4 Rituals From the Philosophy of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, That Will Make You Mentally Tougher
Did you know that grit, resilience and mental toughness are some of the most consistent predictors of success these days?
Yep, but you know who figured out mental toughness years ago? Ancient stoic philosophers.
The most effective psychological tool we have these days is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is based on Stoicism.
Stoicism provides a rich armamentarium of strategies and techniques for developing psychological resilience… In a sense, ancient Stoicism was the granddaddy of all ‘self-help’ and its ideas and techniques have inspired many modern approaches to both personal development and psychological therapy. It’s generally accepted that the modern psychotherapy that most resembles ancient Stoic ‘remedies’ for emotional problems is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and its precursor Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)… CBT also happens to have the strongest evidence base, the strongest scientific support, of any modern form of psychological therapy.
The stoics developed some great tools to help you deal with negative feelings. This will help you stay resilient when the world is fighting against you. So, here are the basics of what these guys really had to say about being mental strong:
1) Consider your judgments
Your relationship ended? That sucks. Ended up finding a better partner? So your previous relationship finishing was good. Events are neither good nor bad. It’s simply your interpretation of them that is good or bad. Alan Watts describes this perfectly:
“You see that is the attitude of not thinking of things in terms of gain or loss, advantage or disadvantage, because you don’t really know. The fact that you might get a letter from a solicitor, I mean from a law office tomorrow, saying that some distant relative of yours has left you a million dollars, it might be something you would feel very, very happy about, but the disasters that it could lead to are unbelievable. Internal Revenue – to mention only one part of that.
So you never really know whether something is fortune or misfortune.” – Alan Watts
2) What can you control?
It’s incredibly important to work out what you can control or you can’t control. You can’t control nature, you can’t cant control other people and you can’t even control some parts of your body (try controlling your heart beat).
The problem is that you’re pretending to be God when you get annoyed with things you can’t control. You feel you should have power, but you don’t, which leads to negative emotions.
You need to somehow accept that you don’t have control over a lot of stuff. Of course, you can still influence things and affect them, but if you think you should have control 100% of the time, you’re just going to get upset.
3) What’s the worst that could happen?
This isn’t being pessimistic. It’s simply recognizing that you need to be prepared. Did you know that every day Marcus Aurelius wrote: “Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness…”
Why? Because he knew he can’t control people and he wouldn’t be surprised when he came across these kinds of people. He wouldn’t get frustrated.
When we’re unrealistically optimistic, it just set us up to be frustrated and give up. But if you think about the worst that could happen, you’re mentally prepared for it so you can keep on going.
And if you spend time thinking about the downside, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy calls it “decatastrophizing”. That’s simply realizing “it’s not the end of the world.”
4) Use a ‘reserve clause’
Ever heard some people say “God willing…” or Fate permitting…”.? That’s a reserve clause. They’re accepting that at least part of the outcome is out of their control.
Why is this important?
Because nothing is ever 100% under your control and if you think it is, your self esteem will go crashing if things go wrong. You still need to recognize that you have control over the process, just not the outcome. Focus on what you can control. Fate permitting, you’ll do well.
If you focus on these 4 things, you’ll start to focus on areas of life that you can control, and forget about what you can’t. As the Dalai Lama said:
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”