Stoicism gives you strength not in times of joy, but when you need it most. We all have faced hard times in our lives, whether in the job or in relationship. One thing about hardship in life is that you get better withstanding it. It does not really matter if you did it through philosophy or not, but you get better. Remember you first breakup? I bet it was really hard, it is hard for all of us, but you certainly got stronger and that is because you are antifragile. Marcus Aurelius wrote beautifully the following:
“Our actions may be impeded…but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adopts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Marcus Aurelius, the great roman emperor, wrote this words not from his palace, but in the battlefield, he wrote it during war. War is not pretty, but what was remarkable was his way of looking at war. What stands in the way becomes the way. We cannot decide what will happen to us in life, we can only decide how is it that we will face it. Think about it for a moment, every person in the world is bound to face uncertainty, you are not free of anything, literally, something can happen today that will change your life forever, and no one is free about that. But you get to choose how to face it, you can face it with a smile, sometimes a maniac smile, but a smile never the less.
Think in your life, what situations are bugging you, we all have this kind of stuff that we would rather just forget, but if you think about it, solving those situation will make your grow, just like your first breakup, you become stronger and stronger when you face this “impediments”. This “impediments” become your source of strength, so why wouldn’t you face them with a smile? Use it for you, not against you. The next time you get angry about your roommate not washing the dishes, practice this, lead by example wash them and calmly tell them not to do it again, see how it works better than just doing nothing, always choose action. You have the chance to become better, all the time, at every moment.
There is a two step process to every decision, the first one, is your attitude. We can choose how to face our problems, we can choose to face them with a smile, and more importantly, with reason. Then, we need to see the opportunity in every problem, it can be a chance to learn something, a chance to stop doing or being in a situation you know you no longer desire, or many thing more, but we need to think creatively to understand opportunity and then set action.,
A brief story relating to attitude is that of the great Eisenhower. During WWII, the germans had a war strategy called blitzkrieg, which is more or less translated as thunder war. This strategy consisted in striking the allied forces with mighty brute force, terrifying offensive which discouraged men and made them flee. This was beginning to become a problem as the US forces where being retreated back to the coast. When Eisenhower got to the headquarters of Malta to face the situation he arrived, and as many times in business hardship in our lives, he saw sad faces, and discouraged people from loss so the first thing that came out of his mouth was that He’d have no more of this quivering timidity from his deflated generals. “The present situation is to be regarded as opportunity for us and not disaster,” he commanded. “There will be only cheerful faces at this conference table.” The power to choose our attitudes against our problems. He proceeded with a counterattack that got to be called the “meat grinder” and managed to regain terrain, because the opportunity was in attacking from the sides (flanks) of the blitzkrieg, sometimes, your strength is your weakness and vice versa. But with attitude and creativity, Eisenhower helped win the war, just as you can win any of yours.
This is practicing philosophy, this is how philosphy makes you a better person for yourself and everyone else, now that you know this, how can you apply this to your life?