Ten Tips to Bring Ancient Philosophy to Your Daily Modern World [Video]

Modern version of Stoic philosopher Epictetus

These will help you maintain a mental fortress to easing daily stressors, ensuring each day is happy, healthy, and successful.

Editor’s note: This is part five of a six part Emotional Intelligence Series. Please find Part 1: It’s Never too Late to Create a Bold Self-help Plan & Execute It  , Part 2: Addressing Emotional Career Challenges When So Much Is at Stake and Part 3: Integrating Emotional Intelligence & Stoicism for Professional Growth [Video] Part 4:Emotional Intelligence and Stoicism in Careers and Life- Part 4 [Video]

In my latest book The MOMENT THAT DEFINES YOUR LIFE, I assert that the practice of Stoicism, when integrated with Emotional Intelligence, is a compelling force to help navigate your life. It underscores the foundation that the Stoic philosopher Epictetus practiced and preached, “The real test of personal excellence lies in the attention we give to the often-neglected small details of our conduct.” It takes a lot of energy to pay attention to the most minute details of your interactions. However, for the sake of your reputation, it is worth considering.

As accountants advise their clients, “Focus on the pennies. The pennies will take care of the dollars.” So too with your behavior. When interacting with others, take time to ensure effective daily interactions. For instance, when communicating with someone and contemplating what to say: Smile, stand up straight, and look them in the eye. While none of these nonverbal tools will alter what you say, bear in mind a critical aspect of communication: “It not what you say. It’s what they hear.”

What they hear can be significantly different from your word choices. Who knows how they interpret your commutation? You won’t know until they act or respond? How then to lessen misinterpretation?  The right words, appropriate body language, and a positive tone is in your control. Everything else happening all around you is not. What to do then to ensure productive and effective human interactions every time?

Putting behavior into a broader context, in part 4 of this 6-part series, I expressed half of the ten guiding principles learned from the master Stoic Epictetus on my journey of self-discovery.

The first five are:

  1. You can do anything. But not everything.
  2. You are defined by what you repeatedly do.
  3. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  4. We overestimate the value of planning and underestimate the importance of temperament.
  5. When you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself.

It is critical you practice each. How and when to use each tool takes time and patience and depends on the circumstance. Rather than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, pause every time you are prompted to act and/or react. Quickly run through this mental checklist to determine your behavior.

By blending the Stoic philosophy into your toolkit, be conscious and intentional in your response to others. Consider the second half of Epictetus’s advice no matter the situation:

6. “There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things beyond your power or will.” When you focus on what is within your control and accept what is not, happiness becomes your responsibility. You cannot blame anyone nor outsource your happiness.

7. “If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.” It is essential to not respond immediately. Take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control.”

8. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.” I appreciate how challenging and anger inducing it can be when in the presence of a jerk who is yelling at you. As hard as it seems, take all that energy, and give it back in a different way. Like diffusing a proverbial bomb, breathe, slow your heart rate. Don’t rush. A measured thoughtful response will be appreciated far more than a rapid, impetuous one. Take as long as necessary to respond with something positive. Let them wait.

9. “Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.” Epictetus saw this as part of human nature, and explains the risks associated with adopting views and beliefs that sound good but are not yours. The lesson: Keep an eye on what others would have you believe. Do not cede your values to them.

 10. Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.” The Stoics believed that many of the things in life people find troubling are not problems at all. Hardship doesn’t happen because of the events around you, but your perception of those events. Take a universe of people, put them in the same high stress environment, and note how everyone reacts differently to same stimuli? Why is that? Because those in control of their minds figure out how to stay calm under the weight of that stress. It is a learned behavior and recommended to anyone who wants to reduce the strain of daily life.

Despite a world of hyper social media and tools of mass distraction, remind yourself daily to drown out the noise and focus only on what you can control. Epictetus’ ten tips for daily life practices is a giant leap to help you maintain a mental fortress to ease all the daily stressors and ensure each day is happy, healthy, and successful.

Related content:

It’s Never too Late to Create a Bold Self-help Plan & Execute It

Addressing Emotional Career Challenges When So Much Is at Stake

Integrating Emotional Intelligence & Stoicism for Professional Growth [Video]

Emotional Intelligence and Stoicism in Careers and Life- Part 4 [Video]

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