Carrie Sheffield wrote a piece about Stoic Week for Forbes Magazine in November 2013. In this excerpt from that article, reproduced with her kind permission, Carrie explores five core Stoic ideals.
Want an Unconquerable Mind? Try Stoic Philosophy
Richard Harris as Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the 2000 blockbuster “Gladiator”
1. Immediately Recognize What Is Out Of Your Control.
A stoic leader realizes thatonly his thoughts and intentions are truly within his sphere of control;everything else is ultimately uncontrollable.
“Anyone in a leadership role must come to terms quickly with the paradox of their position: that leaders must wield power but that often so much that happens lies outside of their control,” Robertson toldForbes. “How do we accept the limits of our power without slumping into passivity?”
Robertson said people sometimes confuse stoicism with submissiveness, but calls this “a very superficial misunderstanding.” Students of ancient stoicism tended to be sons from wealthy, cosmopolitan families. Many went on to rule empires or advise great leaders in commerce and war.
“Can you point to a single historical stoic who sat on his hands?” quips Robertson, whose forthcoming book, Stoicism and the Art of Happiness: A Teach Yourself Guide, is due early next year. “It’s just not in the nature of their philosophy to be doormats or stay-at-home types.”
Robertson gave an analogy by Cato of Utica that a stoic is like an archer who diligently and confidently notches his arrow and draws his bow but must accept that once his arrow has flown it could be blown off course or its target could move.
Stoic managers take great pains to aim well but must accept what happens with total equanimity.
Did you miss Stoic Week 2013? Or would you be interested in doing it again? This is your chance! Starting on Monday 7th April 2014, we’re asking for volunteers to repeat Stoic Week on a more informal basis. We may keep this going by repeating the Handbook, starting on Mondays, over the next few weeks, so you can drop-in or drop-out. Use this discussion thread and the Google+ Community to support each other by posting updates each day (if possible) and commenting supportively on other people’s updates.
You can read (or print) a free HTML copy of the Stoic Week 2013 Handbook on the new modernstoicism.com e-learning website. There’s also an EPUB e-book version of the Handbook, which you can read on most tablets, mobile phones, and e-readers, etc. You’ll also find the audio/video materials for Stoic Week on the Stoicism Today website.
If you’re interested in taking part in Stoic Week, please register to use the modernstoicism.com e-learning site and introduce yourself on the general discussion forum thread below below, or just post any questions you have.
General Discussion Forum: Stoic Week REDUX
Stoic Week 2013: The Results!
By Tim LeBon
All the questionnaires you submitted (thank you!) have been analysed and the verdict is: Stoicism really does appear to have significant benefits on happiness, flourishing and well-being.
1) The improvements in well-being after taking part in Stoic week that were found in 2012 were replicated with a much larger sample. Interestingly some very specific findings were also replicated, such as Stoicism being most associated with acceptance, optimism and a sense of purpose. We plan to send follow up questionnaires in a few months time to see to what extent these benefits “stick”.
2) We have piloted a scale to measure Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours, the “SABS”. For the first time we now have evidence of a positive association between well-being and Stoic attitudes and behaviours prior to any interventions. It does seem that being Stoic is good for you. We also know which Stoic attitudes and behaviours are most associated with well-being and which are not. The most “active ingredients” in Stoicism appear to be :
A. I make an effort to pay continual attention to the nature of my judgements and actions.
B. When an upsetting thought enters my mind the first thing I do is remind myself it’s just an impression in my mind and not the thing it claims to represent.
C. I consider myself to be a part of the human race, in the same way that a limb is a part of the human body. It is my duty to contribute to its welfare.
There is also now evidence that the emotion Stoicism is most associated with is not so much indifference or passivity but – joy!
There’s a lot more detail, and also some qualifications to the headlines above in the full report (below) and also recommendations for next steps. Please post a comment if you have any thoughts about what you read, including possible next steps and applications for Stoicism, now that we are developing a much more substantial evidence base.