How Stoicism Can Help Your Personal and Financial Life

Perhaps more than any other topic, I have discovered incredible personal value in the philosophical school of thought known as Stoicism. I find stoicism invaluable for navigating the modern world while maintaining some semblance of self-control. I believe that the ideas of stoicism are an integral part of my own financial life (as well as personal life).

This post was originally published on The Simple Dollar .

I have discussed Stoicism briefly in several places over the years. Today I’m going to delve a little deeper into Stoicism – or at least my interpretation of it – and show how useful it really is in helping me make sense of the world and maintain the self-control needed to find funds. , professional and personal success.

Some of you may remember that a few years ago I wrote a three- part series on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, Self-reliance . I first read it almost twenty years ago, and since then, it has not only had a huge impact on my life, but also piqued my lifelong interest in philosophy and how it can affect the way I live my life. life. In fact, Stoicism has a lot in common with the writings of Emerson, but the tradition began much earlier, with the ancient Greeks and Romans.

What is Stoicism?

Google actually offers a pretty good definition of Stoicism :

Ancient Greek philosophical school founded in Athens by Zenon of Kitium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Mind (also identified with Fate and Providence), which governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fate, pleasure and pain.

I tend to think of stoicism as a division between the way the world works and my emotional response to it. In other words, I strive to separate what I can control — my inner emotions and thoughts — from the things I cannot control — the rest of the world.

It is through controlling your inner emotions and thoughts that you can begin to see the real truth about things.

Take a bottle of soda, for example. This is neither good nor bad. When I drink it, it will be sweet and carbonated, but the price is in the health implications it will make me gain weight and will not have a good effect on my blood sugar. This is what it is – neither good nor evil.

However, if I were a soda aficionado, I would personally hone the good things. I would get an emotional reaction that would push me towards soda.

On the other hand, if I was focused on my personal health, I would personally hone in on the bad. I would have an emotional reaction that pushes me away from the soda.

These responses mostly looked like instinctive feelings. I might be tempted by the soda … or it might sicken me. Either way, emotions guide me.

But these emotions are inside me. I can control them if I want to. It’s not easy to do, especially at first, but when I do get them under control, I may decide to drink this soda in a more rational way. At the end of the day, it’s cost-effectiveness – I’ll love the soda, but I won’t enjoy the health effects – and I can decide for myself if the cost is worth the benefit.

Once you start to view everything from this point of view, it becomes a natural way of looking at the world. You begin to realize that your emotions and desires tend to motivate you to do things that don’t actually benefit your life and often harm it. They guide you towards experiences that can be hugely negative and away from experiences that can be hugely positive.

Let’s dig a little deeper and look at some stoic principles that I personally find very useful.

Stoic principles you might find useful

While the core tenets of Stoicism are few and simple, they involve many other ideas, many of which can be useful in modern life that is not strictly Stoic but simply strives to build a better life for oneself. Here are some of these principles.

Recognize that all emotions come from within and that we create our own feelings.

You decide if you like something. You decide if you want anything. You decide if you like something. These are decisions that depend on you, not on a person, place, thing, or idea.

However, so often we react so automatically to things with simple emotions or desires that we don’t even realize that our reaction is coming from within. We mostly attribute this to this product.

Think about how you feel when you see your favorite food in the world on a plate in front of you, or when you see a loved one again that you haven’t seen for a long time. These are feelings and emotions within you, created by you , but they are so immediate that they seem to be automatic. It seems to them that they are created what you like.

The same thing happens in every buying situation. You may want something badly, but this desire is something within you , something that you have created. You created it, and it’s completely internal, so you can just as easily stop it if you want.

This is such a huge key to personal, professional and financial success. You create your emotional reactions and you can turn them off if you want. They are all within you.

Find a reputable mentor

When we exclude emotions from the equation, our decisions are often based on our understanding of the world, namely the consequences of different options for us and for others.

Over time, experience will teach us a lot about these possible consequences of our decisions, but it is never perfect, especially when we are younger.

This is why a mentor is so valuable. A mentor can help us overcome the consequences of the various decisions we face in life. For example, a professional mentor can help us make the right career decisions. A trusted life mentor – perhaps an older relative you trust, a pastor, or just someone you respect in the community – can do the same for your personal decisions.

Mentors play an important role in helping you make decisions regardless of your emotional reactions. They usually have no emotional interest in your choices, so they can usually look at the options for what they are and help you get through those options. They can be invaluable, especially when you find that emotions cloud your judgment.

Know that failures happen, but life goes on

One of the strongest emotions is fear. People are afraid of many things: ruining relationships, ruining their careers, missing out on something, and so on. The idea of ​​failure seems very negative to most people.

The point is, fear is just another emotion. It is the emotion that tells us that we should never take risks, that we should avoid failure at all costs.

However, if we do this, we are missing out on many opportunities. Life opportunities almost always come with the risk of failure, and that’s okay. A crash occurs. It is okay to fail sometimes if you learn from that failure.

Fear of failure should never stop you from solving problems. Instead, if a problem or opportunity arises, you must assess what the actual downsides of failure are, how likely they are, and whether you can handle the worst-case scenario. Nothing can help you overcome fear more than looking at the reality of what could happen if things go wrong and directly comparing it to the real benefits of that risk.

Fear is the same emotion as any other. When you recognize this and give up on it, many professional, personal and financial risks look very different.

Purposefully read and learn and apply your new knowledge

Part of the value of stoicism lies in the ability to evaluate people, places, things, situations and ideas without emotions that get in the way of that judgment. This requires knowledge and the ability to apply this knowledge.

Thus, one of the most reliable ways to become better in terms of correctly assessing the world is to become smarter, accumulate your knowledge and be able to apply this knowledge in the world.

For example, if you are feeling insecure and afraid of financial decisions, the best answer is not to shake with fear and put off those decisions. The best answer is to study. Go to the library and read books on investment and personal finance. Learn more about these issues so that they no longer seem daunting and unknown. If you do this, it will become much easier to let go of the emotions in decisions like these and actually make the best decision for you.

Be completely honest with yourself.

Nobody’s perfect. However, we often have inflated self-perceptions because it feels good to think that we are above average and highly competent.

The problem is that an overestimated self-image can make them not worry about self-improvement, and this leads to gradually lagging behind others, while maintaining the self-esteem that they are above average. When this happens, you start to lose sight of many aspects of life – promotions, relationships, etc. – and it doesn’t make sense to you. This can cause anger, jealousy and many other negative reactions, which mainly serve to hide the reality of what is happening.

The best solution is to be extremely honest with yourself. How do your skills compare to your peers? In what areas are their skills superior to yours? In what areas are you more qualified? In what areas can you improve yourself?

This does not apply to “cruel honesty” towards others. “Cruel honesty” towards others is a cover for cruelty, which has a lot of negative social consequences that no one wants in their life.

Think about using your time

By now, it should be obvious that stoicism is closely related to self-reliance and self-improvement. Stoicism requires you to give up your emotions, see the world as it is, and be utterly honest with yourself about your place in the world and the qualities you offer. This almost always leads to a strong desire for self-improvement through the acquisition of knowledge, improvement in shape, and other aspects of self-improvement.

The challenge for a lot of people is finding the time to do this, and to be honest, time management in itself is a great area in which you can improve yourself. This often leads directly to more time that you can use to improve various aspects of your life.

Take a close and serious look at how you use your time. A great way to do this is to keep a time diary. I use time counters like Timing to keep track of how I use my time. It almost always shows me very clearly how well I am using my time. For many days I set myself personal time goals, and this type of time counter helps me get the job done.

Consider using your money

Literally everything I said above also applies to the use of money, so I’ll basically repeat the same section above because, well, it applies well to the connection between stoicism and money.

Take a close and serious look at how you spend your money and whether it really makes sense. A great way to do this is to use an expense tracker. I personally use “ You need a budget” for this; the older version (version 4) allows you to track your expenses offline and does not require a subscription. Tracking my spending almost always shows me very clearly how well I am using my money and whether I am wasting it or using it in ways that will continue to thrive in my life.

Think about your goal and whether you are truly doing something in line with that goal.

Thinking about your purpose in life is a rather deep question, which is often not easy to answer. I have thought about this a lot over the years and have come to a small number of conclusions about what my purpose in life is – basically it comes down to helping others and improving myself. When I do something, I prefer that they fall into one of these two categories.

Once you have truly honed one or two core goals, start looking at how you spend your time and ask how they help you achieve that central goal in life.

I have found that over and over again, when I spend time on things that are more closely related to these two or three main life goals, I feel good, and when I do something that is not related to these two or three main life goals … central goals, I feel bad. So, using these goals as a general guide to how to spend your time and how to spend your money makes a lot of sense.

Kill procrastination because it is your enemy

As I mentioned above, when you start digging into Stoicism, time management becomes more important to you. The main reason for this is that you don’t want to waste time, because wasted time is time not wasted on what is closest to your core life goals.

Unsurprisingly, all of this points directly to procrastination. Procrastination means putting off doing something important in order to do something urgent, but perhaps not so important, which is a great example of how to let emotions drive decision-making. You want to do something else because that might not be all that fun. The end result is that you are not doing an important job.

The best approach is to start important tasks as soon as you know about them. Start saving for retirement now. Start working on this project now. Even if the initial steps are not ideal, in most cases they are much better than doing nothing during this time.

Be present at every moment

When we are distracted from the moment, we allow ourselves to act instinctively, and instinct is often largely determined by emotion. We do not react to things rationally and instead rely on the most immediate response to deal with situations. In short, if we are present in the moment , we make better decisions and move more away from situations.

The solution here is simple: whatever you are doing at the moment, focus on it . Don’t let your mind wander. Don’t waste time thinking about something else – if you’re thinking about a different topic, write it down and think about it later when you can focus on it instead of dividing your attention.

If you are present in the moment, you are much more likely to build strong relationships and make the right decisions, including decisions about spending. If you’re distracted at the moment, you’re far more likely to make bad spending decisions and less likely to be spared from that moment.

By the way, this is why my cell phone is often completely turned off.

Ask yourself why when you have an emotional reaction

Even as you find yourself doing these practices more and more, you will react emotionally to things from time to time. You want something. You will be upset about something. You will be angry.

These emotions are completely normal. The goal of stoicism is not to be emotionless, but to understand those emotions, to know where they came from, and thus to have a better ability to make the right decisions when something like this happens in the future.

Whenever I try to figure out a desire or an emotional response, I usually use what I call the “five whys.” I ask myself why I feel this way, and then why the answer to this question is as it is, and then why over and over and over again.

Almost always by the fifth “why” I achieve something. Usually I come face to face with some real problem or conflict in my life, something that I can really handle, deal with or think about. When I fix this problem, the overly powerful emotional response inevitably goes away, allowing me to make more rational choices afterward.

Remember the greatest virtue is intelligent life.

Decisions made on the basis of impulses and emotions usually end up having negative consequences – for your wallet, for your health, for your career, for your relationships. Emotions prevent us from seeing potential pitfalls when making a decision or seeing some long-term benefit.

Ideally, we make the best possible decisions in every situation. This, of course, is an ideal that we will never fully achieve, but one that we can strive for and which we will eventually approach.

A rational life is the life that leads us to maximize the fulfillment of the grand goal that we set for ourselves, because we make decisions that lead us to this great goal. This almost always means making smart financial decisions that align with our dreams in life, such as saving for the future and continuing expenses that are less than what we earn. It’s all about making rational decisions as we work towards our highest goal in life.

Further reading

If you find stoicism as interesting and valuable as I have, there are several books on the topic worth reading.

  • Ryan Holliday ‘s Obstacle is the Way is probably my favorite modern introduction to Stoicism. It focuses on how modern people can use what they can control to overcome obstacles in modern life.
  • Seneca ‘s Letters of the Stoic is an excellent collection of essays on the classic elements of Stoicism: that the universe is governed by rational rules; that a contented life is achieved by a simple and rational life with a duty to the main goal; that human suffering and failure is part of life and can teach us a lot; and that study, teaching and thoughtful conversation are incredibly important.
  • The Enchiridion of Epictetus is a kind of practical guide on how to lead a Stoic life. By the way, most of the content fits well with what you’ll find in this post as it boils down to understanding your emotions, living a simple life according to your purpose, keeping your life centered and using what you have to achieve. something in life.

I also highly recommend Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor of the second century AD. These are actually his own personal notes, as he did not seem to intend to publish them, but this is a very practical look at how a person can apply the principles of stoicism in life. Marcus Aurelius was clearly an adherent of stoicism, and his writings are very insightful.

Final thoughts

I don’t expect anyone to fully join a life based on pure stoicism, but that doesn’t mean there is little to learn about personal growth, personal finances, and achieving your goals in stoicism. I believe that the more I read and reflect on this topic, the more ideas I have with which I can improve my life and make better decisions, especially in the face of problems, temptations and tragedies.

I suggest that you take the time to not only ponder a little about Stoicism and how it can help your own life, but delve deeper into some of the additional readings I have linked to. Stoicism has personally helped me along the path from financial disaster and professional dissatisfaction to a much better life, and I believe these principles can help you too.

How Stoicism Can Help You Change Your Financial Life | Simple dollar


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