Don’t Freak Out: How to Apply Stoic Principles to Life and Work

man standing in a power pose and stoic expression

Very few people—if any—consider “freaking out” as a valuable trait. In fact, those who lose their minds at the first sign of adversity and run off screaming into the night are usually considered liabilities. After all, whether it’s a work setting or just regular life, who’s going to count on the person more prone to going bonkers than reacting calmly and rationally? The truth is, those who are stoic are widely believed to be assets. Which means that it may be worthwhile to consider integrating some stoic principles to your life.

Because at the end of the day, it’s sometimes amusing to watch people freak out from a distance, but you don’t want to have to work alongside those people.

Stoic Principles at Work: 6 Steps to Be a Modern Stoic

The history of stoicism as a school of thought stretches all the way back to Ancient Greece. But the notion of remaining chill when problems arise has endured throughout the millennia. From the streets of ancient Athens to the modern offices of the 21st century, stoic principles offer practical solutions that can help us steer through the rough seas of life. Here are six steps to follow that can help you cultivate and maintain that “stiff upper lip” and stay unfazed when life throws you curveballs.

1. Let go of the things you cannot control.

This includes thoughts others may have about you as well as other people’s actions. One of the stoic principles that can be useful at work is focusing on the things that you have control of, and accepting that there are certain things that you cannot. Keep calm and remember that only you have the power over your own thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

2. Stick to what is good, steer clear of what is bad.

A strong work ethic and a solid set of values will serve as your lamp post as you go about your tasks every day. When faced with challenges at work, sticking to your values will help you overcome them.

3. Press on despite adversities.

Stoics are able to do this because of their laser-like focus on their goals. With clarity and determination, stoics do not allow emotions to cloud their judgment. At work, where it is easy to feel dissatisfied or frustrated when things don’t go as planned, a stoic’s focus and drive can be very helpful during emotionally-charged situations.

4. Anticipate the worst but hope for the best.

Murphy’s Law aptly captures it: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Stoics follow a similar mindset in order to prepare and not be caught off-guard. With foresight, a stoic will think far ahead and have a back-up plan.

5. Love everything about your work including failures.

This is where the Latin phrase “Amor fati”—the love of one’s fate—can be applied. A stoic accepts that there is no such thing as a “perfect workplace”.

6. Don’t be afraid of failure.

Most people are afraid of failing because of the shame that goes with it. Some even avoid taking any form of risk and end up losing on great opportunities. When the fear of failure grips your heart, remember what Epictetus once said: “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us.”

Ultimately, awareness is the key to practicing stoic principles. Be mindful of your thoughts, emotions, and actions. A conscious effort to recognize how your environment influences your feelings, thoughts and actions will help you choose the best response. With stoic mindfulness at work, you will be able to train your mind to look for things to improve and see a better version of yourself.

About the Author

Imee Rabang is a blogger/writer and bilingual poet from Manila, Philippines. She is an advocate of Philippine culture and supports causes that promote language and national identity. She juggles her time between work, parenthood, and community outreach programs. She also dabbles in photography and graphic arts in her free time.
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