First of all: If you are Depressed, Bi-polar, or have any psychic illness, you should go see a doctor. Also, this blog post can contain suicide triggers for those who could be affected. If that’s you, go to a doctor and read no more.
Still here? Cool.
Yes that tumor is malign, yes you will get fired from your job, your parents will be disappointed, you will fail that new business and your partner will leave you for someone else.
Don’t like the above phrases? How about these ones?
You don’t have cancer, you are valued at your job, your parents love and support you always, that new business? Brilliant, you are the best person to appear on your partner life.
Does that sound better? But those are all opinions. Now I want you to create a mental exercise and realize, which set of phrases would cause more damage if they are false? The negative ones, or the positive ones.
If you do have cancer, having hope you didn’t is worse than not having cancer and believing firstly that you did. Am I right?
Well, this is what the ancient Greek philosophers that called themselves the Stoics believed. One of the greatest philosophers was also a military genius and emperor. Welcome Marcus Aurelius…
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
Well, this roman emperor wrote a book called Meditations during his most prestigious years and during the war. The book mostly talks about his views on the world and a way of self-improvement. But, instead of the feel good entrepreneurial books, this book takes a darker view of life in order to shake the apathy, anxiety, and irrational fears.
Who here hasn’t had an anxiety attack, panic attack, or fell into depression at least once in their life? Sure, some people have their brain chemistry that makes these happen constantly and that creates a hole in their life. For those people, they need professional help, if you are feeling like that for quite some time, you should get help.
Here, I only point out some of the views Marcus had of life. Mostly, his views look at the darker side of existence in order to show himself or the reader that although that can happen, he will be okay.
The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
See, Marcus believed that what you think all day can change you life for worse of the better. You don’t have power over external events, but you do have power in how you react to them. This isn’t some “Secret” bullsh#t, if you think you’ll have money, that does not equate with making money in reality.
Sure it is difficult after a death, or a bad news to remain positive. But as a wise man once said, the best things in life are free. I’m not saying join a hippie commune(unless that is what you want to do and nothing stops you, but first hear me out). You don’t need to live in the mountains to be free from anxiety nor to study Buddhism. You don’t need to release yourself of every material being to be happy. You do need to give more thoughts to what you value.
You get to wake up every day, you get to think, you get to communicate with others, you get to learn new things. You get to sleep.
Those things are awesome in more ways than one. How about a little more perspective? The atoms that make up your molecular structure came from the nucleus of a giant star in space. You are star dust(too Carl Sagan yet?). Life is amazing. But it is also hard.
Why Hope is bad
Everybody dies. Period. But you know what is worse than death? Over thinking everything, over analyzing… Actually, if you think about it, “what is worse than death” can only be answered by people that took their own lives. See, in death you feel nothing, there is just no existence. In life you feel all sort of things, and most of it will be bad.
Your loved ones will die(if they don’t leave you first), your job will stop existing after a while, and most of all, you will die. That is what normal people fear.
If you studied physics in college or watched enough physics documentaries, you also know that the universe is dying. Eventually everything that you did will stop existing. Things will be cold and no one will be there to remember the days the universe was bright.
This is what I feared for a long time.
But there is one thing, apart from being true, that these phrases have in common. They rip out hope like a disease. Things will be bad, and if you are a healthy human being, you’ll realize that it is okay. “How can I be okay? Nothing means anything, we are all gonna die!!!!!!”.Sure in millions of years the universe will cool off, sure in 100 years you will be dead, sure at one point someone you know and love is going to die. Hope create illusions that, once broken, create more suffering than the things it swore to protect.
But that doesn’t stop the flowers to grow, the birds to sing, the Netflix to release awesome tv series. Everything around you, although decadent, is quite fresh, is quite good on it’s own time. The grass is green, the sun is hot(sometimes too hot), you get to breathe(some with and some without the help of modern medicine). See, there is beauty in nature that humans can’t quite capture with their Iphones, their Smartphones, or even with a simple blog post.
Tell me what can I write here that can show you more calm than looking at this:
I suffer from anxiety, every time I do something bad, or not as good as I’d hoped I beat myself down, I put so much pressure in myself to have a future that I forget to live in the present.
“What will happen if …?” disease is what Anxiety could be called.
Define your nightmare and then face it, you will be stronger than. That is what Stoicism proposes. You create solutions to that problem.
But what if you just remain thinking about negative situations for hours on end… What does good that do? That is a problem for those with anxiety, you get insomnia just thinking about how things could go wrong, and before a solution comes up you jump to a new problem without having any closure.
What do you do then?
Framework for High Stress Situations
Focus on things that are within your sphere of control.
Stoic philosophers talked how to live a better life by learning to face the worst case scenarios of life. But they didn’t delve into anxiety for the simple reason that if something is outside your realm of control, you just can’t deal with it, let it be.
He suffers more than necessary, suffers before it is necessary.
But what happens when your job is on the line and you got to make one more sale to keep at it? I bet if you are like me, when the situation is within your sphere of control, or just slight off of it, you can’t tell the difference.
Is the economy to blame if you get fired?(Future blog post on Finance!!!) Are you to blame for it?
How do you deal with it?
Do you hope things will get better?
Do you remain calm and see that it’s all okay?
Do you think remaining calm makes you passive or makes people walk over you?(Future blog post!!!)
In any way, in order to sort it out, take action on things you can directly control. You can’t control being employed, so your financial future shouldn’t depend on it. In the end of every successful financial future is the automation of your job in the form of a business or being a successful investor on other business. That you can directly control, you can’t control the economy.
But that is just one example, I’d like to hear in the comments one situation that makes you very anxious and how do you deal with it.
A few last words…
Things will eventually go bad, but it’s not about the destination, not about the journey either, it’s about being grateful for what you have, and worry only about what you have direct control, everything else is secondary. Find what you can dedicate yourself in, and that is it. No matter what negative situations you find yourself in, you will be okay.
Seneca, another great stoic, used to say:
Heres some baby pandas:
See you next time…