The wise person does nothing that he could regret, nothing against his will, but does everything honourably, consistently, seriously, and rightly; he anticipates nothing as if it is bound to happen, but is shocked by nothing when it does happen …. and refers everything to his own judgement, and stands by his own decisions. I can conceive of nothing which is happier that this.
– Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.81
Sit quietly and take 5-10 minutes writing down the things which you think are most valuable in your life and comparing these with the Stoic view of happiness, noting the key Stoic themes (virtue, order, care for self and others).
Four years ago, while seeing a therapist, she advised I take a values test to help me identify what is truly important to me.
My dominate Social values were: Community, Family & Friends
My dominate Realistic values were: Hard work & diligence
My dominate Traditional value was: Stability
My dominate Theoretical value was: Intellectualism
My dominate Political value was: Power & Influence
My dominate Aesthetic value was: Appreciation of beauty
All of these values ring true for me. Almost all that I do in my life is for the benefit of my family, followed by the benefit of my community. I think these values are aligned with Stoicism. Stoicism has taught me to focus on things that are in my control and to furthermore, acknowledge that practicing virtue is entirely in my control and that by so-doing, I can attain happiness or at least be content with the life I live.
So much of my "former life" (life before Stoicism) was lived like a roller coaster. I would have peaks of happiness and elation followed by long stretches of nothingness and then a somewhat frequent dip into the valley of anxiety, fear and despair. I longed to be even keeled all the time. Enter Stoicism.
Now, I constantly observe events and quickly categorize things into "under my control" and "not under my control." I've realized that despite the long list of events that I have no control over, I can still find contentment and acceptance. My wild bouts of elation seem to have passed too.
Interestingly enough, by living a more Stoic-like life, I've found peace through stability - which is one of the values important to me.
Will there come a day, my soul, when you are good and simple and unified […] some day will you have a taste of a loving and affectionate disposition? Some day will you be satisfied and want for nothing […] Or will you be contented instead with your present circumstances and delighted with everything around you and convince yourself that all you have comes from the gods, and that all that is pleasing for them is well for you? Will there come a day when you are so much a member of the community of gods and humans as neither to bring any complaint against them nor to incur their indignation? – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 10.1
One of the biggest benefits of Stoicism, in my opinion, is the quieting of the mind and the desires that stir within us. As these things become more quiet, we become more content and 'at peace' with events that happen in life.
I'm reminded of a quote I came across a while back; it is by Crates (link):
practice being in need of only a few things, for this is the closest thing to god. for the gods need nothing. but, so that you may learn more exactly what is involved in having few needs ... reflect that children have more needs than adults, women than men, invalids than the healthy, and, in general, the inferior everywhere has more needs than the superior. therefore the gods have need of nothing and those nearest to them have the fewest needs.
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