Chris Lakin

Relax like you’re about to be executed

A maxim from Stoicism:

Before doing anything, first imagine the worst possible outcome.
Second, voluntarily accept the possibility.
Third, expect it to happen.
Fourth, move on.

This usually gets the worst reactions from individuals evaluating Stoicism from the outside, but it’s my favorite part!

Now, let’s say you’re strung up and about to be executed by gunshot. Absolutely nothing you could do about it. What would you do?

Well, there’s no point in tensing up, so you might as well relax, right? Accept, embrace, and hug the possibility.

This aspect of Stoicism is exactly that. We have little, if any, influence over most outcomes, so you might as well relax into the worst possible scenario.

Of course, you don’t want the worst possible scenario to occur, and you’ll still be afraid. If you can work against it you will, but you can accept the chance. It’s no longer an unknown unknown.

Accept the possibility. Expect it. Extinguish its power over you.

Relax like you’re about to be executed.


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Thanks to Emily Fan, Ariana Dyer, and Selena Zhang for reviewing the draft of this.

Posted 2021 February 12.

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