Stoicism and the art of not giving a hoot

As cheesy as this will sound, I didn’t actively search for stoic philosophy, it found me.

If you’re a baby boomer reading this then the next part might be triggering but as a millennial I can honestly admit that I wasn’t fully prepared for the whirlwind that is adulting, entering the work force and just life in general.

Let me explain, when I got off that plane to arrive back home after graduating from my Master’s degree programme I walked off with my rose coloured glasses on, my CV in one hand and my inflated confidence in the other, I was going to take the energy industry by storm and in my mind I saw myself drowning in a myriad of job offers.

Record scratch to about 2 months later, having submitted numerous job applications, had interviews that seemed positive but then a few days later getting the “We regret to inform you…” emails I was beginning to doubt myself. I hope I’m not coming off entitled but what I’m trying to say is that I had this preconceived idea of what life after graduation would be like and life showed me otherwise.

By now I’m sure you’re wondering how stoicism fits in all of this, well, it was after receiving my umpteenth rejection email that I broke down and cried. I didn’t understand why things weren’t going my way, why the precious days that could’ve been spent getting work experience were rotting away and I even started to think back on my actions towards others wondering if this was some sort of karmic payback. Then as most millennials do, I decided to google motivational quotes to help me get out of the funk I was in and give me the courage to start another job application. The quote that immediately stood out for me was by the Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus and it read:

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Epictetus

This quote immediately put things into perspective for me. I realized becoming mature is realizing that there are certain things that are within my control which are my actions, words and perception and anything outside of that is external i.e outside of my control and as such should not worry or phase me. This which I would later come to realize after further descending into the rabbit hole of philosophy is the basic principle of stoicism.

So as I dived into my next job application I had a different perspective. I wrote down everything that was within and outside of my control with regards to the application which were:

Things within my control:

  • The quality of my CV and motivational letter and application
  • My preparedness for a possible interview i.e research and interview prep

Things outside my control:

  • Whether I get a call back for an interview
  • The outcome of the interview and whether I get the job

So this meant that I would give my all to the application itself and once I hit that “submit” button I had to put my big girl pants on and shift my anxiety from worrying about what the outcome would be and even when I didn’t get that specific job not take it so personally but rather as a learning experience that I can take into my next application and put more effort than before. Stoicism humbled me and broke down the expectations that I had not only with regards to my career but my expectations of others and of life. I mean even thinking about it now the audacity I had and still mostly have to expect things in life to go exactly my way is ludicrous!

By no stretch of the imagination is stoicism or any school of philosophy easy when it comes to putting it into practice on a daily basis. I have failed and will continue to fail till the day I die. Why? because I’m human after all and I forget which is why I call myself a practicing stoic, I believe its a never ending cycling of learning, practicing, failing and trying again.

I count myself extremely privileged as I got my current job as a contracted Energy Trader at NamPower after about 3-4 months. In comparison to others that I know my period of unemployment was very short as competition within the job industry is high and in some sectors opportunities are scarce. I hope that if there’s anyone out there reading this who is struggling with the job application process or even interpersonal relationships or life as a whole take away one thing, don’t stress yourself too much about external factors, outcomes or behaviours just focus on what you can control and give your all to it but loosen your reigns of expectations.

One way or another things will work out it’s just a little murky right now.

This was my introduction to the world of stoicism. This school of philosophy really fits my current stage in life and even though I’m currently a practicing stoic it would be naive of me to not delve into other schools and principles and see if my tastes change.

I will do more posts explaining the philosophy more and expressing areas that I don’t agree with. Either way hope you enjoyed this and if you have any suggestions of books I can read or schools of thought you find interesting feel free to let me know in the comments below.

As always don’t forget to Carpe all the diems.

Love,

Selma

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