Why have we been slack? Why do we lose heart? That which could be done, can be done, if only we purify our souls and follow Nature; for when one strays away from Nature one is compelled to crave, and fear, and be a slave to the things of chance. We may return to the true path; we may be restored to our proper state; let us therefore be so, in order that we may be able to endure pain, in whatever form it attacks our bodies, and say to Fortune: “You have to deal with a man; seek someone whom you can conquer!” By these words, and words of a like kind, the malignity of the ulcer is quieted down; and I hope indeed that it can be reduced, and either cured or brought to a stop, and grow old along with the patient himself. I am, however, comfortable in my mind regarding him; what we are now discussing is our own loss – the taking-off of a most excellent old man. For he himself has lived a full life, and anything additional may be craved by him, not for his own sake, but for the sake of those who need his services. Seneca, Moral Letters 98.14-15
Amor Fati. It is a Latin term that roughly means to love one’s fate. It is an attitude in which the individual sees everything that happens in life is necessary. This includes suffering pain and loss as well as good things in life.
It is a principle in Stoicism that guides us to become someone of moral character and integrity. By accepting what happens to us, we form a foundation of action. Through acceptance we can look at challenges and circumstances in life with clarity and focus.
One of these challenges can be unemployment. Mass unemployment and layoffs have occurred that have thrown millions out of work. It can be hard to love this as part of our fate. But through Stoicism it can happen. Let’s look first at how the condition of being unemployed can be accepted.
Out Of My Control
The current global pandemic has thrown world economic systems in chaos. People have lost work from issues beyond their control. It has caused uncertainty, anxiety and anger among other things.
But the first step to acceptance is understanding these are things out of our control. There is nothing we can do about it. To complain or become angry is wasted energy.
Change From Uncertainty
You may have heard people say “I can’t wait until things get back to normal” or “I can’t wait for things to go back the way they were”. Other people may say things will not be the same as they were before.
There is one word to describe economic conditions at this point: uncertainty. No one can predict when conditions will improve or the long-term effects in all aspects of life. But change has always come from uncertainty.
It is no evil for things to undergo change, and no good for things to subsist in consequence of change. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.42
Change will happen. We cannot predict what will change and to what extent. It is something we have to adapt to.
Measure Your Impressions
It is not the things themselves that disturb men, but their judgements about these things. For example, death is nothing dreadful, or else Socrates too would have thought so, but the judgement that death is dreadful, this is the dreadful thing. When, therefore, we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never blame anyone but ourselves, that means, our own judgements. It is the part of an uneducated person to blame others where he himself fares ill; to blame himself is the part of one whose education has begun; to blame neither another nor his own self is the part of one whose education is already complete. Enchiridion 5
One of the chief principles in Stoicism is that it is not what happens to us but our judgement about what happens that affects us. If someone is angry because they have lost work, they will react with anger. If someone is filled with anxiety their anxiety level only increases.
This results in more stress being piled on in a person’s life. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. By accepting what happens to us it helps to prevent unnecessary stress. It is about accepting reality and not unrealistic expectations.
When we are faced with challenges like unemployment we can only reflect on how it affects us. We try to reflect on what will happen to ourselves and our family.
One thing to understand is that this issue is something bigger than us as individuals. That is why they call it a global pandemic. Another key aspect of acceptance is to realize it is happening to millions. We need to look at our place in it as part of the larger scale.
That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee. Marcus Aurelius Meditations 6.54
Understanding that you are part of changes on a global scale can put it into perspective.
So maybe you have the ability to accept your fate when losing the work you do. Does this mean you shrug your shoulders and say “Oh well”. Accepting does not mean being passive. It is about being able to take action through reasoned choices.
Manage Your Time
One of the side effects of becoming unemployed is a level of frustration. If the status of unemployment continues it creates disillusionment and discouragement.
What people who become unemployed do not realize is that have been given a hidden gift. It is the gift of time. But it is up to the individual to use that time in a productive way to make progress.
Perhaps the most valuable action to take to find work is to develop your network. Many think this means reaching out to people you do not know to find better opportunities.
This does not have to be the case. In his book The Power of Who: You Already Know Everyone You Need To Know by Bob Beaudine, he explains that you do not have to go through superficial acquaintances to develop your network. Go through your current circle of friends and family to seek out opportunities.
During a period of lockdown and uncertainty this could also provide the chance to catch up with people you have lost contact with. You may be able to help them as much as they can help you.
Learn A Skill
When faced with the issue of unemployment it may mean making a pivot in the work we do. It may mean changing industries to make a transition into something new.
There are so many mediums for learning available that anyone can learn anything in any area. It can be an online course in excel or a college program. Being unemployed can mean being able to learn a new skill to improve career opportunities.
When learning a new skill make sure it is something that will benefit you. It is important that learning something new takes advantage of current skills and abilities. Many people get in the trap of taking a course or program to fulfill a feeling of false progress and not to put new found skills into action.
Being unemployed does not have to be entirely negative. By accepting this as part of fate or fortune can be the bedrock of making progress.