Stoicism on Wisdom: You Don’t Have Problems

This is the second episode of Stoicism on Wisdom series. These articles are designed to be short but practical. The idea is to reflect, absorb and take one big Stoic idea per article.

If you find value here, share this article with your friends. Let’s get everyone on board.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” 


                                                                                                         ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

What most often weighs us down in life is our never-ending “problems”.

We all have them. Some of us had just broken up with their life long partner. Some of us got cheated in a business agreement. Some of us had accidentally dislocated their arms while playing basketball.

What you don’t see, however, is that none of these are actual problems. Since we are living in such civilized times, our brain’s have grown softer and softer.

We’ve started to give emotional reactions to slightest of things.

You go to speak at a public speaking community and spend the rest of the day getting angry yourself for forgetting to say that little section you’ve practiced countless times.

You cook dinner for friends and then beat yourself up for messing up the dish.

You create a product that you believe gives value to other people, but later decide not to launch it because you are scared of the reactions you’ll get.

In these times, let Stoicism give you some perspective.

Most of these”problems” you have are first world problems – luxury problems.

I’ve recently watched a thought-provoking movie called, Million Dollar Baby. It is the journey of an aspiring woman who wants to become a world champion boxer.

This woman spends almost every day of her life dedicated to her life’s purpose – boxing. She practices different drills and foot-work day and night. When the lights are out, when everybody hits the bed, she is the only one in the gym that still hit the bags.

The awaited time has come. She manages to move up the ladders and finally finds herself in the big finale championship match.

Right as the match ends, her opponent strikes a “dirty” punch right when the referee turns his back. As she falls down after the punch, somebody accidentally puts a chair right below her head.

As she crushes her neck right into the edge of the chair, she completely breaks the bones of her spinal cord.

She spends the rest of her life in a hospital bed, unable to move an inch. The motions of eating and drinking is all done through a cord that runs through her throat.

This becomes such an issue that, due to stillness, she develops skin ulcers on her left leg. Doctors are forced to amputate it so that ulcer does not spread to the rest of her body.

She is imprisoned to spend the rest of her life, unable to move, in a hospital bed at the age of 35.

Bleak ending to an otherwise admirable life, don’t you think?

This is a story I want you to remember every time you think you have never-ending “problems”.

I may not know your exact problems. But the solution is always the same.

All sufferings can be made inconsequential with the power of perspective.

You can always find consolidation by telling yourself,

“At least, I can move my body. I have a healthy spinal cord. I don’t have physical pain.”

I strongly suggest that you watch my in-depth analysis on this Stoic technique: Negative Visualization.

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