Some courage is needed to talk about thriving in these times. Coping would be a better word to describe the situation of many, many people. The situation is looking dire and it doesn’t look like is going to end soon. And, still, I’m as bold as to use the headline ´How to thrive all the effin time´? You might be thinking I’m just a bumptious bastard. But don’t worry, I will not let you down. Not with philosophy on my side.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
― Marcus Aurelius
Your problem is a problem because you look at it as a problem. Even worse, you see your problem as a curse, and once you do that, you will indeed be doomed. But the important part of this argument is that you are the one making something out of something, in this specific case, a problem out of “a reality” within life. As in, you are the one making it a problem.
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so, said Shakespeare. I’m sure you’ve heard this quote a thousand times by now, but can you really say you understand what Shakespeare meant with it? We’ll get back to that.
So, how do you thrive all the effin time then?
Simple, by choosing which game you are going to play with the reality you have to live on. Control the way you look at things, and they could, and they will if you want to, change into whatever you turn them into. Instead of something being a curse or a problem, it could be instead, a challenge, a game?
I began playing The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild just yesterday. So far, (Legend of Zelda fan here) I’m fascinated. The game hooked me from the very beginning. The hero, Link, wakes up after a hundredth-year slumber. He is called by the mysterious voice of a woman that tells him ‘Link, you are the light — our light, that must shine upon Hyrule once again.’
Now, that’s a way to begin a game, don’t you think!? There’s a kingdom to be saved, and you need to do it. Is it a hassle? Of course no, you are beyond excited to begin playing, to go and kill the bad guys, solve the dungeons, and save the princess. Yeah, ok, so what does this have to do with the problems of life and with thriving? It relates to it in that life, in principle, is not that different from a video game, what’s different is the frame you live it in.
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
― Marcus Aurelius
What is this power over your mind the stoics wrote so much about?
Today we know it as a psychological frame.
A psychological frame is the mind context through which you understand reality and which you use as well to interact with and understand reality.
It’s really simple. Think about your behavior around your parents, around your friends, or your behavior when you are at a museum, it changes depending on the context you find yourself in and also with your beliefs as to how you should behave in different circumstances. What changes here, and this is crucial, is not the things themselves, but your beliefs around them.
Have you ever thought about hitting someone in the face? No? How about if you are on a ring, and you’ve been training boxing for a couple of months now? Or how about punching a guy that just called your girlfriend sweetie bitch in front of you? Same face, same punch, different frame. One you do it for fun, the other for honor.
Your reality is made by how you think about it. It’s a collaboration within the information life gives you and what you do with the information that life gives you.
Imagine that you just arrived home after a long day of work. You are tired beyond belief and the only thing that is in your mind is to grab the ice cream you bought for yourself yesterday and watch an episode of Rick and Morty. You open the fridge and realize that your ice cream isn’t there anymore. You are raging. Surely your inconsiderate brother ate it without asking you, and he’s just going to laugh about it. So you yell at the house, WHO THE FUCK ATE MY ICE CREAM!!
No one answers and you’re sure no one is going to answer so you just go to the living room, angry and defeated to watch the show without your cookies and cream. Suddenly, you see your little 4-year-old niece walking towards you with teary eyes and an empty plate. She says she’s really sorry for eating the ice cream but that she didn’t know it was yours. You didn’t know your niece was hanging with your sister at the house, so now instead of feeling angry, you feel ashamed of yourself for getting angry about such a petty thing, hug her and tell her how sorry you are for yelling and swearing like a sailor.
The feelings you have about reality can change, really fast.
The Key For Thriving, Frame Control
Life is not going to stop providing you with information and problems to solve, as long as you’re alive. The key for thriving all the effin time is to make something useful out of those problems, out of that information. Make lemonade out of the lemons life throws at you.
You do this by controlling the frame you live in.
“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”
Now, I’m going to share with you two frames that will get you from coping to thriving.
Be the hunter, not the hunted.
Your problems are not going to go away. In all cases, if unattended they will just get worse and worse with time as well as bigger and scarier, like monsters.
But hey, it doesn’t matter to you anyways, for you are in the hunting game. Think about your problems as monsters to be dealt with, don’t wait for them to do something for you to react. Instead, hunt them yourself. Let them run away from you, search for them, and use your hunting skills to take them one by one.
Before, when you were the one being hunted, you didn’t had enough brainpower to think about anything but hiding or running away. But now that you are the hunter, you’ve put your brain to work, you’re developing skills to get better at hunting, and hunting you’ll do till your death. Besides, you enjoy hunting down the evils, it’s not even about killing off those problems, it’s about the enjoyment and fun you get from chasing them down.
Hunt or be hunted. Happy hunting!
The Stoic Gods Test, (tough stoic love)
I got this idea from William B. Irvine’s book, The Stoic Challenge. The idea is that the ancient Stoic gods love you so much that they show you their love by making you harder, better, stronger, and wiser all the time. That is why they are constantly putting you to the test and giving you setbacks so that you can practice your Stoic skills.
Whenever you’re confronted with a setback, you’ll know that the stoic gods are testing you. You will be graded on two things.
The first, and most important one, I’d argue, is how do you confront the setback emotionally. If you get angry and let yourself be all over the place, you lose. If you behave with equanimity, tranquility, and with courage, sort of smiling through it, you win. If you can go through the setback, unscathed, you win with honors.
The second one will be your initiative and your resourcefulness. What can you do with what you have? Are you sure you did everything in your hands to solve your situation as best as it could be solved?
Good, lastly, you’ll need to grade yourself, how well did you do in this test? Put yourself a grade and prepare for the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one.
You’ll thrive at effin everything if you are the one who controls the rules of the game. I already gave you the tools to make a game that will always work for you.
The only thing I want you to leave this post is this one: you are not at the mercy of what happens, you are the one that gives meaning to whatever happens to you. No one can take this from you and once you realize this power, your life is going to change for good, leaving yourself wondering what the hell were you thinking all these years.
Thanks for reading,
Subscribe and receive the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.
Connect with Stoic Answers
Special thanks to my Patreons:
You can become a Patreon as well and access exclusive content and a peek on what’s going on in Stoic Answers. Click below and check it out.