10 Ways to Be More Stoic

“Waste no more time on talking about what a good man is like. Be one.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

1.) Transform everyone into a teacher

“To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.” ~ Novalis

Don’t just transform everyone into a teacher, transform everything into a teacher. But we are foremost a social species, so it’s best to start with others. Seek out the teacher hidden within people. It can be as simple as learning from their mistakes or as complex as learning a new way of tackling a challenging problem.

See the wisdom in others. Honor them. Practice namaste, with an educational twist: the student in me honors the teacher in you. Look at others as masters of who they are, even if they’re not. You’ll be surprised what you discover about them and about yourself. 

We are all teachers just as we are all students. Life is what we teach, and life is what we learn.

2.) Say no to the easy way, seek out challenges 

“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~ Ken Kesey

Comfort is overrated. Everything you need to excel, to be more creative, to self-improve, lies on the other side of what makes you comfortable. Seek out challenging experiences at the edge of your comfort zone instead. They will make you come alive.

And coming alive is what it’s all about. If you’re going to be alive, you might as well do it fully. Find whatever it is that your passionate about doing and then challenge yourself to do it in new ways. If you have no passion, focus on what you’re curious about instead. The combination of deep curiosity and playfulness should help open you up to what makes you tick.

Find what makes you tick and then use it to challenge yourself to come alive. The easy way won’t get you there. Seek the challenge of taking what you know and leverage it against what you don’t know. Then marvel at what pops out: a new way of being human in the world.

3.) Be strict with yourself but tolerant of others

“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.” ~ Kent M. Keith

People tend to do the opposite of this. They tend to be strict with others but tolerant of themselves. Break the cycle. Rise above your ego. Use your soul to tether it in. When the ego works for the soul, love and compassion manifest. When the soul works for the ego, selfishness and self-pity manifest. 

People are complicated. They are fallible, imperfect, and prone to mistakes. Just like you. Tolerate it in them as you tolerate it in yourself. But then be even more strict on yourself. Flip the script on your ego. Focus on being less fallible, self-improve, correct your own mistakes. Do this, day in and day out, and you might earn the right to help others do the same. Until then, be strict with yourself but tolerant of others.

4.) Allow the journey to be the thing

“The business of philosophy is to teach man to live in uncertainty. Not to reassure him, but to upset him.” ~ Lev Shestov

Focus on process not outcome. The process is what matters. Since the process will usually dictate the outcome. The outcome is neither here nor there until the process makes it appear. You are more likely to have a better outcome the more you focus on the process anyway. 

Focus on traveling well, arriving will take care of itself. The destination is overrated when the journey is the thing. And, as an added bonus, the destination has a higher chance of being great the more you focus on the journey itself.

Keep your eye on the prize. The prize is the process of the journey, not whatever happens as a result. When you’re focused on the journey as the prize, you’re rewarded no matter how it turns out. And you’re more likely to be doubly rewarded when it turns out well. So, allow the journey to be the thing. 

5.) Transform envy into emulation

“The sage battles his own ego; the fool battles everyone else’s.” ~ Sufi Proverb

Nobody is immune to envy. It’s built into us. But rather than repress it, rather than stew in resentful angst, we should use the energy to emulate that which we envy instead. Feel the envy but then act with emulation. Allow it to flare up and inform you, but then surrender it to self-improvement.

Put your envy into perspective by understanding that there will always be those who have achieved what you hope to achieve, just as there will always be those who wish they had achieved what you have already achieved. Rather than negatively fret in your envy, positively channel that energy into achievable goals. Use the person, or people, you envy as goalposts. 

Don’t take your luck for granted. Practice gratitude. Capitalize on your privilege. Use it as a platform to launch a life well-lived. Respect the fact that the majority of the world envies your position. Give them a reason to transform envy into emulation. 

6.) Stand on the shoulders of giants 

“What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal. What can be loved in man is that he is an overture.” ~ Nietzsche

Standing on the shoulders of giants builds a bridge to the Overman. When enough people stand on the shoulders of giants and attempt to see farther and further than they did, it is like a cultural overcoming. We rise above the outdated past to embrace the updated future. 

But we do it by studying the past. Looking through the eyes of the giants that came before us, we see how we might become giants ourselves. Someone will have always done something better than everyone else, until somebody else does it better. And they do that by standing on the shoulders of giants and seeing further than the giant. 

7.) Forgive yourself and forgive others

“Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent people Ignore.” ~ Albert Einstein

First, accept, deep down, that humans are fallible, imperfect, and prone to mistakes. Let that sink down to your bones. Then look upon the forgivee with a bird’s eye view advantage, a kind of meta perspective. The wrong they caused then gets swallowed up by the cosmic indifference of it all. And a warm, sacred peace washes over you, and you’re able to replace that pain with the seed of forgiveness.

Understand: forgiveness does not mean you forget. Or that what they did was okay. Forgiveness is a tool to transform your wound into wisdom. 

For you are also always in need of forgiveness. You are both the forgiver and the forgivee, always. And not only in the sense that everything is connected and we’re all one. But in the sense that you are a deeply flawed human just like everyone else. Forgive yourself your flaws and mistakes in order to self-improve and to be less flawed and to make better mistakes in the future. 

8.) Fall in love with Fate 

“The more unlived your life, the greater your death anxiety. The more you fail to experience your life fully, the more you will fear death.” ~ Irvin Yalom


Fate is a fickle beast. Love her anyway. The more you embrace her, the more likely she will purr. The more you avoid her or ignore her, the more she will dig her claws in and drag you away kicking and screaming. As Seneca said, “Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.”

Roll with the punches. Let fate guide you, however it turns out. You cannot always control the outcome. Focus on what you can control and fall in love with the adventure being the thing. In the end, life is less about what you want and more about making the best of what you get.

A painful life should not be avoided at the expense of love. Love should be embraced at the risk of a painful life.

9.) Always practice courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom

“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.” ~ Epictetus

Character is the art of practicing the four cardinal virtues. Practicing the four cardinal virtues (courage, temperance, wisdom, and justice) leads to moral virtue, which is best encapsulated by the concept of arete. And arete cultivated over a lifetime can lead to eudaimonia: human flourishing.

Courage frees character. Temperance balances character. Wisdom guides character. Justice socially stabilizes character.

Through these four virtues an excellent human emerges as a venerated and valuable catalyst for human flourishing. The kind of human who creates their own values, followers their own conscience as pure law, and recreates themselves out of courage, temperance, wisdom, and justice.

10.) Remember, the obstacle is the path

“You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.” ~ Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Practice existential masochism. Unearth the mystery from the misery. Existential masochism is the pleasurable experience of transforming pain into strength, demons into diamonds, and wounds into wisdom. It’s consciously seeking the elusive Phoenix Egg in the ashes. It’s pulling our rebirth out of our death. 

Make use of your suffering by using it as building blocks for a healthier future. Transform suffering into synergy. Integrate it. Use it to fuel the fire of your passion. Use it as fuel for the vehicle of your life path. Take all the darkness, all the demons, all the setbacks and initiate them into ambassadors that serve your soul rather than act against it. 

When the obstacle is the path, nothing can stop you. Because even that which seeks to stop you is merely subsumed by the path. After which, a delicious transcendence manifests: a humor of the most high.

Image source

Stoic art by Catt Finn

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Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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