Living life the Stoic way: How ancient wisdom can lead to modern contentment

This year, I’ve made a pact with myself to live through the principles of Stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy that preaches tranquility and acceptance. If I can’t accept what life throws at me or remain calm in the face of adversity, then I’m not living true to my vow.

In my past, I was a victim of my own emotional turbulence. Every setback, every failure, every heartbreak would throw me into a spiral of despair. I would question my worthiness, my abilities, and even my existence.

Then came the day when I chanced upon a quote by Marcus Aurelius: “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

This was my epiphany.

I began to question why I allowed external events to dictate my internal peace. I realized that my happiness was not dependent on external factors but on how I chose to react to them.

This newfound revelation led me on a journey of self-discovery through the teachings of Stoicism. It wasn’t easy.

It required me to constantly challenge the myths I had internalized about happiness and success. It meant accepting that some things were beyond my control and focusing instead on what was within it – my reactions, my emotions, and my perspective.

The stoic philosophy taught me that contentment wasn’t about achieving everything I desired, but about desiring less and being okay with it. It was about finding joy in simplicity and tranquility in acceptance.

It was a complete paradigm shift.

So now you might be wondering, “How can ancient wisdom possibly lead to contentment in our modern world?”

Or perhaps you’re thinking “How can accepting less lead to happiness?”

Delve into this article as we explore these questions together and unveil the power of living life the Stoic way.

Embracing less for more happiness

My journey into Stoicism began with a simple step: embracing minimalism.

I started with decluttering my physical space, discarding items that didn’t add value to my life.

This simple act of decluttering was liberating and it led me to question why I held on to these items in the first place. I realized that I was clinging onto material possessions in the hope that they would bring me happiness. They didn’t.

Next, I applied minimalism to my emotional state. I started observing my emotions without succumbing to them. I allowed myself to feel without being overwhelmed.

It was challenging, but with practice, I learned to differentiate between what I could control and what I couldn’t. This detachment from my emotions brought tranquility and peace.

Finally, I practiced minimalism in my desires. Stoicism taught me that desire is the root of all suffering. So, I trained myself to desire less, to be content with what I had. The less I desired, the happier I became.

This was my experience of how accepting less led to more happiness.

However, the common narrative tells us otherwise. It tells us that we need more – more success, more money, more possessions – to be happy.

This narrative is pervasive and powerful. But is it really true? Is more always better? Or is it possible that the secret to happiness lies in desiring less?

In the next section, we will delve into why this perspective of needing ‘more’ to be happy prevails in our society and how my journey into Stoicism has shown me a different way of seeing things.

The myth of more

Society has a way of convincing us that more is better. More money, more success, more possessions – these are the things that supposedly equate to happiness. This is the myth I believed and lived by for years.

My pursuit for ‘more’ led me down a path of constant dissatisfaction. There was always a new goal to achieve, a new possession to acquire and a never-ending chase for the next big thing. The happiness I experienced was fleeting, for there was always something else I ‘needed’ to be truly happy.

But my journey into Stoicism challenged this myth. It forced me to question why I was in this relentless pursuit for more. Did I really need all these things to be happy? Was my happiness dependent on these external factors? Or was it possible to find contentment within myself?

I realized that the ‘more equals happiness’ equation was flawed. It only led to an insatiable desire for more, never truly resulting in lasting happiness.

I decided to challenge this myth and sought to find contentment in ‘less’. But how did I do it? What was the core thing that I did to break free from this cycle of wanting more?

In the next section, I will share the transformative step I took towards embracing the Stoic way of life and finding true contentment.

pic1960 Living life the Stoic way: How ancient wisdom can lead to modern contentment

Embracing acceptance as a key to contentment

The core thing I did to break free from the cycle of wanting more and find true contentment was embracing acceptance.

Acceptance, in the realm of Stoicism, is about understanding and embracing the fact that many things in life are beyond our control. We can’t control external events or other people’s actions, but we can control our reactions to them.

At first, this concept was hard for me to grasp. I was used to striving for more, pushing for change, and fighting against circumstances. But I began to realize that this constant struggle was the root cause of my dissatisfaction and unrest.

I started by accepting small inconveniences that used to upset me. The traffic jam on my way to work, the delay in my flight, or a sudden change in plans – I began to accept these as parts of life that were beyond my control. Rather than getting upset, I chose to maintain my peace.

Gradually, acceptance seeped into larger aspects of my life. I began accepting people as they are, understanding that I couldn’t change them. I started accepting failures as learning opportunities rather than setbacks.

The more I practiced acceptance, the more content I became.

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation or passivity. It’s about understanding what you can change and letting go of what you can’t. It’s about focusing your energy on things within your control and finding peace with the rest.

If you’re caught in the relentless pursuit of more, consider practicing acceptance. It might be the key to finding the contentment you’ve been looking for.

Taking a step back for self-empowerment

As I continued my journey of living the Stoic way, I began to realize that I was not just reshaping my perspective on happiness and contentment, but also reclaiming my personal power.

Taking responsibility for my reactions, even when situations were not my fault, was empowering.

It increased my personal power and created a mindset that helped me navigate other challenges in life. It was no longer about blaming external circumstances for my unhappiness; it was about how I chose to respond to them.

I also started questioning societal norms and expectations. I realized that a lot of what I perceived as normal or true was influenced by societal expectations, cultural conditioning, and even parental expectations.

This recognition allowed me to think for myself and live life on my own terms.

I let go of the need for blind positivity and faced the reality of my situation. I acknowledged my dissatisfaction and struggles instead of ignoring them or brushing them under the carpet. This honest self-assessment was tough but necessary.

I replaced externally imposed ambitions with personal ones. I stopped chasing societal definitions of success and started pursuing what truly mattered to me.

In essence, this journey has been about self-empowerment. It’s about breaking free from societal expectations and embracing practical self-development. It’s been a journey of self-exploration to reshape my reality.

Here are the key points that have emerged from my journey:

  • Taking responsibility for your reactions increases personal power.
  • Question societal norms and expectations to live life on your own terms.
  • Acknowledge dissatisfaction and struggles instead of ignoring them.
  • Replace externally imposed ambitions with personal ones for genuine fulfillment.

Living life the Stoic way has indeed been a transformative journey for me. It’s about embracing acceptance, desiring less, and finding contentment within oneself. But more importantly, it’s about reclaiming your personal power and reshaping your reality.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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