A Definition of Stoicism:

So what is Stoic philosophy?

In a few words, Stoicism is an ancient Hellenistic philosophy designed to help structure its philosopher’s life. It does this by helping reframe the way you think and respond to the world.

The Stoics believe that it is not the situations you are in that cause suffering; it is the way you perceive those situations, and your perceptions are based on your values, beliefs, and experiences.

For the Stoics, the path to happiness is not found in money, fame, or possession. It is found when we act with virtue (click here for more on The 4 Stoic Virtues) and when we form more favourable beliefs about the world. Constructive beliefs lead to constructive responses.

Stoic Quotes:

 A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man without trials.


Embrace hardship; it’s the forge from which character is made. The Stoics knew that hardship was a key component of creating a rounded character.

The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, slept on the hard stone floor to prevent the comfort of wealth from weakening his character.

The statesman and political adviser Seneca took cold baths and swam in rivers during the winter to achieve the same results.

Adversity shapes us, and overcoming adversity is a catalyst for growth. Great people are not normally created on the sofa with a handful of chips and a TV remote. These days, people can participate in voluntary adversity such as cold showers, gruelling exercise, fasting, etc.

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” 

Marcus Aurelius

We tend to overvalue other people’s opinions and undervalue our own. This is especially true when those opinions are about us.

What is right for someone else may not be right for you; don’t be so quick to accept advice or direction without questioning it.

Similarly, people form opinions based on the information they have at the time, and the experiences they have had in the past. It is very likely that the opinions of others are formed from incomplete information, bias, and assumptions. This becomes even more true when other people form opinions about you. Their opinion is formed based on their perception of who you are, rather than who you really are.

“Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.” 

Marcus Aurelius

There are a great number of things in life that are hard. Almost anything that can have a significant and positive impact on your life is going to have difficulty along the way. For some, this is losing 100 pounds; for others, it is creating a business and realising the dream of working for yourself; others may be wanting to patch up relationships, overcome addiction, or get a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Just because it seems difficult doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Think of how many people looked up at Everest and said, “nahh”. Then, in 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the climb.

Almost every challenging task is made up of smaller tasks. It’s our ability to fragment a seemingly impossible challenge into smaller steps that allows us to overcome it.

“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.” 


Death is something that we tend to ignore until it stares us in the face. We don’t like to think about our mortality because it’s uncomfortable.

However, the Stoics promote the practice of contemplating the impermanence of life, as Seneca does in this quote.

When we view our time as a limited resource, it can help us appreciate the time we have left, the people we love, and the contributions we want to leave behind after we’re gone.

Thinking about our own mortality doesn’t have to be depressing, it can make everything more beautiful because we know that we won’t be around forever to experience it.

“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.” 

Marcus Aurelius

One of the core Stoic foundations for happiness is the realisation that your perception of a problem causes suffering, not the problem itself (unless the problem is something like a gunshot wound or a tapeworm, etc.).

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus described a dichotomy of control. He explained that some things in life are within our control and some are not.

The situations we find ourselves in are often outside our control: an accident, traffic, bad weather, stock market crash, getting fired, illness, etc. However, we always have control over our minds, our beliefs, values, and perceptions.

This distinction helps us focus our efforts to tackle the things we can influence—our response.

Amor Fati.

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