Ancient Greece may not be the first place you think of when considering the concept of resilience, which is basically the ability to bounce back from negative situations, but it is the home of Stoicism.
Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in early 3rd century BC and teaches us that we cannot control external events, only our mental and emotional responses to them. It explores how negative self-talk can intensify and prolong our suffering.
As the saying goes: ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’.
Psychology Today neatly sums up this approach: “By adjusting our thinking, and how we think about our thinking, we can change our emotional responses, the extent to which we suffer (or not), our level of tension and stress, and in turn, our experience of pain.”
But the Stoics are often misunderstood and equated with being unemotional and indifferent to physical suffering.
In fact, the Stoics did not recoil from feeling grief, anger or pain any other emotion. Instead they focused on cultivating a level of detachment and observing their own thoughts. They thought that human happiness could be found only in accepting the present moment, rather than by being controlled by the pursuit of pleasure or the desperation to avoid pain.
The stoics preached working collaboratively and treating other people fairly and with empathy. They stressed the benefits of logic, self control and inner calm, something most of us could do with a large dose of.
The philosophy contends that the way to be happy is to live a virtuous life and that you should judge somebody based on their actions much more than their words.
The Daily Stoic has this to say about Stoicism: “Stoicism doesn’t concern itself with complicated theories about the world, but with helping us overcome destructive emotions and act on what can be acted upon. It’s built for action, not endless debate.”
Modern self-help books talk about resilience and mindfulness colouring books fly off the shelves, but they are both really based on Stoicism.
One of the most famous Stoics was Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 160 to 180AD, and some of his quotes are inspirational reminders about living an ethical, self-disciplined and humble life and treating fellow humans with kindness and compassion.
Meditations, his only major work, contains some profoundly moving statements and exhortations to live the most virtuous lives we can.
Inspirational quotes from Marcus Aurelius
Many of his thoughts focus on the impossibility of mastering outside events and accepting them with grace instead.
- “The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”
- “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”
- “How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”
- “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.”
On acceptance and action: “Objective judgement, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance, now, at this very moment – of all external events. That’s all you need.”
On wisdom: “You’re subject to sorrow, fear, jealousy, anger and inconsistency. That’s the real reason you should admit that you are not wise.”
Back in the days of Seneca, Epictetus and Aurelius (all good Stoics) philosophy was about finding practical ways to live life, it was not as a theoretical construct removed from the reality of people’s lives, as it is sometimes today.
Seeing a trained counsellor can enable you to take a step back from your problems and help you get unstuck. Like Stoicism, it can give you strategies and solutions to help you confront difficult events and overcome pain, grief and sorrow in your life.
As Marcus Aurelius said: “No man can escape his destiny, the next inquiry being how he may best live the time that he has to live.”
The benefits of mindfulness have been receiving much attention over recent years, with many companies introducing ‘mindfulness at work’ initiatives to benefit their staff, including giant corporations such as Google, Nike and Procter & Gamble. But how can this practice make any difference?
The concept of mindfulness is defined as the process of bringing one’s attention to what is occurring in the present moment, and without judgement. The aim is to be fully aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions but without getting caught up in them.
Rooted in Eastern philosophies, the practice is based on meditation and has the following benefits for the regular mindfulness student:
Reduces stress and mental health issues
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness has the power to change the structure of our brains to allow us to respond to stress in a healthier way. It does this by lowering the production of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’). Mindfulness can be particularly effective in lowering the negative effect of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, when used together with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medication.
Improves focus and concentration
With regular practice, mindfulness can train your brain to stay fully focused on the present, meaning you are able to devote your full attention to what you are doing now, while minimising the impact of any distractions. Your mind will retain the information for longer, and the ability to approach each task calmly is likely to boost both your self-confidence and performance at work.
Teaches greater resilience
A mindful approach to the present can help us learn to appreciate the purely ‘experiential self’ rather than the learned narrative that we tell ourselves about who we think we are/should be. This can be helpful in the face of change and/or adversity brought about by, say, an unexpected life event, sudden job loss or major career change.
Helps to develop better relationships
Strong self-awareness, the ability to empathise and desire to behave with altruistic intent are important cornerstones for developing meaningful relationships. Mindfulness helps us to respond more authentically to people, which in turn builds trust and understanding – key ingredients for resilient workplace connections and collaborations.
Encourages creative thinking
Practising mindfulness on a regular basis stimulates divergent thinking, which can be hugely beneficial for creative brainstorming and ideation sessions, helping to produce innovative ideas and solutions for all kinds of business problems.
How to get started in your mindfulness practice
In order to gain the most benefit from mindfulness, regular practice is essential. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither should you underestimate the time it takes to ‘learn’ to become mindful. Here are 5 steps you can take to practise being in the here and now.
1 – Meditate daily
Find somewhere quiet and comfortable where you can sit in an upright but relaxed position. Pay attention to your breathing and listen to the sound of your breath as you feel your chest rise and fall. Do this for at least 1 minute and don’t worry if you get distracted – you will learn to notice your thoughts and let them pass, like clouds in the sky, bringing your attention back to your breath. If you feel that you need guidance, there are plenty of meditation apps and guided meditations you could try.
2 – Observe the world around you
With digital technology and the demands of a hectic 24/7 world all around us, it can be hard to get off the treadmill and just be. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on the here and now, on what is right in front of you right now, cutting through the din. Can you hear birdsong outside? Feel the sunshine on your skin? See children playing in the street? Smell the rain? Make a point of paying attention to the world in 3D. Whether on the daily commute, at the office or at home, really observe and sense the environment that is all around.
3 – Make it a habit to slow down
Rather than rushing through the day to try and get as much done as possible, slow down! Concentrate on completing one task at a time calmly and to the best of your abilities. Multitasking can be overrated – sometimes the pace and sheer volume of demands on our time can mean that quality of our work suffers. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and overhurried, refocus and gently direct your attention to the task at hand until it’s done to your satisfaction.
4 – Appreciate routine tasks
Rather than treating routine tasks as pesky chores that get in the way of ‘real work’, reframe the way you think about these jobs. Whether it’s filling in your timesheet, filing paperwork or restocking the drinks machine, release your inner resistance to the task and simply pay attention to the detail of the activity in front of you. Feel the warm water on your hands, or the paper between your fingers while you carry out this routine task without judgement, worry or undue pressure.
5 – Accept your feelings
An important part of being mindful is to not judge your thoughts and feelings as being either right or wrong – whatever it is, they’re just thoughts or feelings that will pass. On their own, the don’t define you, and they only have the power over you that you give them. Rather than letting a particular thought or feeling negatively affect your self-esteem, you can choose to let it pass.
We all want to be happy in life, but at times happiness can feel out of reach. Self-understanding can provide us with a highly effective guidance system for personal happiness.
Identifying your personal values is an exercise which can powerfully increase your self-understanding. This tool can be used to guide you towards a life that is more fully attuned to your innate talents and desires, thereby enhancing your capacity to experience greater happiness. (more…)
Do you ever feel like you are just going through the motions and not truly enjoying your life? Many people reach a point where they wonder how they can have a more meaningful life and make the most of each day.
This is where a life coach can be useful, helping you find clarity and move forward in a positive way. Here are five ways in which a life coach can help you live a more meaningful life: (more…)
Clarity is something many people strive for. It helps us make good decisions, create achievable life goals and contributes to our sense of overall wellbeing and confidence. However, the road to achieving clarity is not always easy.
Many people have trouble getting out of a rut and breaking free from things like insecurity, a lack of confidence, or a fear of the unknown, and this keeps them from living a fulfilling life.
Life coaching is often touted as a good way of helping people find the clarity needed to break free. Is this an effective and viable option for everyone? (more…)
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If you would like to discover the path in life that will make you feel happiest and most fulfilled, following in the steps of those who’ve achieved this, is a sure recipe for success.
People who are both happy and successful, adopt certain habits and principles which form the bedrock for their achievements.
Self-confidence provides the foundation for
a happy and fulfilled life.
It helps us achieve goals. It enables us to feel comfortable in our own skin and in relationships with others. Without self-confidence, life’s challenges can leave us feeling stuck, frustrated, anxious and even depressed.
Confidence isn’t something we are necessarily born with. We may have had experiences in life that have undermined our confidence in certain areas, such as relationships, work or self-esteem. A confident business person can have difficulty building an intimate relationship, or a parent can fear not being good enough, to return to work. We all need to work on developing self-confidence, in some area in our life.
The good news is, with a bit of effort and guidance you can build the confidence you need to; succeed at work, enjoy a loving relationship or simply increase your self-esteem. Confidence can help you regain your motivation, to do all those things you’ve been wanting to do, but found yourself avoiding.
We’ve provided 10 handy tips and reminders below, to support your journey in growing confidence. (more…)