If you practice it enough.
I clearly remember the day when I first discovered Stoicism. I was on a sunny beach on one of Croatia’s islands, and pulled the Enchiridion by Epictetus out of my bag.
I knew nothing about where the knowledge written there would lead me. But looking at it now, I can say it with total certainty — this book was the most influential text I’ve ever read in my life. A wonderful relationship with Stoicism started, and it’s been growing since then.
My perspective of the world completely changed over time, and I can’t envisage any other philosophy giving me so many benefits, especially in today’s highly stressful world.
We are completely overloaded with information of all kinds. We’re not living only our own lives — but thousands of others that we see every day on the news, social networks, and TV shows.
In this super color-popping world, it’s so easy to forget about the only thing we actually have — ourselves. The outer world shines so brightly, that it seems like the inner world doesn’t exist at all.
Obsessed with the outer world, our reactions become dependent on it. Our world and happiness aren’t in our control anymore. We gave it to other people’s opinions, beliefs, weather, and situations. How can one be fulfilled if he has no control over what he’s doing?
What You Can Control
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius
Stoicism gave me a realization that I don’t have control over anything else, just over my own mind. I realized the situations by itself don’t disturb me — rather my perception of those situations.
And that perception is prone to change. It’s changing all the time, and with the Stoic wisdom, you can gain a lot of power in choosing the change’s direction.
It might seem like you don’t have a lot of control, if the only thing you can control is your mind. That statement arose many questions in my mind. There are so many other things that exist, right?
The key is to understand that our minds are everything. With them, we create the image of the world. We interact only with that world, and by investing all your time and energy just in your mind, the world we live in changes drastically.
It might look the same from the outside. But from the inside, everything changes.
Interactions With the Outer World Are So Clear
The goal is to create your own world. The world in which you have control over your reactions to anything. No one can harm your inner world; there’s a massive invisible shield between you and everything else.
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” — Epictetus
You realize that the outer world is just a reflection of yourself. The inner world gets extraordinarily larger than the outer one. And you live in it, not disturbed by the outer events.
The perspective can be described with a table, with people and situations being on top of it. Without control over your mind and those situations, they’re just bouncing you all the time. It’s super crowded there, and you can’t see anything.
You don’t know where are you going. You don’t know if something is right. You can’t even question if something is, it’s such a rush down there. You’re accepting other people’s advice and beliefs, even though they’re probably not something beneficial.
Your reaction with everyone is sometimes positive, sometimes negative. You might be disturbed if someone doesn’t agree with your opinion. Or, you might have a bad day just because it so crowded there. In the end, you are completely dependent on the external conditions.
Your life’s steering wheel is in the hands of everyone. You only experience the outer world, the noise.
Stoicism gives you the ability to elevate yourself from that table.
Not in the term that you become conceited. The elevation is just a symbol of your inner world. While you’re there, you can clearly see what’s going on. You choose when you need to interact with others and get back down to the table, but after your short mission is gone, you return back to your inner world.
You’re developing a strong system of beliefs on that journey. You filter everything you hear down there, and nothing can break your massive invisible shield if you don’t decide so.
While elevated, there’s a different set of tools you have to operate with. You further improve your binoculars to make the perspective of the world even clearer. You don’t even need the binoculars if you’re down there all the time. Why would you need it if everything is so super crowded anyway?
“No man is free who is not master of himself.” — Epictetus
There’s no mastery without spending time alone, with yourself, with your thoughts. Constantly working on your life, improving your perspective of the world.
The success of any form is not a coincidence. And it surely wouldn’t come by itself if you’re completely dependent only on the external conditions.