Around this time last year, I was introduced to the ancient Greek/Roman philosophy of Stoicism. And no, I am not referring to the art of staring of into the distance wistfully, as I have been asked previously. While the word “stoic” has in recent times been thought of as a person who is emotionless, the actual ancient art of Stoicism is far from emotionless. In fact, it thrives on emotion. The difference, is that you should not depend on any one emotion, especially when it comes from any action that one cannot control themselves.
I started reading “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy“, by William B. Irvine. This book did a really great job of defining the history and principles of Stoicism, and then converting that information into practical examples of how the philosophy could be practiced in today’s modern culture.
I followed that read up with “The Daily Stoic“, by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. At that time, I started to really place the practice as a central part of how I ran my life. Ryan and Stephen’s unique review and interpretation of classic quotes from some of the Stoic greats (such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus) really set the tone for how I wanted to control my life. How to consciously engage with actions that I could control, and also how to disengage from events which I could not control. The design of the book, set up as a daily reader with varying quotes and discussions for each day of the year, also kept the practice as a forefront in my mind, by maintaining my practice and review of the Stoic philosophy.
I am sad to admit that I did fall out of practice for a while, and I saw a noticeable difference in my attitude and general mental well-being when I stopped thinking as a Stoic. I have recently re-instituted this daily habit, and it has helped dramatically. The purchase of Ryan and Stephen’s “The Daily Stoic Journal” has been a great tool for me, using the daily journaling as a way to set my mind up to be in the proper frame, from right after my morning workout and coffee.
As a new Dad, I feel that patience is the key area for me to improve upon what I experienced with my father. he had none with me, in most cases, and I always felt that it meant I was a disappointment. I do not want my son to feel that way, so I plan to practice the improvement of my own patience on a daily basis, as a part of my Stoic journey. An example is listed below:
Example: The baby is crying because no one will pick him up.
For any new parent, the sound of their child crying can initiate a response that can be difficult to control. We all know the sound our child makes when in pain, and also what sounds they make when they are mad, and resisting the urge to go and comfort them could be the difference between raising a relatively calm baby, and one who is spoiled.
As a father, I feel that it is my duty to instill a sense of self-reliance in my son, even while he is so young, which means that I lean toward the notion that a baby should learn to soothe themselves at an early age. This isn’t just so that I can get a little more sleep, but also so that my son learns to overcome his feelings of anger, hopefully, by realizing that someone won’t always be there to make everything better. Stoicism 101. My wife, however… has to fight a little harder to resist the urge to run and pick him up. And that’s fine, it doesn’t make her a bad mother, or a good mother. It just makes her a human being.
So, as I make my way through the life of a new father, especially one who looks to reach Viking Level of Dad-ness, I will make Stoicism a part of my everyday life. For my own good, and that of my son.
Let me know if you have any experience with Stoicism in the comments below, and also, if you have any other philosophies that you use in the upbringing of your children.
Thanks for reading!