How can we be a Stoic? We live in an interesting time. Every time you pick up your phone, you’re barraged with information about a huge number of different topics, including politics, your social circle, adverts, influencers, marketers, and gurus.

Everything seems to be fighting for you attention, and that’s just your phone.

In addition we have families, jobs, houses, responsibilities etc. Over time all of this noise and information can become overwhelming, especially if we don’t have the tools to deal with it.

Our mind is very similar to a body of water. When the surface is turbulent, it’s difficult to see anything clearly, however when the surface is calm, we are much more able to see the contents more clearly. The issue we have these days is that there are so many causes of turbulence, and it’s difficult to find any calm.

The purpose of this post is to provide you with a few tools to be more Stoic and calm the surface to reclaim your peace of mind.

I recommend getting a timer on your phone and find somewhere comfortable to sit and meditate for 5 minutes of each. It doesn’t have to be all at once, you can tackle one a day to start with if it’s difficult to sit for 15 minutes.

1. How to be A Stoic with Control

“Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.”


Control is a difficult thing to see clearly in our modern world. We often assume that we have far more control over the world around us than we really do.

In reality we control very little. This can be an uncomfortable truth, but much of what we think we control is illusion, a story we tell ourselves because it’s comfortable. Temporary comfort can be the death of long term well-being, and we all have a responsibility to look at our lives objectively and decide what is within our control and what is not.

When these two distinctions are made we then have two choices:

  1. We can choose to spend our time worrying about things which are outside the power of our will (ineffective)

  2. We take ownership for the areas in our life that we have control over and we move forward (effective)

There is a clear reason for spending time on this.

For many of us, the world’s frustrations are born from focusing too much on what is outside our control and focusing too little on what is within our control.

Our inability to differentiate between what we can control and what we can’t will eventually cause us to suffer. This happens for two main reasons:

  1. We spend too much time and energy on the aspects of life that are outside our control.

    The best examples of day to day suffering as a result of uncontrollable externals are:

    • Traffic

    • Other people’s actions

    • People not texting back

    • The economy

    • The weather / Disasters

    • Politics

    • Not getting enough likes on our Instagram selfie

    • etc

  2. We fail to take ownership and focus on the areas of life that are truly within our control:

    • Out thoughts

    • Our beliefs

    • Our values

    • Our actions

    • Our perceptions

    That’s it.

2. Think About Who You Would Be

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”


When was the last time you sat and thought about what you value, what you believe and who you want to be?

The way you view the world is dictated by your beliefs, values, experiences and perceptions. You can dramatically reduce your stress and suffering by simply changing the way you perceive yourself, other people, and the world around you.

How can you do this?

Pick something in your life that is causing you to suffer or causing stress. Follow the Socratic method to re-frame the source of suffering:

1. Identify what you are thinking

a. Why do I say that?

b. Explain in more detail what I mean.

c. What is my reaction to these thoughts?

2. Challenge the thought

a. Is this always true?

b. Under what conditions could this not be true?

c. What assumptions am I making?

d. Do I always have to react in this way to the thought?

3. Examine the facts behind your belief

a. Is my source reliable?

b. Is there any evidence to contradict it?

c. How do I know it to be true?

4. Look at it from a different angle

a. Is it possible for someone to see this in a different way?

b. What would be the counter argument?

You can use this for any number of things in your life.

We often have biases that we’re not aware of. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as a result of who we are, and this can create unnecessary suffering if we hold negative beliefs about something.

Think about the person you want to be. How would they view the thing you’re struggling with? Would they be more compassionate, calm, understanding, resilient, indifferent, respectful?

Re-framing how we think will change who we become.

3. How to Be A Stoic With Your Expectations

“a fig is given to you or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season of the year. But if you wish for these things in winter, you are a fool. So if you wish for your son or friend when it is not allowed to you, you must know that you are wishing for a fig in winter.”

– Epictetus

One of the best tools I’ve used to regain peace of mind is simply to manage your expectations. Your expectations are causing you to suffer, and it’s your responsibility to manage them.

What do I mean by that?

Every time we expect something to happen we are handing over our well-being to something outside our control. It may be a very small amount, but over time it adds up.

Lets find an example. Say you hold the door open for someone and the walk right past you without saying thank you. This is rude, you have a slight negative reaction to this person. You expect someone to say thank you if you hold the door open.

However, you have no control over the actions of other people. This expectation is giving someone else control over your well-being. The concept can be applied to traffic, the weather, the economy, and other people.

These things have no obligation to meet your expectations. They happen as they will, not as you want them to.

As Epictetus says in the quote above, if you wish for a fig in winter, you are a fool.

Expectations of the Self

The expectations we have of ourselves is just as important as the ones we have about the world.

Expectations on the self is a balance. If we have too many, we risk overburdening ourselves and feeling guilty, frustrated and not good enough. If we have too few, we can become lazy and apathetic.

Ask yourself:

  1. What expectations do you hold for yourself?

  2. Are these expectations realistic or reasonable?

  3. Can they be replaced with more realistic expectations?

As an example, a common pressure people put on themselves is thinking that they can’t lose.

This is not a reasonable expectation. Firstly because winning and losing is not under your control. Secondly, this expectation often prevents people from trying anything in the first place, it causes anxiety and fear.

A more realistic expectation is, “I will try my best, win or lose that is all I can do.”

If you win, great. If you lose, get up, look at what you can improve and try again.

Expectation on others:

We just mentioned that there is a huge variation between people. From the upbringing we have, the culture, wealth, education, friends and so on. There are billions of us, all with different values, perspectives, beliefs and goals.

This variation in people naturally leads to variation in behaviour, and variation in behaviour will mean that some people will act in ways that others don’t agree with. This is the cost of variety.

Where this causes suffering is when we expect people to behave in a way that’s aligned with what we believe is “right”, “good” or “respectful”. However, people don’t behave based on your individual values, they behave as a result of their own. Expecting otherwise will often lead to other people causing us frustration, anger, jealousy, sadness and a range of other negative emotions.

It is better to expect people to act in alignment with their own nature than it is to expect them to act in alignment with yours.

Expectation on the world:

Finally, we have the world. There are many things in life that we expect; many of us expect life to be fair, comfortable, fun, safe, inclusive etc.

In reality it is none of these things. The world will behave as it has always done; randomly and independent of human expectation.

Things will happen as they do. All you and I can do is focus on ourselves and do the best with what we have.

Amor Fati

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