Do you have a personal philosophy of life? Or a business philosophy? What principles will guide your actions in 2016?
A Guide to the Good Life is an outstanding book for those seeking to shore up their principles and objectives for the coming year — and well beyond.
A BETTER AND HAPPIER YOU
One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives.
Do not confuse Stoicism with a lack of joy or excitement. “Stoicism, understood properly, is a cure for a disease. The disease in question is the anxiety, grief, fear, and various other negative emotions that plague humans and prevent them from experiencing a joyful existence.” A Guide to the Good Life
Irvine thus offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life. As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers.
Readers learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune. We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have.
Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own lives. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.
THE STOIC WORKPLACE
The stoic workplace is not one where workers walk around with blank or grim expressions; rather, it is a principled one, where employees’ actions are aligned with companies’ philosophies.
A Guide to the Good Life contains a number of tools management and employees can use to increase happiness and productivity:
- Identifying and setting goals
- Dealing with setbacks
- Handling success; ironically, this is often challenging
- Managing conflict
- Staying focused
- Cultivating gratitude
- Working through anger, boredom, or frustration
- Spotting troublemakers or con men
The book provides examples and quotes on all the foregoing challenges. For instance, many people chronically view their stead in life in a “glass is half full” way — always taking a negative view of what they have. This can create tension and unhappiness in our personal lives and in the workplace.
Stoic thinking, however, teaches us to understand and appreciate that we have a glass to drink from in the first instance. Thus, “after expressing one’s appreciation that his glass is half full rather than being completely empty, one can go on to express his delight in even having a glass: It could, after all, have been broken or stolen.”
Stoic thinking also helps to identify bad actors — such as sociopaths and narcissists. As explained here and here, these types tend to use flattery as a means to disarm and deceive their victims. The Stoic, however, knows that “it is better to fall in with crows than with flatterers; for in the one case you are devoured when dead, in the other case while alive.”
“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.” Marcus Aurelius.