Stoicism Changed My Life

I always used to think that the key to happiness was being relentlessly optimistic. Put a smile on your face and believe that your dreams will come true! But the problem is that life doesn’t always go to plan. When your dog has eaten an entire Easter egg and you’re on your way to the emergency vet, it’s quite difficult to start singing ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow’, whilst worrying about the impending death of your furry friend and huge vet’s bill through the door. It is at times like these that pessimism, not optimism, comes to the rescue.

Stoicism teaches us that pessimism can actually be a good thing. It doesn’t have to be a depressed and negative outlook on the world. Positive pessimism is a great way to prepare ourselves for when things don’t go according to plan. It’s all about lowering our expectations. If we approach our day thinking that life is all rainbows and roses, then it’s very easy to get upset when things go wrong. However, if we acknowledge that shit happens, then when it does inevitably happen, it’s not such a slap in the face.

I remember in the same week that I discovered Stoicism I also stepped in dog poo and unwittingly walked it into our house and onto our brand new carpet. Instead of getting upset, I said to myself:  “Did I really think I was going to go my whole life without stepping in dog poop?”. Knowing that it was bound to happen someday, I got to work cleaning the mess and carried on with my evening.

Life’s little frustrations can seem pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things but they can pile up and have a real impact on our emotional well-being if we’re not careful. Stoicism is a great coping strategy to stop sweating the small stuff. Those ancient philosophers always get me through a bad day! I’m sure they didn’t imagine that their wisdom would help a girl out when she’s accidentally smashed her iPhone 8, but this school of thought is still so relevant in today’s society. It has helped me to be become more emotionally stable, and consequently a happier person.

Stoicism is also a great philosophy for dealing with events that aren’t so trivial but that’s a whole other article!

If you’re interested in discovering Stoicism I would recommend reading The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton.

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