Today is the first day of Stoic Week 2013! During this week those who wish to take part are tasked with living like a Stoic for the full 7 days and comparing their attitudes and behaviours before and after the experiment. By filling out a few quick surveys and then performing the exercises detailed in the Stoic Week handbook you can see for yourself how effective Stoic thought and practice can be in shifting your perception and improving your overall levels of stress and contentedness.
I encourage anyone interested to visit the official blog and get involved: http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/stoic-week-2013/
Tomorrow I’m giving a one hour talk on the practical application of Stoic Philosophy at the Rathmines Public Library in Dublin. I’ve never given a talk like this before, I’ve played a lot of music on stage and even acted in plays, but never have I had to perform this kind of speaking engagement. And I’ll be honest; I’m a little nervous!
My mind is filled with “what if’s” that appear to be terrible and fill me with fear!
* What if I run out of stuff to talk about 15 minutes into the hour?!
* What if I get a mental blank and can’t remember anything?!
* What if I am heckled by a smart aleck who knows more about the subject than I do?!
* What if no one shows up and I’m talking to an empty room?!
* What if lot’s of people show up and I have to talk in front of a huge crowd?!
That’s a lot to be worried about right there! One of my favourite Stoic exercises that I’ve adapted is the “So what if” challenge. So many of our fears revolve around future events yet to happen (something we of course cannot control) and start with the words “what if…”. A great way to achieve immediate relief is to simply add the word “so” to the beginning of the sentence. Let’s look at the examples:
* So what if I run out of stuff to talk about 15 minutes into the hour?! - If this happens, it happens and I’ll simply make do. Considering my interest is Stoicism I should have no problem talking for hours on the subject, however should this occur I will take questions from the audience to help keep things going. As well as this I will create prompt cards in order to ensure that I always have plenty to talk about.
* So what if I get a mental blank and can’t remember anything?! - If this occurs it is nothing to me as it’s not within my power. I would not actively choose to get a mental blank, but if it happens it happens. Prompt cards should help alleviate this potential problem.
* So what if I am heckled by a smart aleck who knows more about the subject than I do?! - If an audience member decides to make a nuisance of themselves they only embarrass themselves. Heckling is rude, inconsiderate to the other audience members and very un-Stoic behaviour indeed. If someone wishes to do this it only reflects badly on them, not on me. It’s up to me to keep my character and not engage in or exacerbate the heckling by becoming offended or lashing out.
* So what if no one shows up and I’m talking to an empty room?! - I made my efforts to promote the talk and in the end that’s all I can do. I cannot physically force anyone to come. The number of attendees is well outside of my control and therefore is a non issue. If there are only a few people I will perform my talk as though the place were packed.
* So what if lot’s of people show up and I have to talk in front of a huge crowd?! - Wasn’t this the desired outcome? Sure it can be intimidating talking in front of a large group, but in the end I’m only in charge of my performance on the night and not the number of people I’m performing to, big or small.
The exercise above uses a number of Stoic principles including determining what is and what is not without our control and using foresight to prepare well for any eventuality. Changing our “what if’s” to “so what if’s” works great for those future fears, and don’t forget to add your sentence or two of Stoic sense to help strengthen your argument.
I hope you’ll take part in Stoic Week 2013 and that those who do enjoy the experience. The talk tomorrow will be filmed and I will post a video of the talk later in the week so please keep an eye out for that!
Thanks for reading, all the best :)