By Lyn Turknett
TLG Co-founder & Co-chair
Expect everyone to be difficult and disagreeable, and you will be pleasantly surprised by flashes of kindness! As the great Stoic Epictetus said:
“The true man is revealed in difficult times. So, when trouble comes, think of yourself as a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck. For what purpose? To turn you into Olympic-class material. But this is going to take some sweat to accomplish.”
From my perspective, no one’s difficulties ever gave him a better test than yours, if you are prepared to make use of them the way a wrestler makes use of an opponent in peak condition.
It’s a challenge. A test of your resilience and resourcefulness. Something that doesn’t weaken your resolve — but makes you stronger as you engage with it. To pass this test we must stay calm while finding a workaround for any setback. It is a grand game. One with high stakes, true, but one we can win with the right attitude.
How do we develop that attitude? We’ll get tips from William Irvine’s book The Stoic Challenge and from the writings of the Stoics themselves. Are you ready?
Good. Throw on your toga. Time to rise to the occasion — while putting a smile underneath that N95 mask…
The Morning Ritual
First, we must clear up a pervasive myth. The Stoics were not emotionless killjoys. Their philosophy was focused on reducing negative emotions and living good, full lives. Marcus Aurelius said:
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
Feels good, right? But he also said:
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly…
No, he was not bipolar. Nor was he being cynical or pessimistic. He was, if you’ll excuse the pun, saying we need to “inoculate” ourselves against a bad habit we all have: in the abstract we know life will be hard at times, but we don’t act like we know that.
If I asked you, “Do you expect life will be easy and you’ll always get what you want on the first try and nothing will ever go wrong or get in your way?” you’d laugh at me and say, “Of course not.” You know there will be problems and setbacks. And then when the problems and setbacks happen, uh… we are shocked, angry, frustrated, or sad. Does that make any sense at all?
Lyn Turknett Lturknett@turknett.com 770-270-1723