About a year ago, I found myself at a crossroads. I was twenty-four, and I was making one mistake after another. Next thing I knew, I was lying in my bed, feeling sorry for myself while every ounce of motivation slowly left my body.
I scoured the internet to find something that could put me out of my misery. However, no amount of TedTalks and self-help books could pull me out of my bed and knock some sense into me.
Luckily, a friend of mine recommended to me a book that she claimed changed how she looked at life. I was dubious at first, but I was desperate; I needed something to keep my head above water.
I made my way to the bookstore the next day and bought myself a copy of The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. It wasn’t like other motivational books that had ten chapters of overflowing texts. The book was only divided into three parts: the discipline of perception, the discipline of action, and the discipline of will.
In each page, you’ll find a passage from an early Stoic philosopher and a brief explanation of how you can apply it in your life. The idea behind the book is to read one passage every day; you’re not forced to cram every single detail in your head in one go. This made it easier for me to integrate it into my everyday routine. I would either read at work during lunch break or right before I hit the sack.
Reading about stoicism was like taking a spiritual pilgrimage for me. It helped me tackle my issues by bringing me clarity and a sense of peace. So, here are four insights—among the many lessons I learned from the book—that would help twenty-somethings out there to power through ups and downs of their lives.
Don’t Let Things that You Can’t Control Make You Sour
Whether we like it or not, certain things in life are beyond our control. While it’s so easy to get upset over the little inconveniences we face every day, we have to realize that doing so is just a waste of time and energy. Complaining, pointing fingers, and getting angry won’t improve the situation; it will only make matters worse.
So, whenever you face situations that challenge your patience, stoics suggest that you avoid responding with negative emotions. Instead, remind yourself that you cannot undo or change what happened. Just leave it as it is and come up with a plan to solve it. Like how the stoics put it, “You cannot control the situation, but you can control how you react to it.”
The Quality of Your Thoughts Shapes Your Mind
Marcus Aurelius said it best: Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought.
The mind adopts the color of your thoughts. If you feel life is being cruel to you, well, that’s just what you’ve programmed your mind to believe, but that’s not the reality of it. The reason you perceive the world with so much negativity is that you habitually cultivate negative thoughts.
To put it simply, if you want a positive mindset in life, fill it with what you want to see in the world.
Kindness is Part of Our Duty
Those people who show disrespect or rudeness to you are not bad. Understand that they might not have lived in a nurturing environment as you, received the same privileges as you had, or experienced the spiritual journey you went through. That’s why they act differently from you.
Since you’re in a privileged position where you know what’s good from bad, you must understand the people around you. Stoics believe we are not equally capable of certain things, just like how we were not born into this world with the same intellectual abilities.
If we are more aware than others, we have to be more forgiving, tolerant, and considerate of them. Allow them the freedom to make mistakes without taking it against them. By being kind to people, you are showing how well you understand this truth of life.
You Don’t Always Have to Say Your Piece
When you’re at the peak of your emotions, don’t be so quick to speak out. Confronting other people who might have offended you is not always a great idea. You’ll end up regretting the hurtful words you hurled at them, and you won’t be able to take them back.
In moments you want to give people a piece of your mind, you have to ask yourself, “what would I get from this?” or “would it make it all better?” then decide. Choose your battles, they say.
From worrying about your finances to advancing in your career to fixing your broken heart to securing homeowners insurance, being a young adult can get extremely overwhelming. You go through moments that challenge your faith and test your strength. But don’t worry because you always end up making sense out of the world—either through talking to your best friend or by reading a book.