— From A Guide to the Good Life – The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by WILLIAM B. IRVINE
There are costs associated with not having a philosophy of life.
If you lack a grand goal in living, you lack a coherent philosophy of life.
Such is the madness of men, he said, that they choose to be miserable when they have it in their power to be content.
The Stoics realized that a life plagued with negative emotions-including anger, anxiety, fear, grief, and envy-will not be a good life.
They went on to develop techniques for preventing the onset of negative emotions and for extinguishing them when attempts at prevention failed.
There was also agreement that one wonderful way to tame our tendency to always want more is to persuade ourselves to want the things we already have.
We will, for example, take care to distinguish between things we can control and things we can’t, so that we will no longer worry about the things we can’t control and will instead focus our attention on the things we can control. We will also recognize how easy it is for other people to disturb our tranquility, and we will therefore practice Stoic strategies to prevent them from upsetting us.
we will become a more thoughtful observer of our own life. We will watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and will later reflect on what we saw, trying to identify the sources of distress in our life and thinking about how to avoid that distress.
that Stoic philosophy is like a fertile field, with “Logic being the encircling fence, Ethics the crop, Physics the soil.
We humans are unhappy in large part because we are insatiable; after working hard to get what we want, we routinely lose interest in the object of our desire.
One key to happiness, then, is to forestall the adaptation process: We need to take steps to prevent ourselves from taking for granted, once we get them, the things we worked so hard to get.
the easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.
all we have is “on loan” from Fortune, which can reclaim it without our permission-indeed, without even advance notice. … Thus, “we should love all of our dear ones…, but always with the thought that we have no promise that we may keep them forever-nay, no promise even that we may keep them for long.
While enjoying the companionship of loved ones, then, we should periodically stop to reflect on the possibility that this enjoyment will come to an end. If nothing else, our own death will end it.
Epictetus counsels that when we say good-bye to a friend, we should silently remind ourselves that this might be our final parting.’ If we do this, we will be less likely to take our friends for granted, and as a result, we will probably derive far more pleasure from friendships than we otherwise would.”