How I Deal with Being Jobless as a Man Who Practices Stoicism

Published on: May 21, 2024

How I Deal with Being Jobless as a Man Who Practices Stoicism

I decided to quit my job at the end of 2023 because I felt I needed a break to rest and find motivation for my next job. I wrote my resignation letter without a specific plan, which is very unlike me. I have always been diligent, preparing thoroughly before leaving one company by securing a new job first. This method of preparation has always ensured my safety. However, as I was nearing 30 at the end of 2023, I decided to quit without a concrete plan. In Asian culture, this might be seen as an impulsive and thoughtless decision, but I did it anyway.

I took a complete break for two months, spending my time reading books, going out, eating, and drinking alone. I felt quite fine during that period. However, I knew I needed to start working and job hunting again because I enjoy working. Surprisingly, I couldn't find a job as a senior developer. I was confident in my experience, but the job market was tough. I began to feel stressed about preparing for interviews and not getting accepted.

I realized that what I needed was to live well in any situation and not let unemployment affect my spirit. I remembered that I had read about Stoicism years ago but never practiced it. This seemed like the perfect time to practice and truly test if Stoicism could help me remain calm and strong.

Practicing Stoicism Every Day

Practicing Gratitude:

Every morning, the first thing I do is write down my gratitudes. It can be as simple as being thankful for a good night's sleep despite the nearly 40-degree Celsius temperature in Vietnam at the time. I am grateful that my mother called and told me her leg injury was getting better and thankful for the friend from high school who invited me to his wedding. I feel better after writing down my gratitudes in the morning.

Practicing Journaling:

As an unemployed person, I have a lot of time, which is a good thing if I can do something meaningful. But it would be a waste and a shame if I spent my days without purpose because no one assigns tasks to me anymore. Therefore, I use journaling as a way to plan my day and review what I did well or poorly. Journaling helps me feel productive, which is great because there are days when I don't know what I want to do and feel guilty about letting a day pass without meaning.

Practicing Control:

One of the issues that worries me is job hunting during an economic downturn, which involves many rounds of interviews. I can easily get stressed if I go through three interview rounds and only receive a thank-you email. It can make me anxious and doubt myself. Therefore, I started creating lists of things I can control and things I cannot in this situation. Things I cannot control include: the company's response time, the company choosing more suitable candidates, or their requirement for a degree in information technology. Things I can control include: job searching twice a day on job boards, preparing my CV, doing tests, and building SAAS projects for myself. There are many things I can do to improve myself, such as building small applications. While many employers seek individuals who enjoy solving technical problems and designing systems, I prefer creating small meaningful products for users. Applying control helps me worry less and do more meaningful things while unemployed.

Practicing Amor Fati:

When unemployed, there are days filled with doubt, financial stress, and moments of despair. I even questioned my decision to leave my old company and wondered if it was a foolish choice. But I don't want to regret it and remember Marcus Aurelius's saying: "Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining," and Epictetus's words: "It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." I will accept all these difficulties as part of life and see them as opportunities to train and develop myself.

Lessons Learned

Being jobless and practicing Stoicism taught me invaluable lessons. As I write this blog, I am still unemployed and occasionally feel a bit worried, but practicing Stoicism has helped me reduce stress significantly, accept things more easily, and continue working each day, like building my own website and participating in interviews, viewing them as steps on my life journey.

Advice for Others

If I were to give advice to anyone facing unemployment, here are a few practical tips grounded in Stoic philosophy:

  • Accept the Situation: Understand that some things are beyond your control and focus on your response.
  • Take Action: Engage in activities that are within your control, such as job searching and skill development.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Stay present and avoid ruminating on the past or future.
  • Prepare Mentally: Use negative visualization to anticipate challenges and plan accordingly.

Finally, I am still on my path to finding simple happiness and will persist in practicing Stoicism because I find it very suitable for myself. I hope this article provides an example of how to practice Stoicism for those interested.

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