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Some of you may have heard about Stoicism and wondered what’s it all about. So, let’s break down Stoicism to find out more. Stoicism is a philosophy that emphasises the development of a strong and rational mind, the importance of accepting what is beyond our control, and the cultivation of inner peace and tranquility. The Stoics believed that individuals could live in harmony with the universe by following the principles of wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation, and by using reason to guide their thoughts and actions.

Despite being an ancient philosophy, Stoicism continues to have a significant impact and influence on contemporary thought and practices.

Robert Sudha Hamilton
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Understanding & Developing Stoic Abilities

OK, developing a strong and rational mind sounds like a good idea. How do we do that? Well, it takes time and a commitment to the process. We live in an instant results age and sticking to your guns when things are going against you is no easy ask. You need to remember that when Stoicism was invented life was often short and brutal. Guys like Marcus Aurelius were killing and being killed by blokes with swords. So, when Marcus Aurelius talks about tough times, he means really bad shit. When he mentions accepting both the good and bad that life offers up, this isn’t some lightweight word fest, as we in the modern age are accustomed to.

Stoics really bite down and suck up the bad feelings. Stoics surrender to the stuff they cannot change and use their heads to cultivate inner peace and tranquility.

Developing a strong and rational mind is not easy. It takes practice and a commitment to it.

Illustrating Stoicism

Here is an example, your partner’s father is a real arsehole. You have attempted to talk about it with him but he wont give you the time of day. The relationship with your wife/husband is important to you. You can’t take the old boy out, because you could end up in prison for the rest of your life and your partner wouldn’t be happy about that. You limit your contact with him, but there are times when extended family cannot be avoided. Now, you can spend countless hours bitching and moaning about him to whoever will listen to you or you can suck it up and move on. Stoics develop self-control on this basis.

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Now, self-control and moderation can sound dead boring to some in this day and age, but have a think about it. The more you indulge in complaining and whining about what an arsehole this guy is – the more you are stirring up all the negative emotions inside you. They run around kicking up a chemical storm in your guts. This has a detrimental effect on your health and clouds your judgement.

People do stupid things on the back of headf***ing about bad s*** in their lives.

Let’s break down Stoicism to find out more. On the golf course, when your ball is in the merde, this can have a serious impact on your ability to execute a golf shot. If you get all riled up and stuff – those chemicals in your guts play havoc with your fine motor skills. Staying calm in golf is essential to playing good golf and scoring well. Inner peace is no airy fairy concept in golf, it is all too bloody real, or the consequences of not having it are at any rate. It pays to give yourself a little talking to and to take plenty of calming deep breaths when under the pump.

Do not allow yourself to become lost to displays of negative emotions. Once you let go on that slippery slope say goodbye to success in golf.

Take Your Game & Life Back

Stoicism is a very real mental strategy for life and for golf. Finding focus on the fairway and in the rough is paramount to any chance of winning in golf. Learning to rediscover your calm and composure via Stoicism is a life saver. It takes practice and commitment to get better at it. These are not empty words; you have to really apply yourself. Think about it, once you take your world inside you, you are free from the effects of arseholes and bad breaks.

If you live on the surface and your life happens out there, you are powerless. You are a victim of circumstances. What would you rather be?

Self-control and moderation are typically characteristics associated with older individuals. This is where we get the association between age and wisdom. However, not all old folk are wise, only those who have learned the Stoic method really get it. When we are younger it seems natural to think that life is out there and you have to go and get it. In that process it is important to remember not to give away all your power. Life is full of ups and downs or it appears to be that way. For example, say you apply for a job that you think that you really want. You are successful and get the job, suddenly you are very happy because of your apparent success. Then, your boss turns out to be, yes, you guessed it, an arsehole. You are no longer so happy, in fact, it makes you unhappy. Sometime later, you meet a workmate who you start going out with and marry. Happiness returns. You can see how life, a series of events, can be viewed as ups and downs. These are our emotional responses to events happening within our lives. Stoicism teaches us that we are not our feelings. By that, I mean, we are not only our feelings. Feelings colour our lives but we cannot store all our faith in our emotional reactions to things and events.

A life based solely on actions taken to avoid bad feelings about things and one acting on going after feelings of pleasure or exhilaration will not achieve what one hopes in this regard, according to Stoicism. Stoics and Taoists both find a space within that is free from the vicissitudes of life’s events. The deeper the understanding of this the greater tranquility can be experienced.

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Human beings are driven by sensations in the main. We seek pleasurable sensations in our lives.

Love in its various guises can be a harbinger of pleasurable sensations. The nurturing warmth of maternal love for the child and for the mother. The blaze of sexual attraction and pleasure in romantic love. Love’s more gentle forms in friendship and mentorship. Feelings are often experienced as sensations, which is why we can become addicted to them in both pleasurable and painful forms. The feeling realm is powerful on this basis. Stoicism can be a tough ask because it seems to be a denial of these raw sensations in our lives. It takes great courage and mental strength to develop self-control over your emotions. In the beginning it feels like repression.

The prevalence of drug addiction in the lives of human beings is based on this desire for powerful sensations. Drugs and alcohol encourage us to feel sensations; indeed, they amplify responses within us. Sometimes, as with alcohol, it can be a warm sense of wellbeing and confidence. Many golfers drink alcohol whilst playing to boost their confidence and supress the anxieties the game can summon over playing crucial shots. Similarly, a lot of folk gain a sexual confidence from being inebriated and thus the widespread presence of alcohol at social gatherings. Stoicism demands a discipline that those addicted to drugs and alcohol cannot muster. You cannot be plying yourself with chemicals and have any Stoic power.

The true way of the warrior is not one of clouded senses.

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Golf, in my experience, demands clarity. Stoicism can help sustain that clarity for longer. A round of competitive golf can take nearly 5 hours. The Stoics believed that individuals could live in harmony with the universe by following the principles of wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation, and by using reason to guide their thoughts and actions. These qualities are called for on the golf course as well. We have seen how using the mind via self-control and moderation defends the golfer’s composure on-course. Avoid being a Friday golfer, hooting and carrying on. Avoid the emotional roller coaster if you want to master the game of golf for any time at all. It takes courage to play golf without the crutch of booze or drugs to hide behind. ‘Play it as it lies’ is the primary credo in the game of golf – and this is the justice factor that all golfers must adhere to without fear or favour. Integrity is golf’s point of difference with all other sports. Wisdom comes from playing the game as it ought to be played.

Wisdom is what’s left when we walk off the course after a round, whether we win or lose, play well or play shit.

Wisdom from The Stoic Golfer: Finding Inner Peace & Focus on the Fairway by Robert Sudha Hamilton Available at Amazon