For me stoicism used to conjure up images of people in sackcloth living very frugal lives. It wasn’t until I read a recent book on stoicism that I realised that it provides some particularly useful tools.
Influence is one of them. In modern stoic philosophy there are three types of influence:
– Things you can’t influence – therefore you would be wasting your time if you try to change them. For example – the weather isn’t something you can change unless you have some really special powers!
– Things you can directly influence and change, and where you should focus much of your energy on what you can do.
– The third category is a relatively new one in stoic circles; things you can partially influence and partially not influence. And this is the inspirational aspect.
If you try and change things you cannot influence, then you are necessarily setting goals around external objectives.
For example, I’m going to win this match, fight, run etc. Because these are external goals, you cannot influence those elements that are outside of your control, you can only influence the goals that are within your control.
The subtlety here is to set yourself internal objectives rather than external objectives. You only try to control what you can control. So instead of trying to win you try to do the best you can and set sub-objectives to help achieve those internal objectives.
In other words, focus on what you can do yourself and not on what others are doing or what is happening around you that you have no chance of changing.
This book has a great modern take on Stoicism:
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
by William B Irvine
I have made a mind map summary of my notes. If you’d like the full copy let me know and I’ll post it.