Get Your Grip

You have two grips to choose in life: one where you see all the bad things that happen, or one where you see all the good things that happen.

Everything has two handles, the one by which it may be carried, the other by which it cannot.┬áIf your brother acts unjustly, don’t lay hold on the action by the handle of his injustice, for by that it cannot be carried; but by the opposite, that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it, as it is to be carried. – Epictetus

I have been forced to confront my view of life lately. I am living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, currently without work, an expensive flat, and lots of hurdles to obtaining an income. Seems bleak, right?

On the other hand, cities are full of opportunity – for where there are so many people, there are needs, and business is built off of solving needs. I have a flat that I am sharing with my wife and another friend, so there are several of us to earn income, reducing the weight of financial responsibility on any one of us. I have access to Wifi (via the use of two devices) if I visit a shopping center. I don’t really even have to buy coffee, although I can. And with that access to the internet, I can break down the obstacles one by one, and eliminate the hurdles to finding work.

So I find it expedient to tell myself to, “Get a grip!” The reality is that if I focus on the positive options, I will sooner see solutions and obtain the desired results. Focusing on the negative only serves to keep me in the world of minimal options and more difficulty.


Stoics Do

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.

Synoptic Stoicism Saturday Ep. 1

Expectations seem custom made to bring disappointment. In relationships, work, and play, we want specific results. Yet, so many factors can be set against us. If the expectation is not met due to an external source, you can do nothing to change it, so calm yourself and focus on what you can change – the internal. Life is full of challenges; we choose whether or not we are disappointed. Choose to learn from the challenge, react with intent to learn, and you may yet realize that expectation.