How to enjoy life as a Stoic might sound like a strange question. People are often referred to as stoics when they cope with things without moving the emotional needle. This gives Stoicism the reputation of being emotionless and not capable of enjoying life. In this post, I wish to show you that by learning more about Stoicism, you can get more joy out of life.
The fact that I focus on Stoicism, doesn’t mean everyone should follow it. And even then there are different degrees. I’d like to show you that there is more to Stoicism than is often portrayed. That’s why today we will have a look at how you can enjoy life as a Stoic. We will explore what this means and that Stoicism isn’t a dark joyless philosophy, but one that makes you focus on the right things. In the end, it is up to you to take away what works for you. This is another step in creating your own philosophy of life.
“How to act: Cheerfulness. Without requiring other people’s help. Or serenity supplied by others.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 3.5
Be grateful for every moment
In Stoicism, the main aim is a state of eudaimonia. This can be roughly translated as living for the highest good. Which will lead to a peaceful and flourishing life. To achieve this, we need to live a virtuous life according to nature. The Stoics divided this into the four virtues: Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Temperance. This kind of living has to come from within. Externals are not under our control and can’t give us the peace of mind we seek. They can give us anxiety when things don’t happen as we wish them to happen. But how can we enjoy our life as the Stoics if we look for a peaceful life?
When we think of enjoyment, we often describe parties, laughter, dancing, playing games, or hanging out with others. But we should learn to enjoy more parts of life. Such as; running errands, finishing a project at work, or doing our daily tasks. There can be a lot of power in learning to be grateful for those moments and to enjoy doing them.
Enjoy the little things
“If you do the job in a principled way, with diligence, energy, and patience, if you keep yourself free of distractions, and keep the spirit inside you undamaged as if you might have to give it back at any moment –
If you can embrace this without fear or expectations – can find fulfillment in what you’re doing now, as Nature intended, and in superhuman truthfulness (every word, every utterance) – then your life will be happy.
No one can prevent that.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 3.12
Again we fall back on Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor, to show us how any life can be lived in a grounded and normal way. This doesn’t mean that we can’t do the fun things, we should. But those moments don’t make up the majority of our time. And even if they did, they would become the standard and we would have to seek new thrills. What we need to learn is to be consistent in how we go about our business. That’s why it is important to have a philosophy of life as a guide. When we learn how to live in the moment and be grateful for it, we can learn to enjoy the little things.
Don’t let joy lead to anxiety
One major misconception surrounding Stoicism is that we should be emotionless. But when we read the Stoics, we see that we need to control the negative ones. They even go a step further by saying that we should examine these bad emotions. This will make us stronger and show us who we are. It is then up to us to take them on in a virtuous way and in accordance with our nature. The enjoyment can come from the fact that we realize how strong we can be. The Stoics teach us that there is no good or bad, it’s all how we perceive it. And in this case, we look at the negative influences and make something good out of them.
The positive emotions we experience are preferred indifferences. They are often triggered by external events, which won’t always turn out as we wish. With high expectations for a party, we could end up being disappointed. But if it does turn out how we thought, then there is nothing wrong with enjoying it. To do that, we must stay in the moment and make sure we don’t act in a way that can leave us embarrassed and full of anxiety afterward. This is something we have to judge for ourselves. We must remain virtuous, even in moments of joy.
Getting more enjoyment being sober
Those moments can be increased if we learn to achieve them from within. Here’s a personal example. I used to party a lot and drink a lot. Getting drunk was the only way I thought I could enjoy a party. The day after, and the days following, would be accompanied by bad headaches and anxiety about my behavior. Since I’ve given up alcohol, I have realized that going out is much more fun and meaningful. I get to enjoy a party or a concert and still function at the end.
This way I’m no longer a burden or embarrassment to the people around me. And let me tell you, it is not easy. Having to explain why I don’t drink and choosing what to drink can be tough. That does strengthen my resolve, though. But I don’t mind other people drinking, not one bit. If they can enjoy themselves and have it under control, that’s great. I can’t do that. So I take my enjoyment out of the fact that I can experience these events sober and have my good times last until the next day.
Enjoy life as a Stoic
To enjoy life as a Stoic requires some rethinking on our side. We need to know who we are and what is important to us. Then we can make sure to be consistent in how we act if that is in accordance with our nature and the Virtues. Once we get there, we will see that there is much more to enjoy in life. The fact that we have become more peaceful, will allow us to appreciate everything around us more. We are calmer and can soak it all in. Even the hardship will be a reason to feel good about ourselves. Knowing how strong we are and what we can endure, will give us the confidence to deal with any situation. Resulting in less anxiety and stress.
Let’s give the final word to Seneca.
“Such pleasures are insubstantial and unreliable; even if they don’t do one any harm, they’re fleeting in character. Look around for some enduring good instead. And nothing answers this description except what the spirit discovers for itself within itself. A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness.”Seneca, Letters from a stoic, Letter XXVII
26 thoughts on “How to enjoy life as a Stoic”
I deeply agree with you. You have captured this Stoic lifestyle Beautifully! A wonderful beginning to my day! Thank you ❤️
Thank you, SueAne, for your kind words. I’m so glad to read this and that it made your day start on a good footing.
I have never heard of Stoic before, so this was a really informative blog post. Appreciating and being grateful is something I practise. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Lauren, for sharing that with me. I’m happy to see that you thought my post was informative and that it had points in common with what you practise.
You’re right about the misconceptions about stoicism. It’s akin to the British stuff upper lip. Whereby you take everything on the chin like it’s nothing, and downplay everything so it doesn’t seem as desperate. This stiff upper lip has caused the loss of military lives for the British in the past. When working with the American military, they didn’t understand that the allies, the Brits, would downplay things, so when they were in desperate need of help, no help came, because to the Americans, it didn’t sound like the British were in trouble when they radioed in. So it’s good to hear about the four virtues and how stoicism isn’t about that
Great post! I learned something about stoicism.
It’s funny how misconceptions can endure and become the perceived truth…
Thank you, Rudiano, I’m happy my post cleared up some of those misconceptions.
That was a great input and I’ve learned something here. I didn’t know that about the stiff upper lip and the results it had. Thanks for sharing and I’m happy to read that it showed a bit on how Stoicism is different from the view that people usually tend to have.
Thank you so much for this post. Sometimes we’re carried away by the fear and anxiety of the future, without fully enjoying the moment we have now, or the little things in our lives we should be grateful for.
You’re most welcome and thank you for those kind words. We should learn to be more grateful for the little things in our lives. That’s what I’m trying to do every day.
Enjoying the little things is very important. These are great things we need to follow it. Thank you for the great reminder.
Thank you, Fransic, for your comment.
Being present, living in the ‘now’ and being grateful for the little things – couldn’t agree more.
I hear what you’re saying about being sober too – it’s always difficult having to explain why. But much better waking up without a hangover! Great post.
Thank you for your comment, Jade. It’s always great to read and it is better than waking up with a hangover, haha.
So good to see Stoicism coming to the fore. I found it accidentally. When I came off my meds I did it because I wanted to embrace the whole of me, and that included the negative emotions that caused my depression. I did this knowing the dangers but it felt right to me. Without even knowing it I was practicing what Aurelius said, that we should accept all of us and act with virtue. I had to embrace the emotions I had that were destroying me, and so far it has turned out to be good, I am still here, and those emotions don’t have the hold on me they once did. It was only after feeling this that I discovered the words of Marcus and co, and knew this was the right thing for me also. Very happy to have connected with you and that we share similar ideas. Eudaimonia is not that far out of reach for any of us.
Thank you, Zac, your comment means a lot. It is important to embrace all of us, how difficult that might be sometimes. Glad we connected and it’s great to follow all you create.
This was so interesting, thanks so much for sharing! So much important information and a lot to think about 🙂
Thank you for your kind words. I’m happy you found the information important.
Such a great post and thanks for clearing up some of the misconceptions.
Thank you and I’m happy it helped clear up some things.
I always love all things Stoicism, and I like how you connect practical everyday life to the teachings. I used to only be able to tolerate events after drinking too, but it’s been more than a year that I’ve stopped, and I’ve never felt better. Anyway, thanks for this post!
That’s awesome to hea that you’ve stopped and have the same experience as I have. Your story sounds quite familiar. It’s great to read that you liked the post and that it reflected your situation in some way.
A great lens to experience and appreciate life. Thanks for sharing, Benny!
Thank you for your kind words, Vanessa.
What a great post Benny! I love how the Stoics give a handbook on how to live well. They let us know what is important in life and how to enhance our lives to make it better. Love your discussion of applying Stoicism to anxiety. If we don’t hold high expectations to a place or a thing we can be pleasantly surprised instead of let down by the expectations that we have placed upon a person or event.
Thank you, Tim, for your kind words. Stoicism can help us with a great many things, but getting rid of anxiety is a big aspect of life with which it can help. As it did for me in this specific thing for sure.