How to Build a Stoic Mindset

The following is a short look at Mark Tuitert’s new book, The Stoic Mindset.

By way of an intro, here is a snippet from the book’s description:

Elite sportsman Mark Tuitert used the principles of Stoic philosophy to become an Olympic gold medallist, champion athlete and successful entrepreneur, overcoming a series of challenges in his professional and private life. Now, in this internationally bestselling book, he lays out the ten practical lessons through which anyone, in any situation, can develop a Stoic mindset.

Reading the book, I enjoyed Mark’s accounts of how he used Stoicism to deal with emotions like fear, anger, and grief in both his career as an athlete and his life outside his quest for medals.

Overall, The Stoic Mindset is a good introduction for anyone just getting into Stoicism, but readers of any experience can still benefit from the stories shared and the practical exercises outlined (one per chapter).

If you’d like more info in addition to the summary that follows, you can check out my conversation with the author himself here:

The Stoic Mindset

Early in his career as a speed skater, Mark Tuitert was so determined to succeed that he regularly overtrained.

Hoping to gain that extra edge over his opponents, he would skate eleven laps when only ten were required. If a training camp lasted three weeks, he would stay an extra three days. Two hours on a bike really meant three. And on and on.

This approach felt good until it didn’t. He thought he was making progress until he wasn’t.

Eventually, Mark’s excessive training schedule—and his tendency to push through injuries and illnesses as if they weren’t happening—caught up with him.

Burnt out, he was forced to miss the 2002 Olympics, his first opportunity to compete at the Games. A dream denied.

Watching his Dutch compatriots win eight medals from the discomfort of his own home, Mark knew he had to make a change.

After embracing Stoicism—and after much self-reflection—Mark eventually came to understand that denying the presence of injuries and illnesses is a form of self-delusion. To continue as normal in such situations—to ignore the reality of what we’re facing—is counterproductive.

As he writes in his book The Stoic Mindset, particularly when we face adversity, we must accept, even love, our present reality before we can decide on the best way to move forward:

If you not only accept but even go so far as to love your fate, you’ll be able to handle all of life. Obviously we can keep fighting against the natural course of events. However, that costs a lot of energy and eats away at our peace of mind, which is exactly what we don’t want.

Long story short, with a healthier attitude toward rest and recovery and more of an acceptance of the things that were outside his control, Mark Tuitert went on to win a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics.

The application of this attitude of acceptance isn’t limited to sport, of course. We’re constantly being challenged in life with circumstances that just don’t depend on us.

As Mark goes on to say, however, what does depend on us is how we respond to those circumstances:

You can only find peace after realizing that this fight against your fate is actually a fight against yourself. What you can’t change, you have to accept—there’s no other choice. If you want to be happy and find fulfillment, then you’re left with one final step: to love your fortune. It’s damn hard, but far from impossible.

In The Stoic Mindset, we get what any good practical Stoicism book should provide: details of how a real human being has applied the philosophy to find comfort and guidance through some of the most challenging events of their life.

Mark shares his struggles, along with the thoughts and subsequent actions—because, in his words, thinking is always done in service of doing—that enabled him to overcome those struggles.

He outlines simple Stoic exercises that encourage the same level of self-reflection that helped him navigate difficult situations like his parents’ divorce, his mother’s depression, and the pressure of being an Olympic athlete.

With this kind of clarity and vulnerability, a reader can’t possibly come away with the mistaken impression that Stoicism is a philosophy of abstract theory.

No, readers will be left in no doubt—Stoicism as a way of life, if applied consistently and properly, will help anyone:

  • Use adversity to their advantage
  • Make better, more rational, judgments
  • Contribute to their community
  • Understand what they can and can’t control
  • Gain a greater appreciation of life
  • Develop a good character

And when a person learns to deploy these perspectives and actions habitually, they can truly say they have built a Stoic mindset.