Don’t Run Downhill

Perspective-changing Anecdotes from the Stoics

The collection below are concepts from Stoicism that have actually made an impact in my life and really helped define Stoicism for me. by Aubrey Portwood

 

Don’t run downhill.

  • Chrysippus compared a man who was walking with one who was running down a hill. The walking man could check himself at any moment, and stop. The man running downhill was like a man in the throws of passion. – Path of The Sage, Erik Wiegardt”

This was really life changing for me. I had always struggled to summarize what Stoicism was teaching. This is it. I also gained a slogan I could used to—describe what I needed to do to live my best life.

 

When seeking pleasure, think about how you’ll feel if you resist first.

  • If you have some possible pleasure in mind, don’t get carried away with it. Let it wait for you, while you think about how you’ll feel when you’re enjoying it, and how you’ll feel afterward, when you reproach yourself for it. Compare those moments to the joy of having abstained and the congratulations you can then properly give yourself. And if the prospective pleasure seems appropriate to you, beware of the allure, the sweet promises it may be using on you, and think again how much better an awareness of victory can be. — Epictetus, Enchiridion

Once I started doing this, I was actually able to change the direction my desires would send me. Usually, this was food. Just taking a brief moment to realize how much better I would feel vs how I would feel after eating too much or something out of moderation really helped me to take this situation in a better direction.

 

Accept things (and people) that come into your life with gladness.

  • Accept the thing to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings together. Do so with all your heart. — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations”

Something new to me in Stoicism was the idea of fate. I spent my youth not thinking well on this concept, but at some point, as a Stoic, I found that in a world where you are in control of very little happening around you, indeed the fate of those things do exist. And so, the people and situations that come into your life, you really have to accept as fate. But, taking it a step further and really being glad that that it happened to you (even if you didn’t enjoy it) is really where happiness occurs.

So, what is “fate?” It’s simply the things that happen to you that you have absolutely no control over. Even things you could have had control over, that time has since passed, are “fate,” because if you did have control over it, you would have taken control of it when you had the chance. The key here is to accept the things to which you have no control over, not worrying over it, not fighting it, just accepting it and inviting it in.

So what is “gladness.” Just imagine that you car just got dinged by someone parked next to you. They drove off, there’s no cameras around. It just happened, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you could laugh a little about it, and accept that there’s nothing you can do about it, then you just turned an experience on its head. Instead of just being angry and annoyed, you had a giggle. I mean, no matter if you get upset or laugh it off, you still can’t do anything about it, and you still have to fix it on your own. Turning experiences, where you have no control over it, into more glad one’s than bad ones is the key to happiness here; even if you just give it a little shrug vs getting angry about it really adds up.

I still work on this, because, honestly, it’s hard. But the more I do it, the easier my life becomes.