The stoics were ancient Greek philosophers who believed that the best response to the ups and downs of life was to remain as calm and unmoved as possible.
The stoic philosophy survives on to this day and many people use it to overcome challenges and face adversity and confusion in their lives.
Are you one of them?
Your immediate answer may be “not really,” or “doubt it.”
But take a look at the following behaviors and reactions to life situations. If they describe you, then you’re actually more stoic than you realize.
1) You focus on what’s in your control
The key teaching of stoicism is to focus on what you can change and accept fully what’s outside your control.
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.”
Epictetus was born into slavery in 55 AD, and had a life of hardship before eventually being freed.
He was talking from experience and knew how rough life could be.
2) You prioritize real-world actions over lofty ideals and philosophies
If you find that you prefer to focus on real-world action and practical steps than grand visions and lofty ideals, you’re displaying a very stoic mentality.
This is exactly what many stoics believed, telling people not to live in their daydreams or in future plans.
Instead of getting everything perfect, do what you can now.
“Don’t behave as if you are destined to live forever,” advised stoic Marcus Aurelius.
“Everything that happens depends on you. As long as you live and as long as you can, be good now.”
3) You take responsibility for your own actions
If you’re not the type to focus on victimhood, you’re very stoic in temperament.
The truth is many of our mistakes and poor decisions do come about because of ways our needs haven’t been met and we may have been hurt.
But you don’t focus on that.
You do your best to make good decisions when you make them, and when you mess up or cause intentional or unintentional harm, you own up to that.
You don’t dodge responsibility for your actions, even the poorly thought-out actions.
4) You look for proactive ways to improve, not just to avoid harm
In your life, it is not enough to avoid making mistakes or giving in to apathy and misery.
You also seek out ways to proactively improve yourself and the situation around you.
You don’t just want to be “OK” or “avoid hurting anyone,” you want to actually be better than OK and be a net asset.
As the stoic Marcus Aurelius wrote:
“Often the injustice lies in what you’re not doing, not just what you are doing.”
5) You don’t let obstacles define your destiny
Obstacles are going to have an impact one way or another. They can slow you down, harm you, confuse you or cause you great pain.
You may experience financial problems, romantic heartbreak, betrayal, family problems, physical or mental illness.
You may have any number of situations that make you want to just give up.
But if you don’t give up and find a way to go that extra mile and overcome things that would end somebody else? You’re more stoic than you realize.
stoic philosopher Seneca put this well:
“Think of those who, not for want of consistency, but for want of effort, are too unstable to live as they wish, and only live as they began.”
6) You know who you really are and you stand by it
Life gives us all sorts of opportunities to pretend to be someone else for profit, approval and just plain convenience.
But when you have a stoic nature, you don’t put on a show.
You admit who you are even when it’s inconvenient, and you don’t get overly swayed by people who approve or disapprove of you.
You’re true to yourself and work on becoming more self-aware, because you know that self-knowledge is the key to unlocking your own power.
This brings up the next point…
7) You practice introspection and try to improve your decision-making
Earlier I mentioned the power of self-awareness, and this is really worth emphasizing.
The more you become familiar with what motivates you, your strengths and your weaknesses, the more you can make better decisions and improve.
If you find that this is something you already do, you’re practicing a very stoic behavior.
Aurelius has another great quote on this, urging people to:
“Go deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of benevolence ready to flow if you continue.”
8) You live life for today
When you’re more stoic than you think, you live life for today without dwelling too much in the past or investing your hopes or fears in the fear.
The stoic philosopher Seneca has a famous line about people’s desire to save their life from dying:
“To save what, exactly?”
If you’re stoic then you try to maximize what’s in your control for the better.
You accept the unfortunate parts of your life that you can’t change right now and change the others. You make your life all about what’s in your power right now, not daydreaming or fearing what’s down the road.
Start living today!
9) You’re fundamentally grateful for life
Being grateful isn’t just a cliche to tack on Instagram hashtags or talk about at spiritual retreats.
It is a real emotion that can sweep over you even in unexpected times:
Thank God for the air I breathe and the food I’m eating, the people who care about me and the fact that I have legs. Gratitude that you’re able to read because somebody taught you, that you’re able to speak…
If you have more things to be grateful for, super. Gratitude that comes naturally and unforced is always the purest form.
As Seneca wrote to his friend Lucinius:
“In all things we should try to become as grateful as possible.”
10) You know when to take a break and tune out from the noise
Stoics like Seneca pointed out that there are times that “the mind must relax” and we need to take a break. Doing so will help our clarity and energy “come back better and sharper.”
If you are able to know when to take a break and respect that you’re getting too burned out, you’re practicing a stoic trait.
The stoic is practical and makes sure to respect his or her limits so that when even harder times come they’ll have a sharp edge on their knife.
11) You don’t bother with grudges and emotional vendettas
Grudges just aren’t your style.
You don’t forget when somebody is untrustworthy, aggressive or fraudulent, but you don’t dwell on it either.
You try to give folks a second chance and avoid getting too emotionally involved in back-and-forth arguments or emotionally-fueled vendettas.
“If you continue to show kindness and give second chances, you are kindly showing them where they went wrong,” Aurelius pointed out.
12) You recognise that we’re all very small in the grand scheme of things
The Earth is over 4.5 billion years old, and 4.5 people are born every second.
We’re here for a number of decades in many cases and then we’re not.
Whether or not you’re religious or spiritual, you’ve made your peace with that and you try to keep the big picture in mind.
No matter how badly your day is going today, you remember that you’re only one of many people and that you may as well tackle life head on because it’s definitely short.
13) You focus on changing yourself instead of judging others
“Let your philosophy deal with your own faults rather than be a way of complaining about the errors of others,” wrote Seneca.
He hit the nail on the head with this one, and it describes your own approach.
You prefer to improve yourself than focus on where others go wrong.
You’re not handing out free advice, plus it’s just a waste of your energy.
14) You practice amor fati
The stoic response to life’s events goes beyond what I observed in point one.
You focus on changing what’s in your control and accept what’s out of your control. This is absolutely true.
But as Epictetus said, you’re not only accepting what’s happened in your life, you’re “wishing” it.
In such a way, you gain an appreciation for even the horrible events which befall you.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called this love of fate or amor fati and discussed it in his parable of eternal recurrence.
If you use your freedom of choice to choose an attitude that refuses to be a victim even when life and other people treat you unfairly, then you’re much more stoic than you think.
As Epictetus said:
“You can even tie my leg, but not even Zeus can take away my freedom of choice.”