Philosophical skepticism started with Phyrro of Elis. (approx. 360 BC – 270 BC according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). He was exposed to eastern philosophy through his travels to India and other places in the Orient and he learnt some interesting things. I don’t know much about this school of thought but one of the main principles of this philosophy is that nothing can be known for certain. That is why it was crucial for them to withhold their judgement. The skeptics were always in a state of doubt, they were always questioning things, hence why they don’t fully trust their senses. Through this state of constant doubt they claimed that the only way to face this world where nothing can be known is to adopt an attitude of “ataraxia” which means”freedom from worry”.
Phyrro sometimes found himself in comical situations because he truly did live his life according to his philosophical theories . For instance, one day, there was a large hole on the path he was walking on. Being the true skeptic that he was, he questioned the existence of the hole so he kept walking with no intention of avoiding it. The hole did in fact exist and he fell in it.
Descartes was another philosopher who turned to skepticism for a little while. He questioned everything he knew and saw and went through something called methodological skepticism or Cartesian doubt. However he had a goal, he was trying to find the first truth, the first true statement that could serve as a solid foundation on which we could build our knowledge on. This statement would turn out to be the famous “I think, therefore I am.”
Their approach is quite extreme but I believe there is method to their madness. If you leave out all their (sometimes crazy) theories, I believe there is one important thing that we can take away from their work which is the fact that it is totally human to question things. In fact, the first big question most of us have probably asked ourselves already is “Why are we here?”
Asking questions also is a huge component of minimalism. In fact minimalism starts with questioning yourself and your life. Every once in a while I think that we should evaluate the different areas of our lives. Examining the different aspects of your life helps you figure out what is truly important and essential to you. So here are a three areas of your life that you can evaluate right now. This is not a complete list by any means, but in my opinion, these are key areas that deserve to be looked at:
Congratulate Yourself for the Small Stuff
I think we don’t take enough time to congratulate ourselves for our small achievements. I also believe that we sometimes pay little attention to our smaller accomplishments because we become so focused on our long-term goals.
We all have different long-term targets. For a student like me, getting through exams is a big objective. Accountants usually can’t wait until the end of tax season and everyone always looks forward to the next week or two of time off from work.
When you become too fixated on these long-term goals, you lose sight of your daily triumphs. If you often think about how your big goal hasn’t been reached yet and how you wish it would be done with already, the negativity can start to build within you. This can lead to fatigue and discouragement.
However, if you take a moment to congratulate yourself for a small task you completed, you start creating some positive momentum. This positive energy will keep you going through the tough times. For example, during the first few months of my first year of university, I always had trouble getting around the university’s central building. I never understood the layout. I would always use the outside entrance to get to the cafeteria because I wasn’t sure how to get there through the inside of the building. One November morning, I finally figured out how to navigate through this building. I stopped and gave myself an imaginary pat on the back. Even though this tiny accomplishment had very little to do with my long-term objective at the time, this bit of praise I gave to myself not only made my day a little better, but it also gave me a fair amount of power and stamina to continue striving toward my goal.
You don’t have to pop a bottle of Champagne for every tiny achievement, but taking the time to acknowledge these achievements will inspire you a little and give you the motivation you need during the daily grind.
Giving yourself an imaginary round of applause for those small victories will also help you live more in the moment. Oftentimes, we aren’t very mindful and we just rush through things without taking the time to look back on what we have accomplished.
So, next time you accomplish something small, just stop for a moment and congratulate yourself. You don’t have to do this for each tiny victory, but congratulating yourself for reaching small objectives once in a while can definitely give you a boost of positive energy during those difficult moments.