My heart was pounding. There had been a severe mistake in one of our large shipments and the client was furious. He was out for blood. We were going to lose a generally easy to handle, recurring customer. He was going to sue us. We would have to suit up for war.
As you can see, my mind makes huge leaps towards worst-case scenarios. And once, I might have given in to the crippling physiological sensations that come with anxiety.
But I’ve found something that work better than medication – stoicism. It’s not as easy a fix as popping a pill but its effects are longer lasting.
“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I came across stoicism last year after reading about it in one of Ryan Holiday’s newsletters and seeing that it was something that could co-exist with my current beliefs, I thought I would explore it further.
Stoicism may be a philosophy but it differs from the other schools in that it emphasises application and practice. While other schools of philosophy may appeal to the more academic – those concerned with theories and ideas – stoicism is for everyone.
It is the understanding that your education, breeding, wealth or beauty doesn’t matter. The only thing you have any real control over is yourself.
Being stoic when you’ve made a mistake
So a mistake had been made and a client was raging. There was a problem to solve and being anxious contributed nada to the solution.
I have no control over another person’s emotions or actions. The physiological aspects of my emotions may not be within my total control. But I have control over my own actions.
First, I understood that a mistake had been made and that if there were negative consequences, I would have to face them. Being anxious would not change that fact.
Second, I understood that if I were in my client’s shoes, I would be enraged as well. And that even though we were in a bad situation, things could have been worse.
Third, although I didn’t know exactly how the client wanted me to fix the situation, I proposed a few things that were within my control and finally found something that he could agree with. It involved some losses but I knew that it was my responsibility to fix the problem.
Fast-forward to today, this same client that I thought would hunt us down and kill us (yes, my brain exaggerates) is still sending us messages asking whether we have more products to recommend for his purchase.
Take a stoic pill
I’ve been told lately that I’m “too chill”. And my response is always “why stress”?
These days, when I come face-to-face with a situation that’s stressful, I ask myself, “Can I do something about this?”
If I can’t, it doesn’t make sense to get stressed out. If I can, then I just do what needs to be done. It’s as simple as that.
While it may be simple, it isn’t always easy. However, practising stoicism has helped to stabilize my life in a way that I didn’t think was possible.
There’s so much about stoicism that’s still new to me but it’s definitely something that I want to dive deeper into. It’s something that I want to keep practising.
I started this blog as a way for me to explore topics that I’m curious about, to contemplate questions that I have no answers to, and to document my learnings.
If you’re reading, I hope you’ll provide feedback or perhaps be interested in having a discussion. I love hearing new thoughts and ideas, even if they are completely different to mine.