Key Point: We often hear the comforting phrase that problems are “rarely as bad as we think they are.” Yet Stoic philosophy points out that they ARE as precisely bad as we THINK they are.
One of the great philosopher Stoics, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, lived 2,000 years ago and was a philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and counsel to the famous emperor Nero. Together with Nero, he helped rule Rome during the first nine years of the emperor’s reign. One of Seneca’s well known quotes: “A man’s as miserable as he thinks he is.” What you think about most of the time, you become. If you see the world and yourself through a lens where life’s challenges and obstacles are viewed as true opportunity, then that’s likely what you will find. This connects with Marcus Aurelius‘ maxim, which essentially states, “what is in the way, is the way.”
The Stoics’ guide us with principles well beyond what sometimes is shallow, perhaps even naive, positivism. It is much more than seeing the glass as “half full.” It involves the following framework:
- Seeing things clearly.
- Acting correctly.
- Enduring and accepting the world you can’t control, as it is.
I think we need to attract and develop people who travel beyond self-accountability, resilience, and the many other wonderful values and character traits I often write about. We need these people AND ensure that they THINK about obstacles as THE opportunity to invent, reimagine and find ways to thrive .
The obstacle may be a poor boss, difficult colleague, poor economic environment etc. However, the idea of turning an obstacle around to propel us to a better spot is like rocket fuel… Modern stoicism fuel.
- Recognize that people who can see obstacles with clear vision, a calm mind and then find ways to act in the correct way to take advantage of the challenges, are an inclusive group. You do not need an Ivy League MBA, or be of any group or class. The framework is available to all of us.
- Study people who found a way to turn an obstacle into “the way,” and you will realize that their mindset and action set are there as examples for us to replicate (in our own unique way). Unfortunately, most of us just do not want to embrace the disciplined thinking and action. We too often define much of life’s challenges as insurmountable and unfortunately do not act with correct, disciplined forward action. We get stuck in inertia.
Stoic fuel in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa… Wonder what that whole, “never as bad as you think it’s going to be” reminds me of? Oh yeah… My Millennial View, a few posts back. Funny enough, I whole-heartedly agree that “a man’s as miserable as he thinks he is,” too… Hmm… Here’s how I acknowledge and agree with both. It’s “never as bad as you think it’s going to be” actually partners with “a man’s as miserable as he thinks he is,” because the first controls irrational predictions and fears for the future, while the second is a positive mindset that helps you problem solve in the present. You can’t make positive progress on a present obstacle, if you’re scared motionless by over anticipating a negative outcome. Makes sense to me.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis