Both great ancient thinkers and modern-day people of success give credit to the stoic philosophy.
You may have heard about it at school, but is hearing enough? In case you didn’t listen, you’re about to find out how the core values of stoicism can help you live harmoniously today.
Wisdom, temperance, justice, courage – are they still relevant in the digital era? What should a Gen Zer make out of these pompous words?
I bet that at school you could point out the principles of hedonism, or the characteristics of a cynic. In coursebooks, you could find works of Kant, Socrates, or Pascal. That was the easy part. That was theory.
Studying philosophy at school is the tip of an iceberg. Or even a snowflake at the tip of an iceberg. You may ask, why is it all so complicated? Well, my dear, life’s complicated. And philosophy is life. That’s where the hard part begins.
If you’re interested in following in Marcus Aurelius’ footsteps, here’s how you can implement the 4 virtues of stoicism in your day-to-day life.
You might have heard that wisdom comes with age. To some degree, it may be true. It doesn’t mean, however, that youth and wisdom are opposites! I’d rather support the reasoning that wisdom comes with experience.
Knowing where you’re going, what you want to do in your life, and how to get there (more or less); understanding the rules that govern humanity, beyond nationality or political views; pursuing what’s meaningful – that’s wisdom. To my mind however, there seems to be another type of wisdom, a new one. The digital wisdom, let’s call it.
It sounds like a science fiction theme, but it’s neither scientific, nor fictional. Oh, and it’s not about using emojis instead of text, or knowing what’s cringeworthy (ugh, that word again) and what’s not. True, the Gen Xers and baby boomers may use too many memes with minions, but that’s not the case here.
What technology has given us, is interconnectedness. The internet has massive potential, if you know how to use it. Recognize the opportunities, beware of the threats, and keep your mind open. That’s wisdom.
Balance is the keyword of this virtue.
Each day, you’re surrounded by countless stimuli that want to catch your eye. Online ads, social media feed, push notifications, porn, fast food restaurants – these temptations are lurking behind every corner.
You may try to be the next Chuck Norris and go on a hardcore training plan or a diet. You can set yourself great resolutions that will solve your problems. No more this. I won’t ever eat that. I’ll never again smoke this. I will only do this…
Sounds familiar? I’ve been through many such “revolutions.” On the whole, I gave up on most of them after a few days, maybe a week. Sure, some habits I successfully cut out of my life, like smoking (with small exceptions) or fast food.
Temperance is a virtue that advises you to avoid extremes. Be it alcohol, food, or even drugs – keep away from always and never. Why is it so?
You’ve got but one life. Try things without overindulging. Know your limits and set yourself clear borders. At the same time, don’t put unrealistic challenges in front of you.
Same thing with emotions. Don’t show anger, but also restrain from laughing at every stupid meme you find on the web. Because of stress, many a Gen Zer has issues with controlling their negative emotions. By following this guide you may take another step to pursuing temperance.
When hearing this word, images of a courtroom may come to your mind. Handsome lawyers in suits and tall skyscrapers. You don’t need to have Harvey Specter’s hair to live a just life. Justice is about being fair, which is a task far more difficult than it seems to be.
A common belief is that being fair is the same as being equal. There’s no doubt that universally, as humans, we’re different in some ways and the same in others. Need an example? We all eat, but not everyone likes peanut butter (for reasons unknown to me, a PBJ enthusiast). Of course, life is never black-or-white.
Surrounded by news, social media, and with immediate access to information (which isn’t always reliable) forget about taking anything for granted. Fake news and deepfake videos have fooled entire communities.
Our technology is getting smarter than ourselves, and it shows:
To embrace your individual voice and make sure it’s driven by justice, there’s a few things you can do.
Question what is certain. Don’t trust your first instinctive thoughts. Google everything twice before formulating an opinion. Consider different points of view and try to look at a case with an objective eye. Being self-critical is crucial before posting anything anywhere – be it a comment or a tweet. Be fair with other users of the web and doubt your beliefs.
In today’s world, to be brave doesn’t mean to die in a fight for your country. No barbarians are waiting beyond the border and no foreigners waiting to loot your motherland. Yet, although things have doubtlessly changed, this virtue is still relevant.
One can interpret courage in myriad ways. To some, the ability to reach out and start a conversation is a matter of courage. Indeed, you need to have guts to do it. Once you do, many people may even look up to you, which is one of the reasons why it’s worth it. If you want to learn other reasons why it matters to be an initiator, you’ll find some extra insights here.
To others, taking responsibility for yourself and the ones around you is courageous. In my life, I have faced my demons and changed my life (you can read about it here). It’s true, that to stop pointing fingers and take a grip of yourself ain’t easy. Especially now, when you’ve got so much in your shoulders, confronting your own problems can be overwhelming. It’s like David’s fight against Goliath.
You remember who won that battle, right?
Not the one who aroused fear, but the small shepherd with courage, with faith in himself. You can have that too. You can be the one to slingshot a stone right in the giant’s eye.
Sending an email intimidates you? There’s nothing to be scared – write it, read it (twice!) and press that ‘send’ button.
You still haven’t texted that guy you like? Put your courage to a test and send him a message.
What about that girl you can’t stop thinking about? If you can’t talk to her, at least follow her on Instagram for Christ’s sake. A small step, but it’s better than nothing.
Think about the things you’re scared to do… and do them all.
Sure, Marcus Aurelius probably didn’t think about social media when taking down his Meditations, but his teachings are just as accurate today, in the era of digital natives.
Stoicism doesn’t give you interpretations or ready-made answers. Wisdom, temperance, justice, and courage are more of guidelines. These virtues you can strive for are to help you find the truth that’s within you.
The knowledge of the ancient thinkers can still be of use today. By adding what’s uniquely ours (like bucket lists and smartwatches), we can create our own Gen Z philosophy.
And that’s a big deal.