Monday, March 4, 2019

Life Is Supposed to Be Challenging – A Stoic Mindset for Perseverance

“Difficulties show a person’s character. So when a challenge confronts you, remember that God is matching you with a younger sparring partner, as would a physical trainer. Why? Becoming an Olympian takes sweat! I think no one has a better challenge than yours, if only you would use it like an athlete would that younger sparring partner.” – Epictetus

We’re quick to complain about a situation.
But who said it’s going to be fair? Who said life should be easy?
No one. That’s what we’re here for! We’re meant for this. It’s how we get better. It’s how we learn to endure and persevere. It’s how we grow into a mature human being.

"What would have become of Hercules, do you think, if there had been no lion, hydra, stag or boar—and no savage criminals to rid the world of? What would he have done in the absence of such challenges?”

This Hercules story Epictetus makes is worth repeating. He goes on: “Obviously he would have just rolled over in bed and gone back to sleep. So by snoring his life away in luxury and comfort he never would have developed into the mighty Hercules. And even if he had, what good would it have done him? What would have been the use of those arms, that physique, and that noble soul, without crises or conditions to stir him into action?"

Don’t wish for life to be hard, but neither wish for it to be easier when it gets tough. Rather wish for the strength to deal with it. It’s an opportunity for growth. It’s the younger sparring partner who’s challenging you. He’s just testing you.

The question is: What do you do with the challenge? Are you the one who accepts it and is ready to tackle it head-on? Or are you the one who throws in the towel after the first hook to the chin?
This is what we’re here for, the Stoics say. Life is supposed to be hard. It’s even unfortunate if you don’t have to face these challenges. Hear out Seneca: “I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”

That’s why the Stoics were engaged in life. They knew that’s where we grow, not in the ivory towers.
Next time you’re facing a tough situation, accept it as a chance for growth. Don’t worry about it. You can only grow. Maybe it’s a formative experience you’ll be grateful for later.

The question is not if life will throw some punches at you, but when.
How will YOU respond to it?
Will you respond in a growth-oriented and positive way—ready to tackle it? Or will you respond like a victim—complaining and throwing in the towel at the first indication of difficulty?
Do you see it as a chance to learn and get stronger? Or do you get frustrated and start crying?

When life gets tough, remind yourself it’s what you’re here for. It’ll make you stronger.

This guest post has been contributed by Jonas Salzgeber, the author of The Little Book of Stoicism:
Jonas Salzgeber is an author and writes for a small army of remarkable people at On his quest to be the best he can be he stumbled upon Stoicism – and got hooked. At the core of this applicable philosophy lies the goal of leading a happy life even (especially) in the face of adversity.
His practical rather than academic writing style helps people with the most important step: to put the wisdom from book page to action. Jonas shares Stoic strategies so people gain back their confidence and feel ready to deal effectively with whatever life throws at them.


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