❝Choose not to be harmed - and you won't feel harmed. Don't feel harmed - and you haven't been.❞ -Marcus Aurelius
I'm listening to a podcast about happiness where the host is interviewing an expert on Stoicism. As I listened to the interview, I'm struck by how different the guest describes Stoicism compared to what I thought it was. Every time I've heard somebody talk about somebody being stoic, it was with regard to a completely emotionless person. It's almost a burn to be called a stoic. This is the first time I've heard about the difference between a stoic with a lowercase s and a Stoic with a capital s. A Stoic with a capital S refers to somebody who follows the philosophy of Stoicism.
I learned that Stoicism is an ancient philosophy of life that has made a comeback in recent years. In Stoicism, the idea is to recognize that the grand goal in living life is to be tranquil. Tranquility is defined as a state of calm and contentment. This is quite different from a life with a goal of becoming and remaining happy, whatever happy means. On the road to tranquility are strategies that can be employed to avoid negative emotions, often via reframing. How we think about and interpret the situations we are in has a dramatic impact on how we feel about those situations.
Stoicism has a lot to teach us about our financial lives.
Dichotomy of Control
One of the main teachings in Stoicism is that some things are in our control and some things are not. They call this the dichotomy of control. Distinguishing between things that we can control and things that we can't control helps us to focus our time, energy, and attention on things that we actually can control. This gives us permission to let go of things that are outside of our control.
The longer you think about this dichotomy of control, the more clear it becomes that many of the things most of us pursue are outside of our control. If you decide you will be happy only if you get promoted, for example, then you are hanging your happiness on things that are outside of your control - you can't control who else applied for that job or the mindset of the hiring managers.
There are many examples of things that we don't have control over. Stoic philosophy tells us that it is not worth spending time worrying or otherwise contemplating things that are outside of our control. If things are not up to us, then worrying about them won't do any good. That's time that you can spend on things that are in your control, that will add value to your life.
Ultimately, one thing that is in your complete control is your opinion and interpretation of outside events.