Simple Stoic Advice to Help Navigate a Chaotic Year

Controlling what you can and letting go of the rest.

It’s time for an overhaul. The ways that you dealt with challenges and life in general in 2019 and earlier? Yeah, you can go ahead and close that chapter. It’s time to refresh the way to deal with everything.

In 2019, you may have had a bad day at work and the commute home calmed you down. Listening to some relaxing music, thinking about the upcoming weekend plans. The separation and personal time helped smooth all things.

You come across an Instagram photo of a friend who is always traveling, seeing the world. Posting obnoxious self-congratulatory stories on social media. We all know the type. But you have a vacation to look forward to in a month, so it doesn’t matter. Plus, your upcoming hiking trip with a group of friends will be amazing.

Welcome to 2020. All those scenarios have changed. More to the point, the ways to get past aggravations and social hurdles are no longer accessible.

Stoicism has become a popular topic lately, but not for unwarranted reasons. If there is ever a time to process our emotions and actions, it would be now. Some of the most influential stoics wouldn’t have foreseen our chaotic year of 2020. Yet, it doesn’t matter. The perspective applies to humanity, not the state of culture or technology.

Some of the most influential stoic thoughts remain appropriate for this year. And many years to come.

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius

You don’t need to believe in determinism to understand that life is outside of our control. Without cracking into the discussion about fate and free will, let’s look at reactions for a moment.

Everything from the sun rising to your coworker being snarky is an event. Something beyond your control. The only thing you do have control over is your response.

What if we table the desire to control those events? After all, you can’t control either of those examples or any number of others. Why try? Instead, we can choose the kind of person we are in response to them.

Reframe the annoying and aggravating. Celebrate the good as phenomenal. Push the entire scale towards the positive and realize you’ve had control of that the entire time.

“Do what you will. Even if you tear yourself apart, most people will continue doing the same things.” — Marcus Aurelius

If I don’t go to work, check social media or order delivery — nothing will change. The world remains unchanged by my lack of action. And because I am not someone like Elon Musk, the world remains rather unchanged with my action as well.

Sure, you can argue that every little drop in the bucket can make a change over time. I agree. Yet, in the case of aggravation and response, nothing changes.

You can let the news and actions of others completely destroy your day. That will only affect you. The world keeps turning. The universe doesn’t care about your frustration.

There’s a freedom in knowing how little affect you have on the world. Embrace that and let it go. Whatever it is, there’s no value in stressing about the color of the sky.

“If a person doesn’t know to which port they sail, no wind is favourable.” — Seneca

You must have a north star. A goal to aim towards. Something to measure the time against. During a time where up is down, we must have something to look forward to sooner than later.

Instead of a vacation, aim for reaching a 30-day streak on Duolingo. Put aside thoughts of a raise or promotion and look into public speaking courses. Growth and experience never needed to come from standard sources. We became comfortable with the usual methods.

Build a routine. Set goals that cost you nothing more than time and energy. Mark a date on a calendar later this year. Or each month. Track your time towards something that will make you feel accomplished.

This is a year of complete disfunction. No matter how you measure it. No matter what your beliefs or economic standing. We’re inside the snow globe in the hands of an angry toddler right now.

Take comfort in the fact that we’re not the first humans to go through this. You’re not the only one searching for new ways to read the news and not curl up into a ball afterward.

Sprinkle a little stoic advice on your daily experience. You don’t need to completely disregard emotion. Instead, process it with a little more intention to do some good for your future self.

I want you to look back at this year and say, “That’s when I started…” or, “That’s when I learned…” and on from there.

You can choose if this will be a year of discomfort or one of growth. There is no control over how far off the rails 2020 will become. But there is unlimited control of what you do in response to it. Go get it.

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Exploring how to thrive as a multi-disciplinary entrepreneur, one existential crisis at a time. ✖ Writing about the journey and the lessons that come with it.

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