A Stoic quote that pretty much sums up why everyone is so unhappy

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a quote attributed to the ancient Stoic philosopher, Epictetus: “People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.”

As a philosophy major in college, I was accustomed to profound wisdom, but this quote struck a chord. It seemed to capture why many of us find ourselves trapped in cycles of unhappiness.

I observed this pattern in my own life and in those around me. Whether it was fretting over a missed promotion or agonizing over a failed relationship, we tended to blame external factors for our woes.

However, Epictetus’ words suggested a different perspective—our happiness, or lack thereof, was less about what happened to us and more about how we interpreted those events.

Intrigued by this philosophy, I began applying it to my life, with remarkable results. I became less reactive and more introspective.

Instead of getting frustrated by traffic, I used that time to listen to audiobooks or catch up on podcasts, turning a wasted morning into a productive commute.

But it wasn’t just about changing my viewpoint; it was about challenging the narrative we’ve been fed—that happiness is achieved through success, possessions, or status. This narrative not only misled us but also led to unnecessary stress and discontent.

Challenging the conventional view of happiness

The core misconception that most people, including my past self, have about happiness is that it’s a destination—something to be reached or achieved.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that our happiness depends on external factors: the perfect job, the ideal partner, the dream house.

I was no different. I chased after these markers of success, thinking they would guarantee my happiness. But even when I achieved them, the happiness was fleeting. There was always another goal to reach, another milestone to achieve.

What I learned through Stoicism is that this view is fundamentally flawed. Happiness is not a destination, but a way of traveling. It’s not about what you have or achieve, but how you perceive your journey.

Our society tends to measure happiness based on what we can show or quantify. But Stoicism argues that true happiness comes from internal tranquility, from accepting what we can control and letting go of what we can’t.

This perspective challenges the conventional approach to happiness and demands a radical shift in mindset. It asks us to stop seeking happiness in external validations and start finding it in our internal state of mind.

Embracing a new perspective

To start this journey of internal transformation, I began by identifying my triggers — the situations that caused me stress or unhappiness. It could be something as trivial as a delayed train or as significant as a disagreement with a friend.

Once I identified these triggers, I consciously worked on changing my reaction to them. Instead of getting irritated by the delayed train, I reminded myself that it was beyond my control.

Rather than dwelling in the disagreement with my friend, I focused on resolving it or, if not possible, accepting it.

In the beginning, it was challenging. Old habits die hard, and our minds are wired to respond to stress and unhappiness in certain ways. But with consistent effort and patience, I noticed a shift in my thought patterns.

I won’t say that I’ve mastered this art. There are still days when frustration takes over, and that’s okay. The goal isn’t perfection but progress.

Changing the narrative: A holistic approach

As I navigated this journey of adopting a Stoic approach to happiness, I learned some valuable lessons that have broader implications than just managing stress or dissatisfaction. They are about taking control of your life, challenging societal norms, and becoming self-empowered.

Here are the key points:

  • Take responsibility for your reactions, regardless of the situation.
  • Learn to think independently, stepping away from societal expectations and cultural programming.
  • Face your struggles head-on instead of resorting to blind positivity.
  • Align your life with your true nature and desires, not what’s externally imposed.

Taking responsibility for my reactions was a game-changer. It’s easy to blame external factors for our unhappiness. But when we take responsibility, even when it’s not our fault, we empower ourselves to change our responses and ultimately our state of mind.

Thinking independently meant acknowledging that a lot of my beliefs were simply societal conditioning. By identifying these, I could decide which ones served me and which ones didn’t.

Facing my struggles head-on was tough but necessary. It’s tempting to brush off our dissatisfaction with motivational quotes or blind positivity. But confronting our issues is the first step towards resolving them.

Aligning my life with my true nature was liberating. We often chase goals set by society, family, or peers without questioning if they align with who we truly are. By pursuing personal ambitions and desires, I started living life on my terms.

Throughout this journey, a resource that proved immensely helpful was The Daily Stoic. It provided me with daily doses of Stoic wisdom that kept me motivated and grounded.

These insights are not just about overcoming a specific issue. They allow you to question the narrative you’ve been told, break free from societal expectations, and reclaim your personal power.

After all, the journey to happiness is as much about self-exploration as it is about reshaping our reality.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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