- Do you allow your emotions to get the best of you?
- In high stress situations how do you react?
- Do you find yourself getting caught up in worrying about things outside of your control?
Today I want to discuss the topic of stoicism which has been near and dear to me especially over the past 4 or 5 years. If you’re going through a trial in your life the test of what happens isn’t so much the negative outcome as much as it is concerning how you choose to react to the negative outcome.
Trust me, I’ve been in some deep dark places within my own mind where I allowed self-doubt to creep into my head and send me into a low depression. Today I want to tell you how I beat that Doubt Monster and how you can prevent it from ever paying you a visit.
“Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”–Epictetus
So what is stoicism?
Stoicism is defined as the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint. I know what you’re thinking. Does this mean stoics are like robots? Do stoics even have feelings? Yes, stoics have feelings it’s just that we’re always working to master the control of those feelings.
Believe me this is something I have to wrestle with all the time. Personally I am always working on this and it’s never just a set it and forget it type of mode with me that I can just turn on and leave like the cruise control option on my car. No, this is something I’m always having to work to think through within my own mind. Granted the more I work at it the more I’m aware of it. Therefore I can manage stressful situations in a more calm and cool manner.
It’s been about 4 years ago now that I split from and lost someone important to me after a 7 year relationship. Not long after this my business tanked and it took me some time to realize I was actually descending into a depression. There was some other fallout as well that I won’t get into, but you get the picture.
I’d never experienced depression a day in my life prior to this. I have always been pretty mentally strong and emotionally resilient, but this threw me for a loop. After a few months I sought comfort in another female friend which ended up being a bad decision as I allowed myself to get to close to this person and this person was misleading. For me personally I needed to be detached from the world and from personal relationships so I isolated myself.
During this time I went through a mental roller coaster where I allowed things that had never even happened to worry me. It was insane. I allowed scenarios to play out in my mind about things that were NOT even a reality. It’s crazy how powerful our minds can be for both good and bad.
I also did something else I’ve never allowed myself to do and that was I actually worried about what someone else was thinking of me. This was silly and weak I know, but once I had fallen into this trap I found that I could be more susceptible to these ridiculous doubts and fears. This was something I’ve never allowed to happen, yet there I was tormented by a bunch of bullshit. I had always been a rock and all the sudden the rock had been cracked.
The thing is I had always kept things inside and never shared any personal feelings with anyone. I literally kept everything locked up inside like a vault and as a result I wrestled these demons completely on my own. This was normal to me, but later I would learn that there aren’t many people that actually hold things in…at least not to the degree that I did.
In my own head I always thought it was my responsibility to deal with these things on my own as I was the strong one and that was my role. I also remember thinking I didn’t want to bother others with my problems and bring them down. Though there was a lot of truth to this thought process it was also a bit off target.
So there I was breaking under a life event and allowing what I refer to as the Doubt Monster to dominate my thoughts and feelings. So what changed? How did I overcome this?
Using Fitness To Hone Stoicism
So I remember several weeks went by where I literally felt like I was just existing. It was a miserable place to be. I was struggling to find traction in my life and I was looking for a purpose to drive me. What I needed was an objective. I needed a goal to pursue that would demand all of my focus. Truthfully it was the biggest challenge just to get out of bed in the morning even though I did consistently.
One morning I saw the following quote that my friend and retired Navy SEAL Brad McLeod posted on the SEALGrinderPT Facebook page.
“You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.–Timber Hawkeye”
After seeing this quote something inside of me ignited. I remember I thinking screw all of this. Screw all of these negative thoughts and the people that I allowed to get to me mentally and emotionally. I’d never allowed anything like that to happen to me and damn it I wasn’t going to allow it to continue.
I was going to harden my mind, body, and spirit to a point that I could mimic a machine. I needed to become something more. You may think this is hyperbole, but I assure you it wasn’t. This was (is) a very real mindset that I started to carry and adopt. My practice of stoicism was beginning to grow and I didn’t even realize it.
So I did what any fitness and strength professional would do. I doubled down on my own fitness and personal strength development. Being that I also train fighters I doubled down on my own training in the art of Muay Thai. I was training for strength 4 days a week, training twice a week in Muay Thai, and twice a week with HIIT conditioning.
Obviously being that I’m a fitness professional I was already in good shape, but now I was ramping it up. I didn’t have so much as a cheat meal for 25 straight weeks. Family, friends, and clients started noticing and started asking me about what was happening. The transformation was becoming very obvious.
Now I was ascending to a whole new level and as I started making even greater physical gains I was making great mental gains as well. I was still dealing with the depression, but I know for a fact the physical stress that I was placing on myself was helping me to manage the mental and emotional stress.
Day by day and week by week I my body and mind hardened more and more. I detached from the world and I started gaining complete control over myself. Any concern or worry that was in my head regarding all of that previous bullshit started to fade away.
You know another big thing as I was experiencing was starting to read some of the writings of Marcus Aurelius.
You have power over your mind-not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. –Marcus Aurelius
The biggest thing to stoicism is that you must practice it. At least for me I must work to remind myself to just accept what the day gives me instead of creating expectations within my own mind and lingering on my self made expectations for that day.
Granted it’s very difficult to not place ANY expectations on life because I believe that is just human. However, I think what has worked for me is that I don’t put any weight at all on those expectations if I allow them to formulate in my head. You can do this for yourself as well and trust me it does help.
A typical example you might experience would be a woman scheduling a date and then last minute cancel. Another would be some friends planning a get together and last minute cancel the event. Another would be that business deal you expected to get might not happen. These disappointments can normally sting if you find yourself placing weight on them from the start. However if you place no weight on these from the starting line and move ahead with life anyway then you’re managing your expectations.
So learn to detach yourself from these things and keep pushing forward. Keep moving towards your goals regardless of what noise is surrounding you or a particular situation. In some cases you need to detach yourself from the people involved as well. I find this is also the case many times. Also be aware of second and third chances. I will give those to people and situations only if my gut tells me to, but not at the expense of my own well being. You shouldn’t do that either.
Stoicism: The Takeaway
At the end of the day you’ve got to mentally train yourself to deal with life’s disappointments, pitfalls, and tragedies. The thing is you have to always be working on it in order to have yourself mentally and emotionally strong just in case a negative thing occurs.
What are you doing to harden your mind and your body?
Do you allow you disappointing things to dominate your emotions?
Do you practice stoicism?
Post up and share here below in the comments.
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