This is a comprehensive summary of the book The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness by Jonas Salzgeber. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.
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This tiny little book, from an author who’s still unpopular, sought to document the best stoic practices and present them in an easily graspable way. The outcome? A fresh squeeze on the sometimes hard to understand philosophic topics we all must follow if we want to make our stay on the planet Earth a bit more bearable. The Little Book of Stoicism is the perfect read for someone who’s just getting started in the Stoic teachings.
The Core Idea:
In order to live a great life, according to Stoicism, one must focus only on the things he can control and be indifferent about the rest. But numbing your emotions is not an easy task. So, the author presents us with 55 Stoic practices that are designed to help us swiftly handle difficult situations in the modern world, free our minds and become less occupied by meaningless activities.
- The three core principles of Stoicism are: Live with Arete; Focus on what you can control; Take responsibility.
- To get better at focusing, you need to take advantage of the little gap between the outside stimulus and your reaction.
- The more you depend on outside circumstances to feel good, paradoxically, the worse you’ll feel.
5 Key Lessons from The Little Book of Stoicism
Lesson #1: There are Three Building Blocks for a Happy Life
A lot of texts on Stoicism fail to give a clear-cut answer to what exactly this philosophy is. But not Jonas Salzgeber.
He packages all of the complex principles of Stoicism in one simple idea called, the Stoic Happiness Triangle. The aim of this geometry-sounding concept is to help you understand the basics of Stoicism in a simple way.
So, here we go:
- The goal of stoicism (the middle of the triangle): Achieve eudaimonia. Live a happy life and don’t allow emotions to control you. You should approach life with reason and seek to do good.
The three corners of the triangle:
- Live with Arete: In every breathing moment, you should strive for excellence. Living in arete is all about becoming the highest version of yourself in anything you do.
- Focus on what you can control: The root cause of our misery lies in our ambition to change things we can’t. Stoics spotted this flaw in our behavior years ago. That’s why they extensively talk about accepting what happens to us without complaining and focusing only on things we can control – our daily actions.
- Take responsibility: This third corner is only possible if you have the other two in place. Once we understand that we’re the ones responsible for our happiness – not other people nor material possessions – we’ll finally crack the code for a happy, joyful life.
Of course, these three corners don’t ever imply that things will be easy. Quite the opposite, it’s going to be really hard. The idea is to get that life is hard and to realize that that’s a good thing.
“Life isn’t supposed to be easy, life is supposed to be challenging to make sure you actually grow.” Jonas Salzgeber
Lesson #2: Take Advantage of The Gap Between Stimulus and Reaction
“Something happens (stimulus) and then we react to it (response). Oftentimes, this response happens automatically, unconsciously, and without us thinking about it.” Jonas Salzgeber
“I can’t resist social media on my phone. I feel like I’m addicted to Instagram and Twitter,” is the most common statement these days when you ask folks why they’re procrastinating.
And unknowing what to do, people all around the world continue with their behavior and waste entire years engaged in mind-numbing activities.
But Stoics have a solution to this problem. They call it, as the author states in the book, reasoned choice.
Here’s the overview:
When something happens, say you receive a notification on your phone, there’s a little gap between the stimulus (the notification) and your reaction to it. If you act impulsively, without thinking about it, you’ll immediately check your phone which will probably lead to an extensive social media browsing with no clear purpose. But if you stop for a moment – mind the gap – and choose a different reaction (or non-reaction) you’ll able to keep your focus.
It sounds easy on paper but it’s really hard in the real world. Since the gap is really short, you should be aware all the time. If you don’t act fast enough you’ll do what you normally do – check your phone. But if you approach life with caution, you’ll have the chance to spot the opportunity, think of the options and choose the best reaction. All it takes is awareness.
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