In the past few years I’ve read every book on the Stoics, by those we’ve deemed ‘the stoics’, that I could find.
The big three are Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.
Seneca was a wealthy businessman. Epictetus was a former slave. Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of Rome.
It’s this diversity that’s attractive to any man aiming to become better at living.
No matter your state in life or hand you’ve been dealt, stoicism provides solutions on how to live a better life.
After all, that’s our primary goal, to live well.
We have differing ideas of what that entails. Our society sends us different messages depending on where we were born or the time we were born into.
Most of us aren’t completely clear as to what living well actually means. (Read This: Are You Living or Existing?)
Many think it’s what you own that determines your happiness and success. Others think it’s what you accomplish. Others see it as who you serve or how you honor your folks or your God.
Stoicism provides clarity as to what living well really entails, and it’s a pursuit that hasn’t changed in a couple thousand years.
Humans still need the same things.
We still need accomplishment or else we feel like we’re not here for any real reason. We still need relationships, or else we feel as though we’re not connected to anything.
We don’t, however, need possessions, awards, or acclaim. We don’t need to give into every one of our desires like we’re told to today.
The truth is that happiness and meaning and purpose is something you create or don’t. Living well isn’t something that’s out of your control, no matter where you’re born or what you’re born into.
The man born into slavery is just as likely to live a flourishing life as the man born into a kingdom, and maybe even more-so.
There is one thing, however, that removes any possibility of you living well, and that is complaining.
To complain is to place a negative emotion onto something that is or isn’t.
If it’s something real, you have no control over its existence, but you do have control over how you react to it.
Death exists, it’s all around us, so to complain about it is to give a negative emotion to it when no emotion needs to be given at all.
The things we worry about are not yet so. By complaining about them we’re inventing a way to look at something that doesn’t even exist. We’re searching for sorrow when we could instead be creating happiness.
It isn’t the event, but how you react to it that you should concern yourself with.
When you stop complaining you stop putting a dark cloud over something that doesn’t need to be dark.
When you stop complaining you stop seeing yourself as a victim.
When you stop seeing yourself as a victim you start acting like a man.
When you start acting like a man you start taking control over everything in your life, including how you react to things that are, and how you view things that have not yet occurred.
If you want to live well, stop complaining.
Complaints are the source of much of your perceived despair, and they’re of your own doing.
When you stop complaining, you can start living.