Philosophy Stoicism – What’s Stoicism

What is Stoic philosophy? How does it differ from other philosophies? What are some benefits of being stoic? These are some of the common questions around the stoic philosophy of life?

what's stoicism and the philosophy stoicism

What’s stoicism – the stoic school of philosophy?

Stoics believe that life is full of challenges that require us to overcome adversity through perseverance and inner strength. They believe that happiness comes from within and that external circumstances don’t affect our emotions or behavior.

In today’s world, we often face situations where we are unable to control the events around us. This makes it challenging to remain calm and collected. The good thing is that stoicism offers practical solutions to these issues. These belief structures and concepts have also been used for centuries.Stoicism is often called “the school of practical philosophy.” Stoics believed that virtue is the highest good and that happiness consists in living according to nature. Their goal was to cultivate virtues like courage, justice, temperance, fortitude, and wisdom. These qualities could be cultivated through certain exercises.

Stoicism is a school of philosophical thought that originated in Ancient Greece and Rome during the early parts of the third century B.C. In today’s world, it is often associated with Buddhism because many of the same thinkers had studied Zen Buddhism. However, the Stoics did not believe in reincarnation, nor did they practice meditation. Instead, they focused on developing self-control, courage, and wisdom.

The word “stoic” derives from the Greek word stoikos meaning “of the wise.” They believed that humans are capable of controlling their emotions and impulses. This belief led them to develop techniques such as deep breathing exercises, regular exercise and eating well.

In addition to those practices, they believed one must accept what happens to you without complaining. If something goes wrong, they felt that you should learn from it rather than dwell on it. They also encouraged people to live according to nature rather than following society’s norms.

This is the fair dealing of human nature.

Stoicism principles:

Stoics teach that one should always lead their life by following a few simple principles:

  • Understand that there will be difficult moments in your life. Learn how to deal with them during those times.
  • Know what you can control and what you cannot. Focus on the things you have control over and block out the rest.

Stoicism has been a common thread through some of history’s great leaders. It has been practiced by Kings, presidents, artists, writers, and entrepreneurs. Marcus Aurelius. Frederick the Great, Montaigne, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Theodore Roosevelt, and General James Mattis, —just to name a few—were all influenced by Stoic philosophy.


Stoic philosophers – Who were the stoics?

  • Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was one of the most influential human beings in human history. He was the head of the Roman Empire for two decades, at a time when it was one of the largest and most influential civilizations the world had ever seen. And despite being an individual of limitless power – who could do whatever he pleased with impunity – emperor Aurelius ardently practiced and lived the Stoic philosophy.


  • Zeno of Citium
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca
  • Epictetus

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”– Epictetus

Stoicism virtues and mindset – moral philosophy

Stoicism was centered around how to live a happy life. The Stoic philosophers were concerned with achieving a state of mental tranquility by following moral precepts and pursuing wisdom.

The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “Men do not choose what happens to them; rather, they make choices about how they react to what happens.” This idea is known as the stoic mindset.

This concept is one of the most powerful ways to live life without being controlled by external factors. We often think we are victims of circumstance, but in reality, our reaction to those circumstances determines whether we suffer or thrive.

The Stoic philosophers taught that nothing truly exists outside of ourselves. If something is happening to you, it is happening to you. You are responsible for how you feel. Your emotions are entirely within your power.

You can’t blame someone else for your problems. You can’t blame society for your unhappiness. You can’t even blame God for your misery. You alone are responsible for your happiness.

If you want to change your life, you must start with yourself. This is the basis of the stoic virtues.

1. The Virtue of Wisdom:

Wisdom is your ability to define good, evil, and indifference. This is called wisdom because it allows you to see things clearly and make decisions based on facts rather than emotions.

In ancient times, people thought that wisdom came naturally. They believed that everyone had some innate knowledge about how to live well. But today we know better. We understand that wisdom is something that must be learned. 

Aristotle defined wisdom as being able to distinguish things that are worth pursuing from those that aren’t. He called it prudence. In his view, it was one thing to pursue something because you thought it was worthwhile; another to do so because you thought it might bring you pleasure or profit. Aristotle believed that wise people could tell the difference between the two. They could make choices about how to live their lives based on whether they saw certain activities as virtuous or vicious.

2. The Virtue of Courage:

Courage is the opposite of cowardliness; courage is doing the desired thing, even though we feel afraid or anxious.

He meant that someone who doesn’t feel fear can’t overcome it, and therefore doesn’t show bravery. Bravery is the act of doing, even when we’re afraid. 

3. The Virtue of Justice:

Justice in Stoicism is broader beyond what most of us think of as “justice.” We often talk about justice as being equal treatment under the law. But justice goes much further than that. It’s one of the three cardinal virtues of the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus.

For the Stoics, justice isn’t just about treating others equally. It’s about acting morally toward everyone around you, even those who are different from you.

The word “just” in English comes from the Latin word iustus, meaning “righteous,” because the Stoics believed that everything happens according to nature, and that includes the way things happen in life. So if someone does something wrong, it’s because there’s some natural reason why he did it. And if he doesn’t do anything wrong, it’s because he had no natural reasons to do so.

The Stoics called this concept “cosmic justice.” They saw it everywhere, whether it was in the stars above, or the plants growing in the ground beneath us.

Justice in Stoicism is broader than justice in our language and legal systems today. For the Stoics, justice is our duty to our fellow man, and our society. It’s the morality behind how we act, specifically concerning our community and the people within it.

Justice guides all other virtues because it is your moral compass. It serves to focus your actions toward the betterment of the whole, rather than just the self.


4. The Virtue of Temperance:

Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues. It is the virtue of moderation, balance, self-restraint, and self-control. It is the ability to make choices based on reason rather than emotion. It is the ability not to let pleasure become an addiction and vice versa. It is the ability of self-discipline and self-control.

We’re able to choose long-lasting happiness over short-lived pleasure.

A modern-day application

According to William B. Irvine, stoicism was practiced by people who were considered great philosophers because they understood that happiness comes from within ourselves, not from external sources.

Four main principles are used in modern-day stoicism.

1. Negative visualization

is an ancient technique used by the Stoic philosophers for self-improvement.? It involves visualizing yourself losing something that you value, which they believed would make you appreciate that thing more.

2. Dichotomy of Control

Understanding that some things are under our control and others aren’t.

Stoic philosophers found a method for achieving inner peace even though they were involved with the external environment. Their ultimate objective wasn’t to change the external environment, but rather to achieve certain changes within themselves. Even if their efforts failed, they could feel at ease knowing they had achieved their objectives.

3. Fatalism towards the Future

The Stoics advocated fatalism toward the future. There are some actions you can take now that could affect your future. However, you don’t have full control over the future right now.

4. Self Denial

Negative visualization helps us experience bad events as if they already occurred.

5 Daily Stoic Meditations

Try these meditations based on stoic beliefs for everyday life practice.

1. Morning Reflection

“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.” – Marcus Aurelius

Wake up every morning by taking a few minutes to be grateful for the gift of life itself.

Then you could consider thinking about the qualities you want to incorporate into your day. It might help to select a particular strength or personal philosophy that you’d like to develop during the day.

You may be able to do some things that you cannot completely change. For example, you may be unable to change something outside your power (like your salary). However, you can always choose to think positively and act confidently and purposefully.

 2. Negative Visualization

“We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events…” – Seneca 

Praemeditatio Malorum or the premeditation of adversity.

To get started, premeditate various adversities for yourself ahead of time; imagining them in advance helps prepare you better.

This technique can help you realize the impermanence of everything in your life and be grateful for your successes.It’s up to you which events you focus on.

One shouldn’t focus too much on the potential negatives in life. Instead, one should take advantage of everything he/she has while acknowledging that one doesn’t have total power over his/her circumstances.

It can also teach you that the things you’re afraid of aren’t nearly as frightening as you think they are

3. Want What You Have

People today tend to always want more things, even if they already have everything they need. They feel unhappy because they don’t have enough stuff, whether that means money, property, relationships, or whatever else.

This is an excellent way to start your day if you’re looking to develop a more grateful and happy mind. To do so, focus on what you currently possess rather than wishing you had something else.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

Take some time to think about what you’ve chosen to focus on. How does this thing give you pleasure? Does it bring back memories for you of times past? Is there any significance associated with it?

Imagine being without it for even a moment. Think about how much you would miss it if it were lost. And think about what regrets you might have because you didn’t appreciate it enough while it was yours. Settle into these feelings for a minute or two before moving on.

Then, return to reality where you haven’t already lost this treasured object. Feel the happiness flow through you and appreciate how lucky you are not to be missing this wonderful thing right now. At the same moment, realize that this thing that you possess can disappear at any given second and that it isn’t something you can control. The aim of the activity isn’t to force yourself to become psychologically dependent upon things and people outside of your power, but rather to teach you to feel fortunate in the presence of those who surround you.

4. A Bird’s View

“One who would converse about human beings should look on all things earthly as though from some point far above, upon herds, armies, and agriculture, marriages and divorces, births and deaths, the clamor of law courts, deserted wastes, alien peoples of every kind, festivals, lamentations, and markets, this intermixture of everything and ordered combination of opposites.” – Marcus Aurelius

When stressed out, it’s easy to focus only on yourself and your concerns, but when you step back and look at where you fit into the big picture, you gain perspective.

Zoom out and look at the bigger picture; something that bothers you may reveal itself as not important, or something you’re ignoring may become very significant in your real­ity. You could discover that the conflict you feel with someone close to you is rooted in another part of your reality. And you might realize the importance you’ve given to certain goals, which now seem empty and superficial.

5. Contemplation of Fate

“Welcome every experience the looms of fate may weave for you.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” – Marcus Aurelius

Looking back on an impossibly challenging incident in your past, you will most likely realize that you gained something positive out of it—even though it was difficult. And even though you may not always think so when things get tough, you will also discover that you gain something positive from every situation.

The Stoics believed that there was an overarching plan for the entire universe. This meant that whatever happened to us wasn’t random; rather, it fits into some broader scheme.

Loving your fate may be hard when suffering from pain; however, if you can view yourself as a small piece within a greater context, and realize that there are precious gems hidden in misfortune, then you’ll be able to change your outlook for the better.

Stoicism quotes

“The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.” – Marcus Aurelius

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Ignorance is the cause of fear.” – Seneca

“While we wait for life, life passes.” – Seneca

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” – Epictetus

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus

“No loss should be more regrettable to us than losing our time, for it’s irretrievable.” – Zeno

“Humanity must seek what is NOT simple and obvious using the simple and obvious.” – Musonius Rufus

“He with the most who is content with the least.” – Diogenes


Although an ancient philosophy, stoicism is still very much part of many people’s daily practices in living a more mindful and intentional life. 

About author: bianca

Yoga and meditation instructor, holistic personal trainer, nutritional advisor, website and content designer, blog writer, professional dancer, performing artist, voice-over actor, and choreographer.