Rather than a new post about stoicism, this week I’m taking inventory of what the posts have been. This is an important step for me because stoic thinking is something I regularly have to refresh in practice and thought. Minutes are filled, hours are blocked off, and days get busy. Rarely do I schedule a moment to slow down and think about living with a stoic mindset. It’s also a chance for you to catch up with any you might have missed.
Here are the stoic posts, starting with the most recent.
Before beginning something, consider what precedes and what follows. Too often I begin something with great gusto, without considering of the requirements and expectations of a task. Even since writing this post I’ve written a four page outline for a new writing project. I’m excited about it, but only now am I slowing down to ask what this project will demand to be done right. As a parent I’ve actually grown this skill, mostly through a trial by fire. Miss feeding them during a busy day and you will face the consequences later, guaranteed.
Activity solves inactivity. This quote from Seneca reminded me that movement can solve a slew of problems. Though not always the case, it seems to work well with parenting. If we change the scenery and manner of doing something, it becomes more novel and often agreeable. While reading Roy Peter Clark, he wrote something similar about writing when you have writer’s block. “Trust your hands. Forget your brain for a while and let your fingers do the writing.” If you feel stuck in a moment of parenting, move something.
Consider your critic. This stoic idea has been the most helpful in my relationships. When someone offers me feedback, I ask if I value their opinion on this particular matter. Sometimes if I cook something I’ll get a suggestion about how to make it differently. They are often well intended, but in the scope of a meal it might not be practical. For other matters like money, relationships, and raising children, I try to think about how their feedback can be helpful. This post also described how I stopped fighting with my wife during car trips.
Play your role. The role you have in life was a role of the dice, a cosmic or divine decision you have no input on. Epictetus suggested you play your role as best you can. I wrote this post in the context of thinking about what the best version of a dad might be and trying to do that. Some days are better than others, but the key is to remember what I can’t change about fatherhood and do my best at what I can.
Don’t demand things happen as you wish. Maybe my most philosophical post about the stoic philosophy. Bad things happen in life, there’s no getting around that. Stoic thinking suggests there might be two good parts to this. First, even in the bad things there is good. A family friend lost her job two years ago and was unemployed for five months. It was a stressful time for her family, but eventually she found a new job. The new salary was lower than her old job, but the working conditions were better, the holiday hours fewer, and the retirement plan more generous. Losing her job was a bad thing, but it turned out very well in the end. The second stoic angle is that we need practice spotting the good in the bad things that happen. Our lives will never be rainbows and unicorns, and so each bad thing gives us a chance to practice dealing with a lifetime of them. In the post I wrote about how often things with kids don’t go as you wish, but it never turns out as poorly as you or I first think.
Roman bath houses and Disney. Maybe my favorite stoic post because I applied stoic thinking in the moment. In the heat, sweat, and crowds of Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park I shifted my thinking to a stoic one and capped off a magical day with the right attitude. This was the moment of tranquility when I was convinced that stoic thinking can improve your life.
Stoic lessons from camping. Camping might be the perfect opportunity to practice stoicism. It’s a temporary deprivation of the conveniences of modern life (though modern camping is quite convenient on its own) and a chance to see those things we take for granted. After our short camping trip I had a greater appreciation for our neighbors, my kitchen, and my bed.
The value of a cup . A deep post to include at the start of this series. Epictetus wants us to realize that a cup is just a cup and at some point it will be broken. This is a metaphor for the mortality of the people in our lives. The post only gives a brief thought on that, and is an idea I will need to diver deeper into.
What a father controls. The first post in the series, and a central tenant of stoic thinking to begin with. “Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.” I use this stoic framing each day, especially if something doesn’t go my way. If my daughters aren’t acting nicely or are whining, I know that I can’t control how they act. What I can control is how much rest they get and that they are eating healthy foods. If the latter influences the former, then that’s what I should focus my energies on.
These stoic posts have been some of my favorite to write because they shift my attention back toward the ideas that I value. If you’re enjoying these and want to comment, let me know below, or on Twitter @MikeDariano.