4 Ways Modern Stoicism Can Help You as a Federal Employee

Imagine the mental and physical stamina of a soldier guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the middle of a downpour. They appear to be unfazed by the rain, carrying out their mission without hesitation. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could channel some of that discipline in our everyday lives?

Instead, we suffer through a grueling commute on the train or in the car, get straight to work, open our email and start putting out fires. Meetings, meetings and more meetings. By the time you know it, it’s past lunch. You eat at your desk, get back to work, then deal with grueling traffic home. Rinse and repeat until the weekend.

Sound familiar? What can we do to change this?

Try channeling your inner-stoic

Modern stoicism, a reboot of the ancient stoicism philosophy, is a practical philosophy that aims to help us live well. Stoics learn to focus on what is in their power. They ask, “What can we do to create a good life, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in? What is required of us as human beings and what prevents us from living up to our full potential?” Consistent stoic practice increases resilience, contentment, joy and gives the boldness necessary to tackle the tasks presented to us in life.

Here are four introductory stoic practices that may help you become a better worker:

1. Establish the morning ritual. Don’t dive into your emails when you get to work! Take some time to create your morning ritual. Get your cup of coffee or tea, and plan for the day’s adventure. What key items need to be knocked out today? What kind of day should you expect? Do everything you can to prepare for the day to come. Make sure that everyone is aware of your morning ritual, and block it off on your calendar to remind you and others. You can find 15 tips to establish a morning routine here.

2. Find solitude during the day. Just like your 401k, it’s time to pay yourself first! Carve out some time for self-reflection, eat lunch away from your desk, and enjoy the pleasures of the day. Pick a place at or near work that you can go to for a mental retreat, especially on those rough days. 15 minutes at a nearby coffee shop can do wonders!

3. Complete a day in review. A day in review is just that: a way for you to judge what went right and what went wrong in the day. Could you have approached that tense situation with a coworker differently? Should you have spoken up in that meeting? A quick 15-minute journal session in the evening allows you to reflect on the day’s events. This reflection gives your day closure and allows you to begin the next day refreshed.

4. Explore voluntary hardships. Voluntary hardships are “what-if” scenarios to test yourself and your team by challenging the status quo. It can be something like writing contracts manually, or not relying on someone for a task that you yourself struggle with. Voluntary hardships test individuals, teams, systems and processes all at once. It helps you find weaknesses that can later be fixed. It also helps to strengthen the team through a shared experience and gives individuals an opportunity to showcase their talents and creativity. These voluntary hardships can also help identify gaps in training and processes. As an individual, voluntary hardships become a “stress test” that you can later reflect on to decide how you would like to address.

Breaking out of the normal routine is not easy, but it will be rewarding. Using some or all of these modern stoic tips will help you find joy in your work, become more focused on the task at hand and ultimately become a better federal worker.

Fredy Diaz  is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Francesca El-Attrash

I love the example you introduced with the soldier at the Tomb of the Unknown. I could definitely use these stoic tips for my work-life balance. Thanks for this great post, Fredy!

Mary Parker

Great article on and concise introduction to the Stoics!

I think you mean something different than “unnerved” in your example, though. Maybe unfazed, poised, or unperturbed…”Unnerved” means demoralized, discouraged, or to lose courage (none of which fits the Soldier on duty at the Tomb).

The practices of the Stoic are very similar to those of the Examen and have been highlighted in HBR as what to do with the last 5 minutes of your day….https://hbr.org/2011/01/the-best-way-to-use-the-last-f.html

Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

Thank you for sharing, Fredy! It’s so easy to get caught up in the grind, but these tips are extremely helpful. I like the day in review. It’s practical and something I can start doing more regularly.