Giving a stiff upper lip a kick up the rear: the real meaning of stoicism

romansmallWhat goes through your mind when you hear the word ‘stoical’?

For me, it conjured up images of a stiff-upper-lip approach to life: putting up with things you shouldn’t, in a slightly joyless yet smug fashion. Definitely someone you wouldn’t want to go to the pub with.

But it turns out the meaning has been corrupted over the centuries and back when folk wore togas, it was the name of a pretty interesting philosophy.

The bare bones seem to be:

  • Learning to be content with (and even crave) the things you already have
  • Recognising when you’re worrying about things you can’t influence
  • Embracing discomfort as a way to broaden your comfort zone

In other words, being an utter life-ruling badass.

On this blog over the past year or so, I’ve been exploring ways to beat stress, spend less and enjoy life a little more. Turns out, people have been working on this for thousands of years. (This blog has a long way to go)

Now, I imagine there will be a lot more to Roman stoicism than my horrendously simplified, Google-inspired bullet points, so I’ve enrolled on a free, week-long crash course during Stoic Week (17th-23rd October, 2016). It promises to teach people ways to fit old stoical ideas into modern life. Sounds pretty good to me.

For now, I’ll leave you with three quotes from one of the big-boss stoics, Seneca, who sounds like one chilled-out motherchuffer:

“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realise how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.”

“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more.”

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”


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4 thoughts on “Giving a stiff upper lip a kick up the rear: the real meaning of stoicism

  1. Leesa says:

    Learned something new!! I always thought of Stoicism in the modern sense. I really like the “old” meaning! A minimalist mantra if ever there was one! Thanks for posting. And could you post a link to the class you signed up for? I may have missed it in the post.

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