“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
– Marcus Aurelius
By being a Stoic, we will conquer fear and worry.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
We don’t tell people that hold a ton of fear and worry to “never let the future disturb you” and expect them to have their fear and worry go away. It doesn’t work like that.
We all know that transformation is not instant – at a snap of a finger.
The truth is, our emotions are hardwired into us from repetition, for better or worst. Sometimes, from decades of repetition.
If you have a habit of being a fearful and worrying person, reading that eloquent quote will not change a thing in your life.
This is because rational ideas like that quote sit thinly on the surface of the depth that is philosophy.
The how-to part of this article has nothing to do with just reading a quote…
“Stoicism” is not something that we can just turn-on like a switch. As if, upon the inception of a new idea, we can change into someone that is more poised and confident…
Stoicism is a daily practice of ideas, over a long period, that allows us to eventually reach the goal of being even close to what we idealize in its philosophy.
It’s a way of life – the belief that one day we will walk through life with complete and utter poise and confidence – in control of all our emotions, ready to win… all the time. Fear and worry – a thing of the past.
Of course, completing this goal is actually impossible.
Life, eventually, does get you. Every single one of us gets taken out by the world, eventually. There will be a time when you will fail to be ready and poised…. and your time in this world will be up.
But even though this is the truth, what use is there to dwell on it? And give into fear and worry?
While 100% stoicism is not a 100% realistic goal to have, it’s still the best target to spend your time aiming for anyway.
Even though we are vulnerable, its more useful to act as if we’re able to handle anything that life dishes…. no matter what it is. And in doing so, we’re more likely to be right.
So, this is the truth… as much as it is that we are inherently vulnerable and fearful creatures.
While fear and worry are sometimes tempting emotions, they are not to be ever indulged in. They are impulsive, something like what a whining child would do. We should refrain from acting like a whining child.
Fear and worry are not effective to our goals and we must learn how to conquer them.
This article is a short guide as to how we can translate a Stoicism quote, like the one above, into daily practices so that we can one day use our weapons of reason to conquer fear and worry.
Practice Acceptance, Not Denial
Most people don’t like to think about bad things happening to them. But it might be good practice, in healthy doses. It might motivate you to develop weapons of reason.
Some of these bad things are inevitable.
You see, in thinking about bad things, we will eventually accept that the future is disturbing.
It is actually unbelievably unpredictable and scary as fuck – full of traumatizing scenarios that have a probability of happening as soon as we walk out of that door. And the same goes for every one you love.
We may feel like we don’t know how, or even if we’ll even make it through tough times.
Meditating on these facts, we will certainly feel dread and anxiety. But driven by these emotions that we are no longer denying and repressing, we will develop a stronger vision for our future, full of plans and actions to quell these emotions.
Like this, radical acceptance will change us because it is an emotional experience and not a logical one like reading that quote.
The truth is, there are some cold, harsh facts about your life right now, and you need to think about them. So that radical acceptance of them will motivate you to eventually take proper action.
A common misconception of stoicism is that it is the practice of denial.
As if, we can act aloof to the challenges of life, pretend they are not there, and that would be enough for the negative emotions to go away… and we can go about our daily lives as if nothing is wrong.
Ironically, in practice, Stoicism is the opposite. It is actually, first and foremost, the practice of radical acceptance.
Because the inherent problem with denial is that problems that are denied existence never ever get solved.
Although, because the problem is denied existence, the negative feelings go away, and that’s great – they are only being accumulated for a huge deposit in the future when the shit really hits the fan.
It’s that feeling you get when someone is acting delusional around you. Like a bubble is about to burst. That feeling you get when someone you love is neglecting good advice because of poor rationalization. That feeling you have for someone who is elated because they think they have found an expedient, but unscrupulous way to solve their problems.
As a stoic, we know that the best way to make it through tough-as-shit times is not to deny it, and let reality wallop you, but to accept it as inevitable and then constantly take actions to solve it.
Radically accepting that this-thing-we-call-life is inevitably going to be challenging and difficult… and one day, we won’t win… we transcend those emotions and transform them to proper action.
If we don’t deny our doom, then we’ll realize that in the mean time, there is no reason to let it ever disturb us into irrational and impulsive emotions like worry and fear.
Instead, it’s better to formulate and take proper action…
It’s better to be do as much as we can to prepare for the future.
By taking radical acceptance, we will know the proper actions to take to quell our fears and worries.
Facing and accepting our doom is the beginning of becoming more poised and confident. It only reveals what actions we must take.
Our actions eventually define our lives, and it is the quality of our actions that will make us poised and confident for the future.
Some people can exist in almost a constant state of anxiety and inaction.
And as we experience more and more existential instability, like disease, war, and corruption, we may become fearful in our character. We may lose a grip on life and stay motionless and paralyzed by fear and worry.
Feeling like we are unable to cope with what comes next, our body locks into a state of worry and fearfulness and we lose the present moment to these toxic emotions. The present moment, which contains all the potential to shape our future.
In this state, we miss opportunities, react poorly to situations, and do a bad job at whatever we’re doing.
Our social life suffers, as we are unable to connect with people properly because we are stuck in our heads… out of our center.
This is the wasting of our lives because we are fearful, uncertain of the future – a future which is going to happen anyway whether we are fearful of it or not.
Obviously, not only being irrational, we can see how this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…
Unable to seize the present moment makes it so that there is an uncertain and possibly dangerous future. Giving us more fear to have to cope with.
For if we spend a moment being fearful, we miss out on an opportunity to be excellent. Any moment spent worrying could have been spent facing the issue and resolving it immediately and rationally.
More than getting rid of negative emotions like fear and worry, being stoic means having the ability to act despite them, and realize the potential to shape the future for the better.
More than just a cerebral process of healing, stoicism is a promise to ourselves that we will take action.
Only action in itself will quell worry and fear. The practice of daily reflection and action will eventually result in a poised and confident demeanor.
Simply, when you are doing something your body is unable to experience negative emotions. Scientist call it a flow state.
And when you’re doing something that you know will improve your life, you will not only conquer negative emotions, you will feel like you’re in control of your life and making a difference for the better. Fear and worry won’t have a slot in your daily schedule.
Have you planned out these unique actions that have been born out of radical acceptance?
Think about how crappy your life is going to be so that you become motivated to not let it get that bad – and then take action.
Maybe, one day, you’ll be a stoic person.