If you have been following my blog you know that I delve into Stoicism at times and truly believe it has been of great benefit in my life and can be for anyone else. I make no claim to be a master stoic or to even hold a high degree of knowledge in the philosophy, but it is something I spend time on. I suppose a master stoic would never get down or conversely very elated... I still can do both.
However as a very committed person to "self development" I know the stoic philosophy is a great base or foundation to be the best human I can be. Therefore I try daily to remind myself of at least the basic tenants of stoicism and look for opportunities to put them into practice. I also remind myself of those master stoics I met in life and the ones perhaps I follow who share their traits in blogs/vlogs etc.
I remember my Dad whistling while working on a hot tin roof in Florida. I recall soldiers competing with me in Army competitions who smiled at each challenge. I bet we all get those opportunities in life to witness people who maintain their discipline and direction despite what is happening around them. At least if you are ever involved in anything tough you will. I have seen others get treated terribly by society, their loved ones, their boss, their friends and the world in general only to keep a good attitude and seem to move forward unfazed.
My parents had a rather nasty divorce when I was 17 and I observed how both of them handled it. Neither was perfect by any means... but my Dad certainly took the more noble road. Observing this painful and tragic event was my first real life lesson in stoicism. I prayed and prayed I would never get divorced but if I did I knew the lesson for how to react had been given to me. After 20 years of marriage I faced divorce too, like my Dad I didn't do perfectly but certainly did ok. The pain and disruption my parents divorce caused me at the time provided a great lesson which served me well later in life. Indeed that single event at 17 years old shaped my adult life to something I would never have predicted. And for that I am very grateful.
Painful events which we spend almost all our waking hours working to avoid provide our greatest growth opportunities. Most of our mental effort revolves around this fear of pain and potential bad events. We don't start our own business and just keep the salaried job wholly out of conjured up fear. We don't approach the sexiest, most successful person in the room wholly out of inner fear. We don't travel the world or take the trip because of a variety of fears. We don't take that long backpacking trip alone in the backcountry because of fear. We don't leave an abusive mate or family member because of fear. We get into relationships we know are not right because of fear. We cling to our belongings and money because of fear. We don't jump from an airplane because of our focus on what could go wrong. We don't apply for that great career opportunity because of fear. We don't attempt to learn a new skill because of a fear of failure. We don't quit eating junk food because of fear. We put off starting that exercise regimen because of fear.
Here is a little "fear factor" self evaluation for you!- How have your reacted to 2020? Have you hid in your house with a surgical mask on? Have you plastered political and virtue signal signs all over your yard and vehicle? Have you slid backwards in your exercise regimen and diet? Has your professional development been put on hold? Do you wash your hands 20x a day and use hand sanitizer between washes? Have you shut down personal and work travel? Have you attended protest marches in some distant city? How you answer these questions will speak volumes of your personal fear management!
Ironically it is in doing any of these "fearful" things where we find our greatest successes and growth! Even if you don't initially succeed, which often we won't. Just the participation in the process has made you a better person. Just facing the fear is a huge accomplishment. Doing this changes your inner biochemistry! The more you face your fears the more your inner being changes! It gets easier and even becomes the natural choice. I even purposefully do things now to face fear! And the reward is immediate! If I hear a bump in the night I jump up and go towards it!
Bear outside my tent?- cool I want to see it.
Opportunity to speak at a large conference?- Put me on the agenda!
Most beautiful girl in the room?- Hello!
1,000 miles from home?- perfect!
No opportunity here? - excellent!
No money?- exactly where I need to be!
Hungry?- Fasting is a cure all!
Pull ups hurt? I can't wait to master them!
51 years old? Let me hold that jumprope!
Twitter and Facebook full of sewage? Delete, dump, goodbye!
Opportunity to parachute? Geronimo!
Looking back I only wish I would have ran towards fear and potential discomfort more often! Without exception every time I did set me up for great moments.....
There are of course many ways to skin this cat of "fear". One of my favorite Ted talks from a few years ago is by Tim Ferris. He provides a method to rationalize your fears in the decision making process. It helps to shift the focus from only what could go wrong to give at least equal attention to "what could go right". We are wired by evolution to worry about the saber toothed tiger and that is good... but shifting at least some of that thought energy to what can go right pays off greatly! So today I wanted to provide that presentation as I try to rewatch it myself often. Perhaps it will help you for some scary impending decision which may lie ahead in your life? Stoicism will remind you to be ok with it either way!