Stoicism is a philosophy of life, which simply means a view about how to live well.
There are three central ideas:
- The cognitive model of emotion
- The dichotomy of control
- The focus on virtue
The cognitive model of emotion is a hypothesis about human psychology. It states that our emotional states are shaped by our thoughts and beliefs. It is not things in themselves that harm us, but our opinions about them.
This matters because we have control over our thought — we don't need to immediately accept every thought as true. Instead, we can work towards seeing reality as it is.
The dichotomy of control is the simple idea some things are up to us and others are not. We can accept what is not up to us and take responsibility for what is. We have control over our thoughts and decisions, nothing else.
The focus on virtue is perhaps the most important. Many people think what is ultimately good in life are things that our external to us: material success, a family and a house, or “making a difference”. These things may be good, but they aren't ultimately good. What is ultimately good is what we have control over, our character. The focus is on excellent thought and decisions Nothing else.
Stoicism is 90% practice, only 10% theory. To put the above philosophy into action, Stoics use a number of traditional and contemporary tools. This includes practices like negative visualization, journaling, Socratic questioning, and meditation. You can learn more about those in this blog.
Objective judgement, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance - now, at this very moment - of all external events. That's all you need.
- Marcus Aurelius