Excessive worry about the future causes a very undesirable experience called: anxiety. This could be short term anxiety during the day because of something you’ve planned in the evening, or it could be long term anxiety about a future that is completely uncertain and out of our control. The Stoics had a trick to end this anxiety called Amor Fati.
The Latin phrase “Amor Fati” means “Loving your fate”. There is tremendous power if you are able to embrace whatever happens. This is what German philosopher Nietzsche – although he rejected Stoicism – wrote about Amor Fati and I quote:
“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it — all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity — , but to love it…”Friedrich Nietzsche
Let’s imagine there are two versions of yourself. The anxious you and the Stoic you. You work in a company that recently announced that because of a reorganization a great number of its employees will be laid off. You heard the news one day after visiting your doctor who told you that you might suffer from a chronic illness. Also, the relationship with your partner isn’t going well at all.
The obstacles that have appeared in your life are of such significance that the chances are high that your life will drastically change. This change is what worries the anxious version of yourself the most. Especially because the human mind tends to judge change within a spectrum of two polar opposites: desire and aversion. When life changes into a desirable position, you’ll experience great pleasure. In most cases, people become infatuated and reside on the proverbial ‘pink cloud’ when they experience a radical life-change like winning the lottery. But when life changes into a position you averse – like losing a loved one or ending up in prison – you’ll experience great pain.
Either way: life goes on. And no matter where you end up, there will always be one thing that you have to work with, which is the present moment.
From the story I told, we could easily say that your life is changing into a direction that you averse. The ‘anxious you’ starts worrying and worrying and keeps you up at night to worry some more. Will I be laid off? And if so, what am I supposed to do next? And what if my chronic illness hinders me to find another job? What if I can’t pay my mortgage anymore? What if my partner leaves me?
Well, some of these questions are up to you and others are not. The underlying truth is that – at the end of the day – your future is beyond your control. And that’s exactly the problem of the anxious you: it’s a control freak. Control freaks simply cannot handle insecurity. Therefore, they generate anxiety because the anxious mind cannot figure out what the future will bring but keeps trying anyway.
The Stoic, however, has a different approach. The Stoic fully embrace fate no matter what. Amor Fati doesn’t mean that you sit on your ass all day and let life passing by. It means that you make the best of every moment. It means that you work towards your goals, give them everything, but, when the results turn out to be different than expected, fully embrace and accept your fate.
If you keep your job: great! If you get laid off: make the best out of it! Who knows what opportunities will present themselves to you. If you turn out to be healthy: great! If you turn out to be chronically ill: make the best out of it! Wouldn’t it be a challenge to make your life worth living despite the fact you’re sick? Many people do. And they are humanity’s greatest inspirations. So, your partner stays by your side? Great. Does your partner leave you? Well, good riddance. You’re now able to focus on yourself and experience things like personal growth, deep introspection and the joy of solitude. And who knows: a more suitable person might appear in your life, along the way.
Amor Fati puts you in a position in which you simply can’t go wrong. And when things can’t go wrong, there’s nothing to worry about. When there’s nothing to worry about you don’t let anxiety waste your life’s energy and make you feel miserable.
Embrace your destiny – not matter what – and you’ll have nothing to fear. That’s the Stoic anxiety hack.
The sun is shining. Enjoy life.