The Stoic way to deal with setbacks

I’ve calculated that the most time I’ve wasted in my life is the time spent sitting around wishing that the situation I was in wasn’t happening.

It’s such a time-suck being angry and upset about the so-called obstacle, setback, barrier, or thing that “shouldn’t happen”.

With a daughter who struggles to sleep and a wife beset by health issues and running a business in a country that doesn’t speak English and so on, I’m confronted by this frustration on a daily basis, where Life’s plan for me doesn’t line up with my ideal version of life.

One way to look at it, and this is how the Stoics would look at it, is that the plan you have in your head – “The way things SHOULD be” – is pure fiction. It’s not reality.

And what actually happens to you is the real plan. The obstacle is the way, so to speak.

At first, I figured this means I must surrender to “bad luck” and just accept that life doesn’t always go my way.

But lately, I’ve started to realise that even the idea of “surrendering” implies that Life is doing something “wrong”.

The most accurate way to look at it is that Life is never wrong. I don’t surrender. Instead, I must embrace Life as it is.

This doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. It just means I need to remember that I’m always making the choice to live, and therefore I have already accepted Life’s terms. It’s like if I step willingly into a boxing ring, I should expect to get punched in the face.

Whatever happens is The Way, it’s never an “obstacle”.

The quicker you can get your head around that and line up your behavior with what is actually happening, the less you suffer.

It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn, but whenever I do it right, whenever I just quickly adjust to whatever’s happening instead of wishing it wasn’t, my life is so much better.

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One Response

  1. Another way to approach it is to choose the identity to match the situation. Like if you get a flat tyre, say to yourself, “I guess I’m a mechanic now”.

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