sto·i·cism

/ˈstōəˌsizəm/

An ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The philosophy asserts that virtue (meaning, chiefly, the four cardinal virtues of self-control, courage, justice and wisdom) is happiness, and it is our perceptions of things – rather than the things themselves – that cause most of our trouble.

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

Continuing on my focus on the new Man Code: Stoicism, I’d like to explain a bit more about this way of behaving. 

The Disciplines:

As described in Holiday and Hanselman’s book, The ancient stoic focused on 3 disciplines:

  1. Perception
  2. Action
  3. Will

Having a clear understanding of the world around us and the people we interact with provides mental clarity. Perception, in this sense, plays a big part in EQ (emotional intelligence.)

Byron Katie talks about this in her work – when you feel angry or hurt, ask yourself:

  • Is what I believe about this situation or this person true? For example, if you feel like you are a fraud. Ask yourself – is it true that you don’t know what you are doing. 
  • What proof do you have that this is true? Did you really screw up? 
  • Could it be possible that the opposite was true? Maybe you are actually skilled at this.

Checking your perceptions of yourself or others in situations – in this way, can be immensely clarifying.

Once you are more clear, you can properly direct your actions.

Focusing on action keeps us honest and authentic, as actions speak louder than words, and beliefs without actions are empty. Acting in accordance with our fundamental beliefs and personal mission is the key to being authentic and effective. Having a core set of beliefs helps to guide the right action and requires clarity of one’s sense of purpose, an understanding of which has been shown to extend one’s life expectancy. 

But some things are outside of our control.

Will is all about understanding what we can control and our place in the world.

Be willing to accept the things you can control and those you can’t.

This perspective keeps us humble, fostering acceptance and resilience.

According to stoicism, ultimately what comes from mastering these disciplines of perception, action, and will is nothing less than the joy that comes with living authentically, in line with one’s personal vision and in control of one’s responses to whatever life throws at you.

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Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has been a consultant with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on national television, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He was most recently National Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of a national medical practice, but is available to consult with individual patients interested in a personalized approach to optimal performance and health.