Stoicism seems to be becoming more and more popular, partly because of it’s practicality, and partly because more people seem to be looking for a better way to live. But what does it mean to be a Stoic?

The modern definition of a stoic (lower case) mindset is described as “a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.”

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

— Marcus Aurelius

While it’s true that Stoicism does help people become resilient and calm when facing adversity and hardship, there is more to it than that.

For a Stoic (upper case), it’s not simply the ability to face our problems with mental clarity and composure, it’s about how we can live a good life, and get closer to what the ancient Stoics called eudaimonia – which roughly translates to flourishing, happiness, or well-being.

The Founding Of The Stoics:

In the 3rd century BC, Zeno of Citium found an area in Athens called the Stoa Poikile, or “Painted Porch”, a colonnade in the Athenian Agora decorated with mythic battle scenes.

On this promenade, amongst the crowds of ancient Greeks and their merchants, Zeno began to discuss his philosophy with those who would stop and listen. Over time, a regular group would attend to engage in debate and discussion on how to live a good life, and what was needed in order to reach a desirable level of day to day happiness.

These followers of Zeno became the very first Stoics, named after the Stoa, or porch, under which they discussed their philosophy.

More than 2000 years later people all over the world, from all walks of life, practice, study, and read the doctrines of Zeno and his Stoics.

what does it mean to be a stoic?

What Do Stoics Practice?

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

– Marcus Aurelius

The ancient Stoics taught that, because humans are social animals, the path to well-being can be found in:

  1. Accepting the world as it is (rather than resisting it because it’s not what we believe it should be)

  2. In learning to manage both our desire to seek and experience pleasure, and our desire to avoid discomfort.

  3. Using our logic and reason to understand the world around us, objectively.

  4. Working together as a community and act in a just and fair manner towards ourselves and others.

You can find a more detailed beginners guide on Stoicism by clicking here.

The Stoic philosophers created a framework so that they could live by the values mentioned above. This framework consisted of two main things:

  1. Living with virtue

  2. Viewing the world with logic and reason.

What does It Mean to Live With Stoic Virtue?

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

– Marcus Aurelius

To the Stoics, a happy and prosperous life comes when we live a virtuous life. Negativity, suffering and poor mental health begins to affect us when we discard virtue and give into our impulses, comforts and vices.

The 4 Stoic Virtues are:

  1. Wisdom: The ability to see things as they are, in context, and objectively.

  2. Temperance: The ability to moderate our behaviour despite our desires, cravings, and fears.

  3. Courage: The ability to act in a way we believe is right, despite forces that may prevent us from doing so (such as fear and discomfort)

  4. Justice: The ability to act fairly and for the good of the community.

Stoicism teaches us that aligning ourselves with these four virtues will get us closer to the happy, content life that many of us search for.

You can learn more about the 4 Stoic virtues here.

What Does It Mean To View The World With Logic?

“Logic helps a person see what is the case, reason effectively about practical affairs, stand his or her ground amid confusion, differentiate the certain from the probable, and so forth.”

– Brian Inwood

The Stoics believed that without logic it is not possible to effectively live with virtue. This is because when a person lacks the ability to think logically, they also lack the ability to differentiate between what is true and untrue, lies and falsehoods, realistic and unreasonable.

Stoic logic is based on propositions; this means that if I make a statement at any time, it is either true of false. We can then make more complex statements based on the original statement.

For example; I could say, “It is raining”. If it is indeed raining then you could say, “It is cloudy” because there can be no rain without clouds. This follows logically.

The Stoic can then apply this logic to life. For example;

  • I know that there a some things within my control, and some that are not.

  • I know that when I focus on things in life that are outside my control, I cannot change them.

  • Therefore when I spend time trying to change these things I am not only wasting my time, I am taking time away from changing the things within my control.

Without logic I may not be able to separate what is within my control and what is not, I may also be unable to know that putting effort into something over which I have no influence is a waste of time.

So What Does It Mean To Be A Stoic?

To me, a Stoic is someone who takes the time to view the world logically and objectively, and accept what they see as it comes. They then accept responsibility for how they respond to what they experience and do their best to act with virtue.

In this way the Stoic becomes wiser, more temperate, just and courageous. Not only this, but they develop the ability to accept what is outside their control, and take responsibility for what is within their control.

Ultimately this leads to the Stoic becoming clear minded, aware, accepting, emotionally mature, and tolerant.

For me, this is what it means to be a stoic.

Memento Mori

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