I have just recently discovered the books of Ryan Holiday through listening at a podcast of Tim Ferris where Ryan Holiday was the guest. He was talking about the ancient principles of stoicism. Stoicism was a concept where I all ready was introduced to a few months ago. I think it’s a modus operandi that fits really nicely into my own way of living. I love the idea that suffering is necessary in order to get most out of life. In this blog post I’m going to give you the basic principles that I have implemented in my life after watching videos and talks from Ryan Holiday. These principles are the same principles that are used in his book: ‘The obstacle is the way’. If you’re very interested in the subject, I suggest you to read one of Ryan Holiday’s books.
The three main disciplines outlined
The discipline of perception:
Perception is little bit like the mother of perspective. Your perspective really maters on how you will look at the stuff that’s happening around you. Perception will decide which information is going to be send to your brains to get processed to influence your behavior. So it’s really important to be aware of how distorted your percepton is in relation to the reality. What you see, never really represents the true reality. Your vision is limited to what’s happening in front of you and what you focus on. You don’t hear, see or smell the same as other animals. This gives us a better understanding of why there is a difference between reality and our perception. Otherwise it’s important to notice that your perception is always influenced by external and internal stimuli. If you’re feeling sad, there is more chance that you’re going to notice more bad things happening around you. When you just have watched a documentary about world war two, you will probably have a different look at Germany. Notice how easily our perception is influenced. Try to become a master in understanding how your perception is shaped and how it affects your own actions. When you gather insights from your behavior, you can start to challenge your believe system. You’re the only one who is really responsible of controlling this perception. Instead of seeing it as a weakness, you can see it as an opportunity. An oppurtunity to think more positive, more creative, more strategic and shape the world like you wish. The world is litteraly at your fingertips.
The discipline of action:
There’s no reason to be thinking all the time if you can’t put your thoughts into action. As humans we have evolved to use our intellectual capacity as a leverage. The sad thing is that most of the times we end up in a boring job that doesn’t challenge us anymore to be creative. We think that as ‘intellectuals’ we own this world by talking all the time and by inventing intellectual words for concepts we don’t understand . In fact it’s the contrary. The world is really owned by the people who dare to practise what they preach and the people who can/ want to think creatively. Sometimes the advice of just starting, is not such a bad advice. We all need thousand reasons to move ourselves out of our own comfortable position. Why should I work hard? Why should I suffer if I can comfortably stay in my lane? I think we can all agree on the fact that there is nothing wrong with a comfort zone. I even think the comfort zone is the ideal place to start your action. For example: Let’s say you want to start a business but you fear being judged in public. Then, you can go on social media, build an audience, learn a skill and leverage that audience to start your business. That road is potentially going to be slower but at least you can start operating from within your comfortable position. You have to overcome the mental blocks that keep you from achieving what you want. Like your reality is shaped by your perception, your achievements are shaped by your daily actions.
The discipline of the will:
Will is our internal power that cannot be affected by the outside world. When life hits you really hard, you get the sensation that every force on this planet is working against you. If life hits you really hard, it’s very difficult to find the motivation to follow the advice to pursue your actions. There is one force that can help us continue in difficult times and that’s our will. Our will is the power we can find inside us to pursue our dreams even though it feels like the world hates us. Let’s look at the person with a depression. Why do some people with a depression, besides the severity, will find the will to recover. At the deepest moments of despair you can’t hope to find motivation or positivity to keep moving forward. You can find that bij aknowledging that’s it in your power to recover. You know that with or without depression you are still the same person. You use your will to recover and to keep your focus on the personal issues you have to resolve. In some sense it’s also about owning your problems and taking full responsibility. By taking your full responsibility, you will use your internal strength to become a better and stronger version of yourself, independently from the external circumstances.
To finish this blogpost about stoicism, I’m going to list the three most popular practices that are used in stoicism. They can help you with the practical side of stoicism.
Premeditatio malorum: This practice means you can prepare yourself for something bad that would happen by imagining the worst case scenario. Tim Ferris has his own version of this that helps him to deal with fear. Most of the times the worst thing that can happen in a certain situation, is not as bad as you think. Most of the times you have more to lose if you do not take the step! Don’t live a life of regret and resentfullment.
Amor fati: In my own words, this means: “Eating the dirt, tasting and loving it!” Own your struggles. Let’s say I want to become a garbage woman but it’s not my ultimately goal to be a garbage woman for the rest of my days. ( I know, doesn’t make any sense.) I can still do this job with all my dedication. Every action you take is part of a bigger picture and that bigger picture is the story of your life! Be the coolest and best garbage woman there has ever been.
Memento Mori: This practice is one that I personally love to use. This litteraly means reflecting on your own mortality. When you daily reflect on your mortality, you are daily reminded of the fragiltiy of life itself. You start to put time back into perspective. You only control your living time, not the time you’re death. Act now, not later.
That were my key take-aways of listening to the work of Ryan Holiday. What do you think about stoicism? What did I forget? And most importantly, what are you going to be implementing?