Philosophy 101: Tips for a Better Life
George Eliot once said that “it’s never too late to be who you might have been”. The time for self- growth and self-improvement begins the moment you decide it does. The tricky part of all this however, can be where to start? Identifying the changes we want to make within ourselves can be just as hard as making those changes happen.
This line of thinking can end up being completely daunting and set off a mini existential crisis instead of actually helping. But the good news is that you do not have to start this journey alone, in fact you have thousands of years’ worth of thinking to sift through, done by the very people whose job it is to think about the ‘why’ of it all; philosophers. The only thing is, that philosophy is one of the oldest subjects in the world, stretching all the way back to the late 7th century. In other words….that’s a whole lot of reading.
So, to make your life easier, and to get you one step closer to a better you, we have complied a list of some of the best life tips, from some of the world’s most renowned philosophers.
For When You Feel Frustrated
Learning to deal with our frustrations better would be a big win in our book, and so for this most difficult of emotions, we turn to the words of Seneca. Seneca was a Stoic philosopher raised in Rome who sees the main cause of frustration as our own optimism. He argued that we as human beings are often too optimistic about life, thinking that our plans will almost always go exactly as we planned them. The frustration ultimately arises when this does not happen.
Seneca advises that we should all manage our expectations for “nothing whether public or private is stable; the destinies of men, no less than those of cities, are in a whirl”. Ultimately, we will become less frustrated once we make peace with, and fully embrace the unpredictable and fast changing nature of life.
For When You Feel Unpopular
If anyone knows about feeling unpopular, it's Socrates, the famed philosopher who was literally condemned to death by the people of Athens because they did not agree with what he had to say. Yet even with all this in mind, Socrates was still able to philosophise a way for himself to feel confident.
Essentially, Socrates argues that what is popular is not necessarily, what is right. He spoke of the ‘flock mentality’ and reminds us all to keep in mind that people will often go with the flow to avoid being pointed to and deemed an outcast. Socrates urges us to think critically through our feelings of unpopularity, and encourages us to see that often, these claims we make on ourselves are entirely unfounded.
We cannot compare ourselves to what is popular at the time if what is popular is illogical. In his own words we should “welcome the praise of the one qualified person. But not those of the general public”.
On Facing Difficulties
This is a big one, but never fear, Nietzche has some words of wisdom to share. This might be a tough pill to swallow, but Nietzche advises that instead of attempting to avoid difficulties in life, and pain in general, we must face the fact that it is an inevitable part of life, and one that could actually bring you one step closer to peace.
Nietzche asks that instead of thinking of pleasure and pain as separate oppositions, “what if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other?”. It seems as though the most fulfilling things we do in life, will always come with a side of pain and displeasure. The sooner we free ourselves from our fear of challenges, the closer we come to achieving the things we want.