After Zeno lost his cargo on his voyage from Phoenicia to Piraeus. This uncontrollable event was one of the main reasons that gave us Stoicism. Stoicism went on and became a popular way of living. Adopted by many kings, slaves, and modern people of this time as a way of living. Practicing stoicism isn’t hard. The better results you feel and see in your life, the more you appreciate it.
I’ve arranged all the necessary stoicism practices that every beginner can start with. From a person who practiced stoicism (I don’t call myself stoic. But stoicism improved my life, including my perspective about life) don’t practice everything you find about stoicism at once, but focus on each practice separately.
When you master one stoic practice, you can move on to the other one. But that doesn’t mean you don’t learn more about stoicism or engage with other practices. But to effectively adopt stoicism as your way of life or benefit from the practices you will find a meaningful and better life.
Here are the five stoicism practices to start with:
1st practice: Negative visualization
Opposite to its name, this practice is meant to increase our gratitude. Practicing negative visualization means visualizing a negative thing that could happen to you in your day. These negative things include visualizing being homeless, having physical disabilities, losing your favorite phone, losing social status, losing your job, or living a life below your current standard.
Negative visualization has two purposes:
1. Increase a person’s sense of gratitude
Anyone can start practicing negative visualization at any time. In the morning before you leave for work or school, or in the evening when you are relaxing. It’s by practicing negative visualization that you increase your sense of gratitude in life. You cherish your spouse, your friends, your job, and anything special in your life. We always forget how blessed we are by putting the things we should be grateful for in the categories of the things we take for granted.
2. Separate us from external things
When you practice negative visualization, you realize you can live without the things you think are important in life. This practice is effective in our time. Most people are scared of losing trivial things like the number of likes on Instagram posts, losing 10 friends who don’t care, and meaningless arguments. Negative visualization shows that things are just things. There’s no need to cling to them because every external thing can fade, break, or leave.
If you attach your happiness and mode to external things like cars, a relationship, the number of friends and followers you have on social media, or any other external thing beyond your control, you place yourself through a series of endless disappointments. A car can crash. The divorce rate rises every year and people’s emotions can change. YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are constantly changing their algorithms. According to stoicism, we shouldn’t attach our mode and happiness to external things. Instead, we attach them with things that can’t be harmed by external forces, like how content we are with our lives and what we do.
Negative visualization allows you to become happy with what you have. You become happy owning your current car and not waiting to own Lamborghini Aventador. Be happy with your current job, and appreciate the people in your life.
It improved my sense of gratefulness in life and made me realize that we have to enjoy the life we are living while working to achieve our goals. Not the opposite, and what the majority these days do.
Read more – The Stoic Art of Negative Visualization
2nd practice: Dichotomy of control (DOC)
The dichotomy of control simply refers to understanding the things that are in the frame of our control and things that are not. It’s one of the important stoicism practices. Many things are not under our control, especially in today’s era, you can find new information everywhere.
What people post on social media, the weather, and others’ behavior are all examples of things outside our control. According to stoicism, we should move our focus from these things that we have no control over to the things we have control over like our response to a situation, who we choose to be around or follow, and what we say or do.
Epictetus gave us a general frame of what we have control over and what we don’t.
Things we have control over
These things include:
- The way we define things
- The voluntary impulse to act
- The desire to get something
- The desire to avoid something
Things we have no control over
These things include:
- Our body
- Our property
- Position in society
When you practice the dichotomy of control, you become happier. The more you focus on the things you can control the better your life becomes. This stoicism practice works effectively against today’s anxiety and worries. People live in anxiety, constantly worrying about what will happen to them. Most of the things they are worried about are things not under their control.
When something happens to you, identify if it’s something you can control or not.
If it’s under your control, do whatever you can to change it or think about dealing with it.
If it’s not under your control, realize you can control how it affects you and how you respond to it.
To avoid being anxious over things you have no control over, ask yourself what can I do about the situation, the answer is probably nothing. If you can’t do anything about a situation, then it’s pointless worrying about it.
3rd practice: Voluntary Discomfort
This practice aims at increasing person gratitude and making them comfortable with discomfort. Pain, suffering, and many other things that cause discomfort are part of life. Stoicism teaches us that we must not run from discomfort but should change our perspective on it and learn something positive from that situation.
Volunteer yourself to discomfort by putting yourself through tough situations. Some of the popular Voluntary Discomfort exercises are:
- Take a cold shower if you normally take a hot one.
- Sleep on the floor for some days.
- Eat potatoes only for some days.
After you complete these exercises, your sense of gratitude for the life you normally live will increase and you will realize that a bad day can pass too.
People normally complain about how tough it’s when working on a goal and sometimes abandon it because it’s hard but for a stoic person who practiced Voluntary Discomfort, it will be a normal thing because he/she knows that these hard days will pass, and instead of complaining, a stoic person will change his/her perspective and see what he/she can learn from the situation.
Read more – How Voluntary Discomfort Can Change Your Life
4rth practice: The view from above
This is an important practice where you view yourself from the third person. Most of the problems we have are trivial, but we don’t realize it because view ourselves from the second person, which is ourselves. Stoicism teaches us to view ourselves from the third person, which is from above. If you view your problems from above, it will be a minor problem that doesn’t deserve your attention.
People think more about a small problem which makes it bigger. For example, a woman who found out that her partner was cheating, and got into a state where she sees the world as the worst place. She starts to act like her problem is the greatest problem in the world. But if she views her problem from the above or world view. It’s trivial. By viewing things from the above, we don’t let problems grow bigger and create more branches.
5th practice: Contemplation of sage
This practice is aimed at making a person take wiser decisions in life. We all want to become great people or the best version of ourselves. The better version we want to become is wise in taking decisions. Apply the contemplation of sage at any moment where you are required to make a decision. Make the decision the best version of yourself would make in that certain situation. Think like the best version of yourself and act the way you think he/she will act. The best version of yourself is called the Sage. The more you think and act like the sage you become the sage of your life.
These five practices are a great way to start practicing stoicism for any beginner or someone interested in the philosophy of stoicism. Stoicism helps to derive maximum benefit from trials with minimum effort and frustration.
Stoicism books to start with
The best stoicism book to start with is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. It’s a brilliant book with many rich thoughts.