I like to think I am Stoic

My journey to understanding and wanting to be Stoic began fairly recently.  Perhaps it’s true that with age and wisdom, one gets more philosophical about life and living. In any case, I was fortunate to be introduced to a book called The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday a few years ago.  It literally changed my perspective about living and especially about how to deal with the lemons that life throws us.

I was enamoured enough about this book of learning that I wrote a post about it back in 2014.  It taught me how to react to anything in life, good or bad.  I’ve practiced what I have learnt and over time, it has become a more normal way of thinking and acting.  I know people who go to see “gurus” to learn about life and living.  To me, this book and everything I have read and learnt about stoicism since then has been my best guru about life.

The author based this so very easy to read book upon all of his readings of a single book himself – Meditations by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.  And from everything in this book, a single paragraph formed the core of this philosophy:

“THE IMPEDIMENT TO ACTION ADVANCES ACTION. WHAT STANDS IN THE WAY BECOMES THE WAY.”

— MARCUS AURELIUS

 

Can you read that once again and let it sink in?

Really. Sink. In.

I haven’t read Meditations but I was fortunate to get the Cliff Notes version created by a friend – he had taken the 45000 word tome and condensed it to the core principles in about 3000 words.  Every word is meaningful!  I am still learning. So, while I like to think that I am a Stoic, it’s fair to say that I expect to continue to learn, observe and practice. I am no more than an aspiring Stoic – and very fortunate to have discovered it in the first place.

If you think I am speaking gibberish when I talk Stoic or Stoicism, I encourage you to read this bit about what it means to be Stoic:

What Is Stoicism? A Definition & 9 Stoic Exercises To Get You Started

Ultimately, what this philosophy has taught me to do is to examine and turn every adversity I encounter, big or small, into opportunity and advantage.  I try.  It’s the first thing I do.

I can’t imagine anything else that can be so useful in life than this way of living – using obstacles to practice excellence.

Is it because I have had more than my fair share of failures and adversities?

Or is it simply that I am human?

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The Elixir of Life

Some housekeeping items first –

  1. This is not something I just made up.
  2. I have provided links to source material below to prove this; I hope you check them out.
  3. The related TED talk itself has been viewed 13 million times, perhaps even by you…it’s worth viewing again.
  4. I start with the conclusions because of how interesting they are.
  5. I focus on the conclusions because of how practical they are.
  6. I end with the conclusions because of how fruitful they are.

These conclusions have been derived from one of the longest study of people ever conducted – 80 years long with individuals from their teens to their very senior years, supplemented by many others over time.

Fundamentally, the study seeks to answer these questions –

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What makes us healthy and happy as we go through life?

And if we were to invest in our future selves, where should we put our time and energy to reap those benefits of health and happiness?

The most intriguing part of this study are in fact the conclusions.  Conclusions that have been painstakingly derived from a long and exhaustive process of collecting all manner of information and knowledge about the lives of the participants year after year after year.

And yes, these questions are indeed answered.

The conclusions say that it’s not wealth or work or fame that make you healthy and happy.  They’re something else that seem like so much common sense and you wonder if it needed an 80+ year study to determine the answer to this most interesting enigma of life.

Drum roll, please…

The primary conclusion of the study, the answer to that key question is this:

Good relationships are what keep us happier and healthier.  Period.

 

To expand on this conclusion further, there were these additional, interesting findings from this long study:

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Social connections are great for us; loneliness kills.

It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. 

 

 

 

 

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The quality of your close relationships matter; whether it’s friendship, marriage, community…

Good, warm, satisfying relationships predicated happiness and good health. Those who had such relationships in their 50s grew to be healthier and happier in their 80s.

 

 

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Good relationships result in not just in good physical health but in good mental health.

They did not just protect bodies but also protected minds with stronger memories versus earlier decline in memories.

 

Now, that I have given you something super simple and practical to think about practicing, I hope you also read about the study here.  And watch this much viewed TED talk (12:40 minutes) on this topic as well.  In fact, you can read all about the Harvard Study of Adult Development at their website…which kind of is the point of this post, to make you aware of the long study and its conclusions.

Truly speaking, as simple as all of this sounds, relationships are in fact complex and complicated.  Good, strong relationships take effort.  But as many of you know, the rewards you reap every day from your efforts are as significant as the efforts that you invest in your relationships.  (Or not).

Ultimately, what this study demonstrates is that those rewards are even more impactful and their effects last so much longer than we ever knew or imagined.

So, go forth and invest in those awesome relationships! They bring you joy today and will bring you excellent physical health,  mental health and happiness for a long time to come. Cheers!

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“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” 
― Dalai Lama XIV

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