What Stoicism Can Teach You About Election Day 2020

All things are the same, familiar in experience, and ephemeral in time, and worthless in matter. Everything now is just as it was in the time of those whom we have buried.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Today, I can’t help but think back to when the pandemic first started in March.

Back when it felt like we were in some sort of simulated reality.

My roommate Noah and I were talking about how life didn’t seem real. We talked about how we would love to fast forward time and see what the world would be like in a few months. And we talked about what loomed in the distant horizon. That day that was so far away that was impossible to imagine. That day that we couldn’t even comprehend because we couldn’t even comprehend the present day. And that day we’ve all thought about and talked about and ruminated over since March. Would it ever really happen?

Well, it’s finally here. Election day.

People talk about this election being the most important election of our lifetime, and while this might be true, it’s helpful to remember that there have been countless important elections before this one. I’m not trying to discredit the importance of today, but I do want to put into perspective: life will move on.

When I first decided to start this 30 Day blogging challenge in October, I knew that it would overlap with the election. I actually thought about waiting until after election day to give myself some more time to prepare. But I knew I couldn’t allow outside events to dictate what I wanted to do with my time. And after thinking about it a little bit more, I realized there’s no better time to start than now.

I’ve also thought about disregarding the election or politics for my blog. What could I add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said?

But that also didn’t sit right with me. So I wrote about voting a couple weeks ago (yes, here is one final reminder to get out and exercise your right to VOTE!) and now I’m writing this.

More than any other night this year, I think it’s important that we try to keep level heads tonight, regardless of the outcome. And there’s no better teacher for this mindset than the ancient Stoics.

What is Stoicism?

In the past couple of months, I’ve found myself enthralled in Stoicism, an ancient Greek school of philosophy, best known for its emotionless nature. However, it’s largely misunderstood. If you’re not familiar, Ryan Holliday from the Daily Stoic explains what Stoicism is the best:

It would be hard to find a word that dealt a greater injustice at the hands of the English language than “Stoic.” In its rightful place, Stoicism is a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life, rather than some esoteric field of academic inquiry.

Certainly, many of history’s great minds not only understood Stoicism for what it truly is, they sought it out: George Washington, Walt Whitman, Frederick the Great, Eugène Delacroix, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson, Matthew Arnold, Ambrose Bierce, Theodore Roosevelt, William Alexander Percy, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Each read, studied, quoted, or admired the Stoics.

Stoicism can be helpful in times of triumph and in times of defeat. Use the framework during both.

How to think like a Stoic on Election Day

I learned about Stoicism a few years ago and a couple months ago, I finally downloaded a copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (one of the cornerstone books of Stoicism that’s even quoted on my home page). The book is essentially the diary of Marcus Aurelius, who was Roman emperor from 161-180 and also considered the last great Roman emperor before the fall of the empire (largely a result of his son Commodus). Some people think that Meditations is a compilation of directives for his son; others think they are simply notes to himself, but either way you look at it, it’s filled with gems of wisdom.

Be cheerful also, and seek not external help nor the tranquility which others give. A man must stand erect, not be kept erect by others.

Marcus Aurelius, Mediations

The quote above is a reminder that we should not determine our spirits by outside events. We must stay calm on both sides of the extreme: whether it’s the “tranquility others give” or the exact opposite of anger and despair.

In a big way, I wrote this blog selfishly as a reminder to myself: stay calm, steer away from the minute-to-minute following of the news, have a plan for the worst case scenario, remember that tomorrow will be another day, and enjoy yourself.

No one can predict what’s going to happen tonight, so let the night unfold and keep your emotions in check. Most importantly, remember that you can only control what you can control. Lastly, take a lesson from the Stoics and learn how to mentally prepare for the results of election night:

When the next president takes office on January 20th, where will you be? What is the worst thing that could possibly happen? In your worst nightmares, what do you envision will change in your life with your candidate’s opponent in the oval office? Can you control this change? Yes or no, don’t worry about it. True happiness comes from enjoying the present and living a noble life, regardless of what the future may hold.

Cheers to standing strong during times of uncertainty,


This was day 22 of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge!

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Published by Jonah Baer

Florida State student | Memphis, TN native

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