If you embrace these 7 stoic principles, you’ll stop sweating the small stuff

Do you too often find yourself getting caught up in the inevitables of daily life, fretting over things, and feeling more stressed than you probably should?

If so, you’re not alone. I was once like this, too — a prisoner of my own worries, sweating the small stuff and letting it cloud my days.

It’s a difficult mindset to escape. But if there’s one thing that helped me, it was Stoicism. 

This ancient philosophy, dating back to the early 3rd century BC, was practiced by great minds like Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor known for his wisdom.  But Stoicism isn’t just a relic of the past; it has been embraced by many modern thinkers and leaders, drawn to its practical approach to life’s challenges.

Today, we get into seven simple but powerful ideas from this philosophy that have helped me (and I am sure many others) to stress less. 

They can help you too. 

Let’s dive in.

1) Focus on what you can control

“Some things are in our control and others not.”

Epictetus

This principle is a huge one and has been a cornerstone in my journey, especially during stressful times as an entrepreneur. 

Think about it: so much of our stress and anxiety comes from trying to manage or change things that are simply out of our hands. By recognizing and accepting this, we can shift our energy and focus toward what we can actually influence. When we concentrate on areas within our control, our efforts become more effective and our minds clearer. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean ignoring problems or challenges; rather, it means understanding which aspects of a situation we can impact and directing our efforts there. This approach not only boosts our productivity but also brings a sense of peace, knowing we are doing all we can within our means.

But just focusing on what we can influence isn’t enough. If we really want to be at peace with ourselves and the world, we need to do this next thing, too. 

2) Accept what you cannot change

Have you ever found yourself agonizing over situations out of your reach? 

In the face of unchangeable circumstances, the art of acceptance involves understanding and letting go. It’s not about being passive or resigned but about choosing where to focus your energies more productively.

Think about a situation that you cannot alter – perhaps a past event or a natural occurrence. Let it go. 

This practice of acceptance liberates us from the web of “what-ifs” and “if-onlys,” significantly reducing unnecessary stress and paving the way for a more serene and balanced approach to life.

3) Live in the present moment

In our relentless pursuit of money, success, and future happiness, it’s easy to forget that time is our most precious commodity. Unlike money, time, once gone, cannot be reclaimed.

Marcus Aurelius touched on this when he wrote

“Remind yourself too that each of us lives only in the present moment, a mere fragment of time: the rest is life past or uncertain future.”

By following this advice and anchoring ourselves in the present, we not only enjoy our lives more fully but also equip ourselves to handle challenges more effectively, as we’re not distracted by irrelevant worries or regrets.

How often do you allow yourself to be truly and solely immersed in the present moment

4) Practice gratitude

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” 

This profound insight from Epictetus highlights the essence of gratitude, an important Stoic practice. It’s about focusing on the blessings we have rather than lamenting what we lack.

By actively acknowledging and appreciating the good in our lives, we shift our focus from what’s missing to what’s present. This shift in perspective is powerful—it can transform our everyday experiences and interactions, leading to a more contented and fulfilling life.

And it isn’t just some ancient myth. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lead to a significant increase in happiness, optimism, and motivation. 

By integrating gratitude into our daily routine—perhaps through a gratitude journal, sharing our appreciation with others, or simply taking a moment each day to reflect on what we’re thankful for—we cultivate a mindset that focuses on the positive. 

This practice not only enhances our own well-being but also positively influences our interactions with others, allowing us to approach life with a more open, generous, and joyful mindset. 

5) Visualize the worst-case scenario

This may seem a bit counterintuitive when we are trying to reduce worry and stress, but bear with me. 

In Stoicism, there’s a practice known as “premeditatio malorum,” which basically means to premeditate or anticipate potential misfortunes. Essentially, this involves visualizing the worst-case scenario in any given situation. 

Far from being a pessimistic approach, this exercise is designed to prepare the mind for any outcome, thereby reducing fear and anxiety. By contemplating the worst possible result, we can mentally and, sometimes practically, brace ourselves, making us more resilient when facing real-life challenges.

More than that, you might find that the ‘worst that can happen’ is often not as bad as you first thought. 

6) Keep a journal 

Not so long ago, I perceived journalling as a somewhat “new age.” I mean, “Why would I need a diary?” I thought. 

I then found that it was anything but “new age.” It’s a common thread among some of history’s most powerful and resilient figures. Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Anne Frank all kept journals, documenting their thoughts, experiences, and learnings. 

This routine of daily self-reflection is more than mere introspection. It is a potent tool for personal development and mental clarity. 

Reflection helps us stop sweating the small stuff by providing a clearer perspective on our day-to-day experiences. It allows us to differentiate between what truly matters and what does not, helping us to identify and let go of trivial worries. 

More than that, by reviewing our actions and thoughts, we can learn from our mistakes, appreciate our successes, and gain insights into our habitual responses to stress and challenges.

7) Worry about what you think of yourself, not others

How often do we fall into the trap of valuing others’ opinions of us more than our own? 

Far too often. Or at least Marcus Aurelius thought so. He wrote

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people but care more about their opinion than our own.”

Like most philosophers, the Stoics believed that true contentment comes from within, not from the fleeting and often fickle judgments of others. 

This doesn’t mean disregarding feedback or becoming indifferent to others but rather finding a healthy balance where our self-esteem and self-worth are not entirely dependent on external approval.

By focusing on our own values and judgments, we can develop a stronger sense of self and a more stable foundation for our well-being. This self-reliance empowers us to make decisions that align with our true selves rather than conforming to societal expectations or seeking validation from others.

Embracing this idea means learning to be comfortable with who you are, recognizing your strengths and areas for growth, and accepting yourself without undue influence from outside opinions. It’s about trusting your judgment, learning from your experiences, and being true to your principles. 

The bottom line

These Stoic principles are more than just philosophical ideas; they can genuinely make a difference. They certainly have for me.

Start small and gradually incorporate these concepts into your routine. You might be surprised by the positive shift in your perspective thanks to this timeless wisdom.

As always, I hope you enjoyed reading this post and you found some value in it. 

Until next time.

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