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Stoicism Philosophy For Health and Fitness

What are the common characteristics of a person who is successful in their health and fitness goals?

From my standpoint within a gym environment I will see a lot of different people, a lot of different personalities and a lot of different characteristics. Some of the different people within that gym environment will be successful in achieving their goals and much more important than that they maintain their success and continue to progress. Some people m

ay achieve some success but it will soon dwindle, some will eb and flow and some you only see for a couple of weeks twice a year.

Now we can label some of the characteristics of those who are successful for the long term;

  • Disciplined

  • Dedicated

  • Routined

  • Planned

  • Knowledgeable or…

  • Willing to learn

  • Patient

  • Self Aware

  • Proactive

  • Take Ownership

  • Long Term Mindset

You can tell the people who are or will do well from observing their behaviours and holding conversations with them. To be honest it doesn’t take long to be able to listen to and watch someone over a couple of weeks to see if they will succeed now, soon or in the future.

Similarly, we can develop a list of the characteristics that those who are likely to see short lived success or no success may possess;

  • Lead by Motivation

  • Lack of Routine

  • Lack of Knowledge

  • Unwilling To Listen and Learn

  • Fixed Mindset

  • Short Term Mindset

  • Reactive

  • No Plan

  • Plays The Victim

I just want to make the point that these are some of the characteristics a successful or unsuccessful person may possess. They may or may not possess them all but the more characteristics you can have in the first column the more likely you will be able to achieve long term success. The more characteristics you share with the second column the more they will hinder your success.

Where does Stoicism come into this?

When you google ‘Stoicism Definition’ you get - ‘the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.’

Personally I don’t think such a definition does it justice. I then continue to look at further definitions and words such as emotionless, lack of feeling or willingly accepting the inevitable come forward. From practicing this philosophy to the best of my ability and understanding I believe these definitions do not tell the whole story.

From trying to implement this philosophy into my life for the past 6 months I am going to give my own description of what I believe Stoicism to be.

Stoicism is the philosophy that enables you to be the most effective version of yourself that you can be. Defining success as being able to serve the world and people in it to the best of your abilities through the thoughts you have and the actions you take.

It does so through a few simple points of guidance. Firstly that you are only truly in control of two things in your life, your actions and your thoughts, everything else is out of your control, you may be able to influence an event or others through your thoughts and actions but ultimately you cannot control them. Therefore you have to willingly accept these things that are out of your control. This doesn’t mean you have to willingly accept and do nothing about it, it means that you have to accept what has happened and that you can choose your reaction. You are in control of your thoughts and actions. You cannot blame external events for where you currently are in life. You are where you are because of how you reacted to these events and situations, not because of them.

Because you are not in control of external events you would be a fool to not first analyse the event objectively before reacting. By this we mean see things as they truly are, see the facts and figures and not by your subjection and first emotion. Seeing the world objectively will allow you to take time in your response and reaction. Base your thoughts and actions on good judgement and reason not on emotions and first opinion.

This doesn’t mean that you are without emotion or feelings, it just means that you are in control of your response to it. Some may think ‘if you are sad then you are sad, how can you control that?’ You don’t control the emotion itself you control the reaction to it. Therefore you are in control of your emotions.

You have to be able to endure hardship of external events no matter how awful and potentially distressing they are because you know that maintaining control of your thoughts and actions will help you keep a sound mind and eventually attain your success. You have to hold this dear to your heart, no one or event can ever take away your ability to control your thoughts and actions no matter how disastrous the situation. So long as you have your thoughts and actions you can achieve your success. It may take a long time but doing the right thing day in day out no matter the hardship will help you to lead a successful life. This also means you cannot afford to throw away the two things you are truly in your control.

From this definition of Stoicism we can see certain characteristics of those who follow the philosophy.

  • Proactive (what can I do)

  • Patient (not reacting to initial emotions)

  • Disciplined (having to check yourself and be objective)

  • Self Aware (understanding your feelings and emotions)

  • Taking Ownership (your reaction to events, situations, feelings and emotions)

  • Long Term Mindset (doing what is right despite external influences)

I am sure you can see the link between the philosophy and the success of your health and fitness goals.

Firstly accepting your current health and fitness levels are such because of your thoughts and actions and nothing else. You are taking ownership. Now that you have taken ownership you know that your thoughts and actions from here on out will be the deciding factor in your long term success or failure. This will enable you to look at the first list of characteristics and try to implement strategies and principles into your life to optimise your success. (Taking Ownership, Being Proactive, Willing To Learn)

Secondly, not reacting to your initial emotions will allow you to stop and decide objectively what the best course of action is to take. This will reduce emotional eating and succumbing to the ‘f*** it’ attitude. Helping you to maintain discipline. (Disciplined, Self Aware, Patient)

Thirdly, understanding sometimes you will have to do the things you don’t want to do in order to achieve your success. I must note that with practicing stoicism and developing a long term mindset these choices become the ones you want to take. When you develop a long term mindset it doesn’t become a struggle to do what is right, you relish the choice because you know or have witnessed its benefit. E.g. Consistently getting up to go to the gym at 6am or staying in bed for another hour or two? That choice to get up and get at it may be hard for some but much easier for others. (Long Term Mindset, Taking Ownership, Being Proactive, Routine)

This philosophy has more to offer than my brief summary and link to fitness. If you wish to learn more about Stoicism then my suggestion is to read Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic. From reading and implementing this philosophy into my life i have seen great advances forward in more than just fitness. My mental strength and fortitude has vastly improved, because I have purpose and direction I have created more contentment and happiness in my life and the direction I wish to pursue. It has also enabled me to slow down and see things as they are and attempt to not see them through my sometimes biased and reactive eyes, leaving me to react with good judgement and reason. I genuinely believe that implementing Stoicism into your life can help you to achieve success and happiness not only in your health and fitness but your entire life too.

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