Despite common logic and popular self-help advice, thinking “positive” is a poor life strategy.
Friends tell you to “hope for the best”. Self-improvement gurus preach “the law of attraction”. But it’s all BS. This type of thinking only leads to anxiety, depression, and disappointment.
(Why do you think the majority of the population has low self-esteem and poor productivity?)
Instead, you should find a life strategy that’s actually proven to work. For example, the ancient philosophy of Roman Stoicism…
In this article, you’ll learn 5 key Stoic principles to “upgrade” your way of thinking and quickly build confidence in yourself (and your ability to get shit done).
#1: Recognize the power of your thoughts
“You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you.”
– Marcus Aurelius
Your thoughts create your reality.
For proof of this, look no further than the existence of placebo effects.
Studies have shown that patients given simple sugar pills – but told they’re receiving actual medicine – have experienced very real changes in their body. In some cases, patients have experienced changes in heart rate and blood pressure. In other cases, patients have even experienced relief of symptoms related to Parkinson’s Disease.
Your thoughts can literally change how your body functions on a physiological level.
The ancient Roman Stoics recognized this amazing power. They recognized that we can decide how we respond to every situation in life.
If you get brutally rejected in front of a room full of people, you have a choice. You can get embarrassed and feel sorry for yourself. Or you can be proud of yourself for trying, and not give a fuck what these strangers think about you.
If your preferred presidential candidate doesn’t get elected, you have a choice. You can pick fights with people on the internet and try to prove them all wrong. Or you can accept reality and focus your energy on accomplishing your personal goals.
…The choice is always yours.
Action step: Think of a situation that’s currently stressing you out. How can you look at this situation differently? How can it help you grow stronger?
#2: Make a plan — then stop thinking
“First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.”
We live in the age of procrastination.
Every company I’ve worked for is more focused on having daily meetings than actually getting shit done. Everyone I meet is too caught up in “mental masturbation” to actually follow through on their intentions and accomplish their goals.
Sure, if you don’t have any goals to work towards, that’s the first step…
But once you decide on your goals, it’s time to stop thinking and start doing.
Thoughts and plans don’t mean shit. A genius idea isn’t worth shit, either. Not unless you put in the work and take the steps necessary to make it a reality.
Want to switch careers? Great. Decide something new to try, then go get qualified or certified, then start applying for jobs. Want to finally get in shape? Awesome. Lift weights 3 times per week and start eating the right amount of calories.
Stop “doing research”, stop “getting prepared”, and stop telling everyone about your sweet plan. Just get started. Today.
There’s a reason the ancient Stoics like the great Marcus Aurelius were so successful and accomplished. They took action. Over and over again.
Action step: Ask yourself, “What goals or plans have you been second guessing or procrastinating on?” Then ask, “What’s the next step I need to take?” Do it now.
#3: Embrace your failures and mistakes
“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.”
It doesn’t take a Stoic philosopher to tell you this one: failure is an inevitable part of life.
Just look at any successful person you know. Chances are they failed countless times on their path to success.
Most people are pussies. Most people get discouraged and quit after 1 or 2 mistakes.
If you think you’re going to start a successful business without losing money at some point, you’re being delusional. If you think you’re going to transform your social confidence and become a smooth casanova without facing rejection, you’re an idiot.
…And if you can’t stomach failure, that just means you need to face more of it.
You need to reframe failure as part of the learning process. Every time you make a mistake, realize that you just made progress. Failure shows you that you have more to learn. Failure shows you exactly where you need to improve and better yourself.
Action step: Think about a recent mistake you made. Ask yourself, “What lesson can I learn from this mistake?” Now be thankful for this lesson. You have grown stronger because of it.
#4: Consider how amazing your existence is
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive.”
– Marcus Aurelius
The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.
The fact that there’s a universe at all is completely inexplicable by science.
The Roman Stoics recognized the power of this idea. They recognized that reminding yourself of the mystery of life is a powerful way to make you grateful for being alive.
Just think: what’s the point of taking everything so seriously? What’s the point in worrying about your receding hairline? What’s the point in stressing out about your job? What’s the point in being mad at your girlfriend?
You get to wake up and live life every day. And that’s fucking amazing.
I’m not trying to sound like some crazy preacher here. But it’s so true. And almost nobody takes the time to be grateful for the opportunity to be around for one more day.
Action step: Close your eyes. Place both hands over your heart. Think about how amazing it is that your heart is always beating. Be grateful for every minute you have left to live.
#5: Stop expecting — ground yourself in today
“Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today.”
Perhaps the greatest teaching of the Roman Stoics is the importance of being present and focusing on what’s in front of you right now.
Everybody worries about tomorrow. Everybody gets excited for upcoming holidays and vacations. Everybody forgets to enjoy what they’re actually doing.
You wake up and worry about getting to work on time. Then you sit at your desk and dream about what you’re going to eat for lunch. Then you eat lunch and feel miserable that you still have five more hours of work. Then you go back to your desk and dread going to the gym on the way home. Then you spend your whole workout anticipating eating dinner and watching the next episode of your favorite show on Netflix. And when you’re doing that? You just get depressed that you have to wake up early and go to work again.
If you spend every moment of the day thinking about what’s going to happen next, you prevent yourself from enjoy ANYTHING in life.
Instead, you must “catch yourself” daydreaming or worrying. And then you must re-focus on what you’re doing right now.
Realize that you’re dreading work tomorrow? Accept it, then get back to focusing on hanging out with your friend. Realize that you’re thinking about your date tonight? Accept it, then get back to working on your project.
This simple formula is the key to transforming your productivity and your self-confidence — when you’re focused, you naturally perform better.
Action step: The next time you feel stuck in your head, go for a walk. Focus on the sensations in the bottom of your feet. Whenever you catch yourself thinking, return focus to your feet.