The Surprising Benefits of Self-Imposed Hardship

The Shocking Advantages of Self-Imposed Hardship


Wikicommons/public domain

Diogenes in his jar, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860).

Supply: Wikicommons/public area

After being exiled from his native Sinope for having defaced its coinage, Diogenes the Cynic moved to Athens, took up the lifetime of a beggar, and made it his mission to metaphorically deface the coinage of customized and conference—which, he maintained, was the false forex of morality.

Diogenes disdained the necessity for standard shelter and different corrupting “dainties” and selected as a substitute to dwell in a storage jar and survive on a weight loss program of chickpeas and lupins. He used to beg for the naked requirements, together with from statues—saying that he was thereby practising for rejection. He held that human beings had a lot to study from the simplicity and artlessness of canine, which, not like human beings, had not “sophisticated each easy present of the gods.” The time period “Cynic” probably derives from the Greek for “dog-like,” kynikos.

Within the deep winter, Diogenes would strip bare and embrace bronze statues. Someday, upon seeing this, a Spartan requested him whether or not he was chilly. When he mentioned that he was not, the Spartan replied, “Nicely, then, what’s so spectacular about what you’re doing?”

Like their ancestors the Cynics, and just like the Spartans, the Stoics drastically valued hardship, albeit it on a extra modest or reasonable scale. We must always, they mentioned, routinely follow poverty or put ourselves via gentle hardship, and this for a number of causes.

First, to find what we will do with out, and cut back our concern of shedding this stuff. In his Letters, Seneca advises Lucilius: “Set your self a interval of some days during which you may be content material with very small quantities of meals, and the most affordable sorts, and with coarse clothes, and say to your self, ‘Is that this what I used to be afraid of?’”

Second, to be reminded that easy issues, akin to bread and olive oil, or evening’s sleep, may be simply as pleasurable and worthwhile as any nice banquet, and thus that pleasure is each simply out there and extremely transferable.

Third, to raised replicate upon our true targets, or to work in direction of them. “If you wish to have time on your thoughts,” says Seneca, “you have to both be poor or resemble the poor… One can not research with out frugality, and frugality is simply voluntary poverty.”

Listed below are six extra advantages of self-imposed hardship, in accordance with the Stoics:

  • To extend our appreciation and delight of the issues that we usually get pleasure from.
  • To interrupt from our regular routine, and reinvigorate our minds whereas exercising and reinforcing our freedom.
  • To be ready for future hardship, which, except we’re abruptly struck useless, is all however a certainty.
  • To be satisfied that the better a part of our struggling lies not in reality however in our perspective in direction of it.
  • To practise self-discipline, or check our Stoicism.
  • To empathize with much less lucky folks, and other people from the previous.

As well as, self-imposed poverty and hardship also can have extra mundane advantages, akin to dropping pounds, or saving time or cash.

Lastly, all the explanations thus far enumerated are themselves a supply of satisfaction, and pleasure of a distinct form. “Don’t” says Marcus Aurelius, “lament misfortune. As an alternative, rejoice that you’re form of one who can bear misfortune with out letting it upset you.”

Seneca does us the favour of placing self-imposed hardship into radical perspective when he says: “Armies have endured being disadvantaged of every little thing for an additional particular person’s domination, so who will hesitate to place up with poverty when the purpose is to liberate the thoughts from suits of insanity?”

Neel Burton is creator of Stoic Tales.


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