Yesterday, my wife said to me, “You have changed.” I think that sentence most likely strikes fear in the heart of husbands everywhere, because it might mean unmet expectations, disappointment, and impending strife.
But that moment was a very satisfying moment for me, because it meant that this Stoicism thing was working. I’ve been digging into this philosophy for a couple of years now, but most seriously during this last nine months of living 5,500 miles from my wife.
I had found Stoicism to be useful in managing my thoughts and emotions during difficult times, but this distance would be a whole new challenge. Yes, we would be apart, but we also had significant stresses that we each were dealing with on our respective sides of the Atlantic. I was trying to build a couple of businesses that I wasn’t sure I’d be running in a year, and she was finishing her undergrad in neuroscience. We didn’t know whether our futures would coincide again in America, England, Germany, or Italy. In short, our futures were very uncertain. Times were very unstable.
I knew that I needed to find some way to manage the stress, and also find a way to keep as much stress away from my wife as I possibly could. The best thing I could come up with was to dig deeper into Stoicism, and work toward mastering my emotions and reactions to all our difficult situations.
An important thing to remember is that this does not make life any easier. Not at all. We still face significant difficulties even though we are now together again in London. I still have a business in the USA, will be trying to reestablish another one here in the UK, develop another business opportunity and wait for important news about my wife’s future, which will probably shake up everything once again!
What it does do, is help me manage my reactions to difficulties, enabling me to take better thought out actions, and focus on the things that we could control, and the things that really matter.
The result has been that I am much calmer, and that got noticed by my wife. The positive change is noticeable, and that was the goal.
Stoicism is about working on those things that aren’t working well. It is about learning from past and current mistakes and discovering a better way forward. If you are a person, you can benefit from studying Stoic principles. If you have difficulties, you can benefit from training your mind to respond better. Whatever your belief system, Stoicism will help you become better at what you do.
You just have to apply the principles, then practice, practice, practice.