Life is about choices.
How we choose to see things. What we choose to say. What we choose to think.
We choose what kind of person we are going to be.
It all comes down to choices.
And Stoicism, it could be said, is a philosophy about how to make better choices. This is what we see in a book like Meditations. We see Marcus Aurelius journaling, working to get better at choosing. Choosing the right things to value, the right things to think, the right things to focus on, the right response to a difficult situation.
In this article, I am going to give you the best insights from the Stoics on choosing well to live better.
Start now by making the choice to…
Say Yes Only To What Matters
Being great at anything requires concentration. It requires elimination, Seneca says. “He who is everywhere is nowhere.”
If you want to be great at whatever it is you’re doing, you have to make some choices about what you say yes to and what you say no to. Everything you say yes to means saying no to something else. And conversely, everything you say no to means saying yes to something else.
When you say no, when you cut out the inessential, the Stoics say, it allows you to double down on what is truly essential. So the question is: are you saying no to say yes only to what matters?
Control Your Emotions
Cato was once spat on by a rival politician. He was a physically tough man, a soldier, who could have, let’s say, taken matters into his own hands. Instead, he is reported to have laughed and said, “I will swear to anyone, Lentulus, that people are wrong to say that you cannot use your mouth.”
In another case, he was punched and responded to the man’s apology by saying, “I don’t even remember being hit.”
Cato chose not to be provoked. He chose not to be dragged down to their level. He didn’t lose his temper. He didn’t let them get to him. He abided by Marcus Aurelius’s wisdom, “You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you.”