The Stoic Benefits of Minimalism
We should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”– Epictetus, Enchiridion
Minimalism is a journey. Filled with different stages along the way. The light bulb phase, where the realization that less is more works. The purging phase, where we let go of what we don’t need. The reflective stage, on how we got into this consumerist mess and can avoid going back. And as I have come to learn, the Stoic phase. If only because it is natural that some emotional connections get suppressed as you move along your minimalist journey. Because on this journey we take the steps to:
- Reduce emotional attachment to material things and let them go.
- Prioritize our time and energy by focusing on the essentials.
- Avoid unhealthy attachments to toxic people, unhealthy habits, and joyless items.
As you progress along all three transformations, you start to see things with a new lens. A more measured and nuanced perspective gets applied to the inputs that life can throw at you. You begin to replace dramatic and critical responses with clear and objective feedback. Doing so, allows us to incorporate wholistic and informed opinions in our thinking especially in a time where we hash out disagreements over social media and in the comment sections. This is a kind of slow approach that takes into consideration the past, present and future; along with all of the affected parts of a system.
It coincides that Stoicism is a great practice for developing such skills and Minimalism is a jump start towards being a Stoic. Minimalism removes distractions and focuses us on what matters. Especially, in how we manage our emotions towards people and things. Emotions on their own can be neither useful or useless, but they can be informative. Stoicism and Minimalism as a practice can help us move past the immediate reactions from a feeling and look at the deeper lesson within them. They act like car brakes, stopping us before we let our highs get too high or are lows too low.
Stoicism has many merits. I learned of the Stoics in my Philosophy and History classes in college. Minimalism reconnected me to it, and helped to focus mental cycles and emotional output into productive expressions. Anyone can start to adopt Stoic principles with this same base of understanding. Such as detaching from negative and destructive emotions. Passions that put us in reactive positions and clouds our judgement. Stoicism helps us place rational and logical thinking ahead of emotional decision making.
This approach is especially useful if you are pursuing the type of complex ideation that results in game changing ideas. But like all ideologies, Stoicism can also become its own rabbit hole of thinking. A gravitational effect that can pull you into a well of detachment where you may even feel joy but not show it. So, you have to embrace it with careful balance.
The Stoic transition is in a way, the fourth step in the Minimalist journey I listed at the beginning. You start to define what is important to you after subtracting and optimizing. The people, places, and activities that are meaningful. Interests that deserve your prioritization and energy. In time you experience things from a sort of 3rd party observer perspective. Experiencing but not emoting at every opportunity. A crystal clear and balanced engagement with the facts of whatever is in front of you.
If you are the type of person that wants to be proactive and dive deep into productive pursuits; you can not get there by wasting valuable emotional energy reacting to every single stimulus. We can all leverage a more stoic engagement with life. Listening and taking in information before reacting. Try instead to Be Present. To experience the feelings, and let your impartial & calm self, process and respond.