Stoicism is a school of philosophy that started about 300 BC and flourished in Greece and Rome for about 600 years. The basic premise is found in this quote by one of the more prominent stoic philosophers: Epictetus: “The essence of philosophy is that a man [or a woman] should so live that his [or her] happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things.”
But if happiness and peace don’t come from external things what do they come from? The Stoics believed that happiness and peace could only be found through our own choices, our voluntary behavior.
However, finding happiness and peace through one’s own behavior is a practice—not an achievement. With a practice you will have good days, and days not so good, but you keep practicing because the practice IS the goal.
How is it done? By focusing on doing your best at whatever you are doing. It doesn’t matter if you are sweeping the floor or doing heart surgery; to achieve happiness and peace, do it the best you can—be completely focused on it.
People who practice this process find they are often entering “the zone” or “achieving flow.” In effect they are enjoying the special state of mind that we call happiness. And this state of mind comes from being so focused on doing something, focused with all our hearts and minds, that we actually forget about ourselves, about our regrets of the past, or our fears of the future, or what other people might be thinking about us. We seek excellence for the pure sake of doing—whatever we are doing—the very best we can do it.
Through consistent practice we soon learn that happiness and peace are always within our reach. We have stopped looking for them in all the wrong places, and instead we produce them by our own choices and actions.
“The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.” ~Marcus Aurelius