What is Stoicism? An Introduction for Beginners

What is Stoicism? An Introduction for Beginners

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Stoicism can be best described as practical wisdom that helps us embrace life’s challenges and manage the stress that comes with them. This ancient yet ever-relevant philosophy teaches us how to differentiate between what we have control over and what we do not, allowing us to focus proactively on the former while learning to accept the latter.

Everyone experiences thoughts, feelings, and impulses that can make living difficult and frustrating. Stoics attempt to reframe these experiences through disciplined thinking so that their minds work for them instead of against them. If they can do it, so can you!

Unlike most philosophers, Stoics are not concerned with changing the world, imagining an ideal society, or teaching how to debate. Instead, Stoics teach how to live. They seek to thrive within the world as it is (amor fati), remembering the fleeting nature of life (memento mori), practicing misfortune, and journaling—to make sense of it all.

How Stoicism Started

Stoicism is a 2000-year-old philosophy founded in Athens around 300 BC by Zeno of Citium. After losing everything in a Mediterranean shipwreck, Zeno was introduced to the philosophy of Socrates in an Athenian bookshop. This spurred him to develop his own philosophical principles, which we now refer to as Stoicism.

Though Zeno is credited with founding Stoicism, its principles were further developed and disseminated by well-known Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca.

The Core Principles of Stoicism

Stoicism is a philosophy centered around self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom. It is mainly empirical, meaning to truly understand Stoicism, you need to live it first. Stoicism encourages the development of four key virtues, which overlap with the classical Stoic virtues:

1. Temperance

This is about self-control, moderation, and sobriety. It's about doing the right thing in the right amount in the right way, similar to Aristotle's "Golden Mean."

2. Courage

Courage in Stoicism means being brave and facing daily challenges with clarity and integrity. It takes courage to live according to your values, even if doing so creates friction with your friends, family, or coworkers.

3. Justice

Justice entails doing what's right and treating others fairly, even when they've done wrong. Stoics have been known to advocate for justice, often at great personal risk.

4. Wisdom

This is the sum of lessons you gain when enacting all other virtues. Wisdom enables you to navigate complex situations in a calm, logical, and informed manner.

Applying Stoicism in the Modern World

While ancient in origin, the principles of Stoicism are incredibly relevant in today's fast-paced, stress-filled world. Here's how Stoicism can benefit you:

  • Mental Health: Stoicism offers tools for managing stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Emotional Resilience: Practicing Stoic principles can build your emotional resilience, enabling you to better handle adversity.
  • Improved Relationships: Stoicism teaches us to approach relationships with empathy and fairness, leading to stronger, more meaningful connections.
  • Better Decision-Making: By honing your wisdom, you'll find it easier to make decisions aligned with your values and long-term goals.

"We are what we repeatedly do," Aristotle said. Practicing Stoicism daily can profoundly impact your life without requiring impossible effort or magic formulas. Small adjustments, good systems, and the right processes are what it takes to see impressive results. Once you start seeing the benefits, introducing more changes becomes easier.

Stoicism is not just an ancient philosophy; it’s a practical framework for living a meaningful and fulfilling life. So why not get started on this journey of self-discovery and mental well-being by incorporating Stoic principles into your daily routine? Journaling is a great way to begin, and our stoic journaling app is designed to guide you every step of the way.

Want to dive into the rabbithole of Stoic wisdom?

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