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Monday, November 24, 2014

How a Blogger Can Use the Principles of Stoicism

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,

From a tweet on twitter I found out there is this annual event sponsored by a university in England called Stoic Week which begins today.  It's a free online introduction and course on Stoicism, with the goal of increasing personal happiness.  I've been interested in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism for a time - I bought a book on it awhile ago, but never got around to reading it.  But after hearing about this event, I thought this was the perfect time to try it out.  Stoic as a description has come to mean suppressing emotion in the face of adversity, but this is not really what the philosophy of Stoicism is about.  Now I've only been reading about Stoicism for a few days now so I'm not an expert, but what I hope to gain from it is a way to decrease negative emotions - or at least decrease it's affect on me.  Negative emotions like fear, anger, and anxiety.  While also increasing personal happiness, which can be affected by understanding that there is only so much control you have in your life, and it's better to worry about what you can control and let go of what you can not.  Simple really, but difficult I think to really incorporate into one's life.  A life philosophy like this differs from a religion because often a religion tells you what to do to be a good person, but not how to do it.  The how part delves into psychology and I'm finding Stoicism advocates a few psychological tricks to help change behavior.

It's all very interesting to me, so I thought that one way to fix the principles in my mind and perhaps make it interesting to other bloggers who might want to learn about it,  is to draw up this post of ideas for how Stoic principles can help a blogger become better.  And if anyone reading is interested in learning more, it's quick and easy to sign up to participate in Stoic Week and get the free handbook with daily exercises.  I'm excited to see how this week will go!

Ways in which Stoicism can help book bloggers:


1. Desire what you have 

One major idea of Stoicism is that excessive desire causes unhappiness.  Because even when we think we will be happy getting what we want, that happiness will fade and we will want something else.  (Known as hedonic adaptation).  I am 100% prey to this kind of thinking.  And Stoicism advocates negative visualizations to try and combat this tendency.  That is to imagine what it would be like to lose what you already have, to appreciate it more.  So every time I really wish I could have that certain book, I should imagine what it would be like to not have a favorite book, or perhaps to never have the experience of reading it.  (Although I think readers sometimes wish they can have the experience of reading again a beloved book like it was new!)  But I think the drive to buy  more books can be a bit difficult to manage for some bloggers, so it is better to look at what you have (especially that every increasing TBR pile) and realize that there is the possibility that you can lose those books, so maybe take some time to read and appreciate it.

2. Strive for virtue

Virtue in Stoicism is not what we think of as virtue - as in purity or morality.  (Although morality has a part to play.)  To live virtuously as a Stoic is to live well, which is to live the best that we can, fulfill our potential as human beings, and understand our own character.  Doing the best that we can in the main point here, as I think when it comes to advice for bloggers, one of the main ones is to do what you want and do it as well as you can.  It can seem like a good idea to try and emulate what top bloggers are doing, but where you'll really find satisfaction and possibly recognition is in finding out what is unique in yourself and creating your blog to reflect that to the best of your ability.  It's better to worry only about what you yourself can control - and how you act and execute your plans is what you can completely control.  Just put in the work and remain true to yourself.

3. Don't be upset by your judgement of things

We critique books - it can be fun to examine what we loved about one book and a bummer to have to talk about why a book disappointed us, but some people can get too upset about a disappointing book.  Perhaps when a blogger 'hates' a book it's not a deep emotional hateful anger, but since some reviews can seem like it is, I'll put this idea here.  One maxim of Stoicism can be summed up as "It seemed right to him/her."  This is a powerful statement to me.  It can lessen the frustration readers can feel about a book that seemed to be so obviously a mistake in many ways.  It's a statement that addresses the idea that we should not dwell on things we can't control (we can't control the execution of a book) and allows us to let go of anger and frustration by imagining how the other person feels.  And one's own judgement should not affect yourself or others too negatively.  Because as everyone says, it's just one opinion.  But perhaps it's a good idea that if someone else should accept your opinion that way, you should accept it that way too.

I should create a new tag on my blog for eclectic posts - because every time I become interested in something,  I find a way to blog about it!  I hope this was a bit interesting to those people who read through all this.  Stoicism is much more involved than the ideas in this post, so if anything here speaks to you, I'd recommend also seeking out the book "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" by William B. Irvine, which I am currently reading.

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