“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”’
One of the most famous emperors of Rome, Greek philosophers whose words have withstood the test of time, revolutionary astrologers and many successful modern business leaders – One thing unites each of these together – The practice of an ancient philosophy that can help your business today.
Stoicism is an ancient philosophy which is still widely popular. It was designed to help us become more resilient, but also more virtuous, joyful and wise. It is a set of ideals which instils acceptance and productivity and as a result, creates better people and better professionals.
As business owners, your employees look to you as their leader. Adopting the philosophy of Stoicism will set you up with a mentality to strive for greatness in both business and your personal life.
Read on to find out how adopting the principles of Stoicism can reflect positively on your leadership.
WHAT IS STOICISM?
In contrast to the modern idea of Stoicism which promotes handling situations with little or no emotion, ancient Stoicism was a philosophy which practised minimising the negativity in your life and maximising serenity, mindfulness, joy and value-based living.
Stoicism is a philosophical movement focusing on overcoming unhelpful emotions such as anger, greed and jealousy through self-discipline and self-control. One fundamental teaching of Stoicism is the Dichotomy of Control, which is understanding what is and what is not in a person’s control and acting accordingly.
Stoics believe that you should control the things that are in your power (attitude, judgement, beliefs etc.) and be apathetic or indifferent to the things you cannot control, (external situations). Once this is accepted, you can focus your attention on quality work instead of worrying about variables which are outside your control.
Instead of promoting the suppression of negative emotions, Stoicism understands the value of accepting the fact that all people experience negative emotions; what’s important is where a person’s energy is directed next.
“Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”
It sounds simple enough, but practising Stoicism is difficult to truly master. As a true leader, learning this control and adopting this philosophy is vital to be successful, especially if you are running a business. There are four pillars of Stoicism; Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance. Each of these virtues has the power to transform your business and personal outlook.
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said that justice is “the source of all the other virtues”.
Upholding justice is our duty to society because it is what separates the world from unlawfulness. It is a binding that unites people rich and poor and creates harmony. The Stoic version of justice is not just what is legal; it is the morality of how we act and the consequences our actions could have.
As a business owner, your practice must treat its workers, clients and other businesses’ justly. It’s vital to ensure your employees feel they are working for a person and company that is fair and honest.
Before you act, think. Wisdom is a skill which ultimately informs action.
A famous quote by Viktor Frankl states, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” Wisdom is the ability to recognise that we have the power to choose how we respond to a situation. To act rashly or mindfully is in everyone’s ability.
The Stoics believe that wisdom is comprised of multiple aspects; having good sense and judgement, being resourceful, and having discretion. They also state the importance of having the ability and confidence to make decisions quickly but not with haste. These qualities and mindsets go hand in hand with successful business leadership and ownership.
Owning and running a business takes courage. The Stoics believe that courage is built off endurance, bravery and mindfulness. These are vital virtues to uphold for any business leader, and adopting the Stoic philosophy will help to achieve these values. It’s one thing to have the wisdom to make a sometimes difficult decision, but it’s the courage that allows you to act upon it.
The success of every other value relies on balance. Temperance is the ability to moderate yourself and it’s the value which inspired Philosopher Aristotle’ famous metaphor the ‘Golden Mean’. For example, on one end of courage’s spectrum is cowardice, on the other recklessness. Courage is the ‘Golden Mean’ between two extremes, and Stoics promote applying this value to all things.
Stoicism believes that temperance consists of self-control, modesty and discipline. These values are not only crucial for business leaders running a company, but for all members of a business. A good work ethic that is balanced out, and the self-control to be disciplined in your work is vital to the success of a business.
“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.”