that one before,” hold on a second.

Socrates wasn’t just talking about knowing your favorite color or what kind of pizza toppings you like. He meant something much deeper.

Knowing yourself is about understanding your strengths and weaknesses. It’s about knowing what makes you tick, what gets you fired up, and what brings you down.

But why is this important?

Well, when you know yourself really well, you’re less likely to be knocked off balance by life’s challenges.

For example, if you know that you’re naturally a worrier, then when something stressful happens, you won’t panic or think there’s something wrong with you.

Instead, you’ll say to yourself: “Okay, this is just my worry kicking in. It’s not helpful right now, so I’m going to use some stress-busting techniques.”

So take some time to really get to know yourself. Not only will it make you more resilient in the face of adversity, but it’ll also make your life a whole lot more meaningful.

3. The Middle Way – Aristotle

Aristotle, another heavyweight in the world of philosophy, was all about balance. He talked about something he called the ‘Golden Mean,’ or finding the middle way.

This isn’t about being average or settling for less. It’s about understanding that going to extremes—whether too much or too little—can lead to problems.

Here’s a personal example: I used to think that working super hard was the key to success. So I’d work all day, skipping meals, and barely sleeping. Then one day, I collapsed from exhaustion. It was a wake-up call.

I remembered Aristotle’s Golden Mean and realized I had swung too far to one extreme. So, I started making changes. I set boundaries for my work hours, took regular breaks, and made sure I got plenty of sleep and good food. It wasn’t easy at first—I had a lot of old habits to break—but with time, I found my balance.

The result?

I’m not just healthier; I’m also more resilient. Because now, when life gets tough or extra busy, I know how to take care of myself so that I don’t burn out again. So remember Aristotle’s Golden Mean: it’s not about going to extremes; it’s about finding your balance.

4. Question Everything – Socrates (Again!)

Yes, Socrates is back again with another gem: “Question everything.”

But before you think he wanted us to become annoying skeptics, let’s clear up what he really meant.

Socrates believed in the power of questioning as a tool for learning and growing. He felt that by questioning our beliefs and assumptions, we could reach a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

This approach to learning and understanding is still used today in what is known as the Socratic Method. It’s a popular teaching strategy used in many law schools where students learn through asking and answering questions.

So how does this help us become more resilient?

Well, when we question our fears or doubts instead of accepting them at face value, we can often find that they’re not as scary or insurmountable as we first thought. This gives us the courage to face challenges head-on, making us stronger and more resilient in the process.

5. The Art of Acceptance – Epictetus

Epictetus, a former slave turned philosopher, had a lot to say about the art of acceptance. He once said, “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.” This is a powerful lesson in resilience.

Life can be tough. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things go wrong. People disappoint us, plans fail, and dreams shatter. It’s in these moments that Epictetus’ wisdom truly shines.

He teaches us that while we may not have control over what happens to us, we always have control over how we react. We can let our hardships embitter us, or we can choose to accept them and learn from them.

Acceptance isn’t about giving up or admitting defeat. It’s about acknowledging reality and choosing to persevere regardless. It’s about saying: “This is tough. This hurts. But I won’t let it break me.”

Learning to accept life’s challenges rather than fight against them doesn’t make the pain any less real, but it does make the burden a little lighter.

It builds resilience, giving us the strength to keep going even when the road gets tough.

6. The Value of Friendship – Aristotle

Aristotle had a lot to say about friendship. He believed that it was one of the most important aspects of a good and fulfilling life. Now, you might be thinking, “What does this have to do with resilience?” Well, stick with me and I’ll show you.

Several years ago, I went through a really tough time. I had lost my job and was struggling to find a new one. My confidence was low, and I felt like I was stuck in a rut.

That’s when my friends stepped in. They were there for me, offering kind words, practical help, and even some much-needed distractions. They cheered me on during my job hunt, celebrated with me when I finally landed a new job, and were there to catch me on the days when everything felt too hard.

This experience taught me firsthand the value of Aristotle’s lesson about friendship. Having a solid support system doesn’t just make life more enjoyable; it also makes us more resilient.

So cherish your friends, lean on them when you’re struggling, and be there for them in their time of need. Because when life gets tough, having friends by your side can make all the difference.

7. Embrace Mortality – Socrates

Here’s a challenging lesson from Socrates: “He who is not a good servant will not be a good master.” Essentially, Socrates is reminding us that life is fleeting, and death is inevitable.

Talking about death isn’t exactly a bucket of laughs. But stick with me here because this is important.

You see, the fact that we’re not going to be here forever can actually be a powerful motivator. It can help us make the most of the time we do have and live our lives to the fullest.

Sure, life can be hard. It can knock us down and leave us feeling like we’ve been hit by a bus. But when we remember that our time here is limited, it can spur us to get back up and keep fighting. It can make us more resilient because it reminds us that every moment, even the tough ones, are precious.

So don’t shy away from Socrates’ lesson on mortality.

Embrace it.

Let it fuel you to live your life with passion, resilience, and an unwavering determination to make every moment count.

8. Pursuit of Knowledge – Plato

Plato, a student of Socrates, was big on knowledge. He once said, “Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.” Basically, Plato believed that learning shouldn’t be forced. Instead, it should be a natural and enjoyable process.

Plato’s philosophy on education has greatly influenced modern teaching techniques. His belief in learning through questioning and critical thinking rather than memorization is still a cornerstone in many educational systems today.

But how does this relate to resilience?

Well, when we’re passionate about learning and open to gaining new knowledge, we become more adaptable. We’re better equipped to handle new challenges because we have a wealth of knowledge to draw from.

9. Living a Simple Life – Diogenes

Diogenes was one heck of a character. He was known for his extreme frugality and commitment to living a simple life.

Now, before you start picturing a cave-dwelling hermit, let me clarify.

Diogenes wasn’t about denying oneself of all pleasures or living in abject poverty. He was about understanding what we truly need to be happy and fulfilled, and often, it’s a lot less than we think.

Take it from me. A few years ago, I was caught up in the rat race. I worked a job I didn’t like to buy things I didn’t need. I was stressed, unhappy, and far from resilient.

Then I came across Diogenes’ teachings about simplicity. Inspired, I started making changes. I decluttered my home, pursued a job I loved even though it paid less, and started spending more time doing things that genuinely made me happy.

The result?

My life became less stressful and more fulfilling. And the best part? I became more resilient. With less clutter and unnecessary stress in my life, I found it easier to bounce back from setbacks.

So don’t underestimate the power of simplicity. It can not only make your life more peaceful but also make you a stronger, more resilient person.

10. The Power of Now – Zeno of Citium

Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, preached a lot about the importance of living in the present. He believed that most of our worries and anxieties come from either dwelling on the past or fearing the future.

He was onto something.

How many times have we lost sleep over something we did or didn’t do in the past? Or wasted hours worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future?

I’m guessing a lot.

But we can’t change the past, and we can’t predict the future. The only thing we truly have control over is the present. So why waste it with worry and regret?

Learning to live in the now doesn’t mean ignoring the past or not planning for the future. It’s about not letting these things rob you of your present happiness. It’s about learning to appreciate and make the most of each moment.

This mindset can make us more resilient because it helps us to focus on what’s in front of us, deal with challenges as they come, and not get overwhelmed by past regrets or future anxieties.

So take it from Zeno: embrace the present. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

And there you have it—ten counterintuitive but wise lessons from ancient Greek philosophers to help you become a more resilient person. These lessons may be thousands of years old, but their wisdom is timeless. So give them a try and watch as they transform your life one moment at a time.

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Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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