Stoicism and Facing Change

Stoicism and Facing Change

This story originally appeared on Medium on October 22, 2019.

There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. — Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way

A lot of us like our lives just the way they are. We have our daily routines, we have rituals we like to adhere to such as meals we eat, or the people we interact with. We like having a set of systems and routines to help us get through the day. But if these systems limit us due to fear of change, we are stopping ourselves from growing and living our best life. Here’s a fact: Change is inevitable.

We are all in a constant state of change, but seldom do we look at our lives in this way. Marcus Aurelius knew this, however, and reminded himself of such when he wrote:

Is any man afraid of change? Why — what can take place without change? — Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

Change is not necessarily a bad thing, on the contrary, it can often be a good, leading to unexpected surprises which force us to grow. It is in our mindset that we determine whether or not change is a positive or a negative. In his bestselling book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday describes such when he says:

There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. — Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way

Adversity is what often leads to change and that is what builds us into stronger and better individuals.

In Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, she states:

Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support. — Carol Dweck, Mindset

Is it so strange to look at change and see the potential for growth in it? As young children, we are fragile and weak but as we grow older, our bones strengthen, our understanding of life becomes clearer, our worldview grow larger. This is change and it has happened, and will continue to happen to us throughout our lives. Rather than fight this, we should embrace it.

Marcus reminds himself of the need to embrace change and events when he writes:

It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed. — Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

Everyone is born into this world and experiences change and adversity. It is through our mindset that we are able to utilize these changes to our advantage. As Dweck continues in Mindset:

We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary. — Carol Dweck, Mindset

Think of yourself. You are not the same today as you were yesterday. Your hair has continued to grow while you went throughout your day. You have gone through different events, each impacting you in a way that forced you to act and react. Some of those actions and reactions were natural while others had to be learned on the fly because you had to pivot within the situation you experienced. Each event you go through is a stepping stone to growth so long as you continuously look at it with this mindset. We have set backs. We go through adversities. We face change. This is life but that doesn’t mean we do not, or cannot, learn from these events.

As Marcus Aurelius states:

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. — Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

Keep an open mindset to change and you will see your life and knowledge expanding rapidly. Or keep a closed mindset, stay in your lane with your thought patterns, and experience a life half lived.

The key to a virtuous life is through growth, understanding ourselves and those around us, taking continuous action to advance ourselves so we can live our best life.

PS: If you liked this article and would like to read more of my content, please feel free to sign-up for my monthly newsletter here.

PSS: This article contains affiliate links to the books I referenced. This being said, I have read and evaluated each of the books prior to my recommending them through the links within this article.

The Stoic Within

The art of living a virtuous life.

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