A Stoic’s Take on How to Be Functional in a Chaotic World


I started reading seriously about stoicism around 2013, and began applying it to my life. Last year, it really gelled.

Stoicism has made me a much more functional person, able to complete tasks and take pleasure in my day-to-day life. Some people refer to this as “adulting.” I mostly successfully navigate all my different functions: wife, mother, business owner, friend and family member.

Here are the key tenets I use every day, taken from my reading of stoicism, to be as functional as possible:

  • I think about how to be the best me I can be, rather than compare myself to others
  • I control what I can control, and I let the rest go
  •  I think about worst case scenarios–loved ones being gone, losing our home–when the day-to-day seems overwhelming. This helps put into perspective how great my life IS at this particular moment.

Our World is Chaotic and Life Can Be Hard

There are obviously real issues in our time like global warming, student debt and income inequality.  These are complex institutional issues largely out of one individual’s control, that need to change via legislation. We can and should make our voices heard through action–calling our legislators, donating money to campaigns if we can and volunteering. That is the only clear path to real institutional change.

So, yes. These major issues cause stress. But that doesn’t mean burnout or unhappiness are the end result. There are things we can do as individuals to adapt to our environment.

Stoicism was invented by ancient Greek philosophers, who lived during a pretty terrible time. Disease was prevalent and mortality rates weren’t great. Political instability was a given. The only real belief system was a fatalistic religion that consisted of gods and goddesses treating humans like play things.

Stoicism was developed to help people in ancient Greece and later Rome deal with their hectic, chaotic world. Former slave Epictetus famously taught his followers that it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

How does this apply today? Well, we can use stoic concepts to help us control what we CAN control, and let go of what we can’t control.

Here are my stoic tips for a functional life:

  • Strive to be your best self. Use goals to keep yourself accountable.
  • Don’t waste time worrying about things you can’t control.
  • Work with others to produce action, and try to make needed change.
  •  Don’t compare yourself to others. Not your parents, not your friends and certainly not celebrities.
  • Create good habits to help you be your best self. The best technique I’ve seen is to know your tendency and use it.

What are your tips for being functional? How do you “adult”? 



Filed under Productivity, stoicism

3 responses to “A Stoic’s Take on How to Be Functional in a Chaotic World

  1. A wonderful blog post. Thank you.

  2. hmmm… I think I’m in the middle of figuring out how to “be” vs. “do” I went through the tendencies training on-line and it was an eye-opener! I don’t have great practices in place yet, and feel like a giant sponge. Mostly, I’m trying to be gentle with myself and working on letting go of all the outside noise that I need to be aware of, but not get sucked into a maelstrom.

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