• Haley Bengtson

UX meets Stoicism | How our views change everything

Confined to your desk where you stare at an array of floating numbers and depictions of data sprawled across two monitors, you begin to massage the cramp forming in your neck from slumping over in your seat for hours on end.

You tilt your head to gaze up at the clock mounted on the wall in front of you and see that it reads "2:00 PM".

You sink deep within the confines of your chair as you think to yourself, "When will this day come to an end?"

After reading a depiction of a workday scenario, were you able to empathize with the story?

How did you feel emotionally after reading through it?

Did feelings of frustration, anger, or maybe sadness occur? I want you to think about the reason behind this scenario.

What event took place that would put you in such a state of mind?

When you think of an event, think aloud what's happened in that event, or if you have a pen and paper, write it down.

What's your view of that event?

Now, I want you to write down the facts of what's taking place in this event without any emotions involved.

What do you get?

Compare your answer to mine:

  • At a desk

  • Looking at data on two monitors

  • Massaging a cramp

  • Look at the clock

  • The clock reads 2PM

  • Sits lower in chair

Has your view of that event changed? What if you replaced surrounded those negative words with positive ones?

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things." - Epictetus

The quote I have mentioned above is by a Greek Philosopher, Epictetus from the late 1st Century. He followed the philosophy founded in that era known as Stoicism, the teaching of self-control and fortitude as a means for which to overcome destructive emotions. Watch this video to learn more about Stoicism:

As the video mentions, a person who practices stoicism learns to remain calm under pressure and avoids emotional extremes. Now you may be thinking, "Sitting at a desk looking at data all day long at work sounds pretty miserable to me." I'm not saying that it isn't, but I'm not saying that it can't be enjoyable either. Like Epitetus theorized, it's how we view those events that shapes our emotions and actions. If we chose to shift our perspective of those events, it could ultimately change our outcomes. Say, you decided to view that data as a chance to gain a promotion within your workplace. You fix your posture to create a more comfortable and relaxed position. You look at the clock and view the time as that much closer to the end of the workday. You may feel excitement, joy, motivation, energized, calm, focused. Doesn't that description sound much better than the first one? I want to stress the importance of how we shape our perspectives in our daily lives. It's easy to get caught up in the instinctive response to protect and defend against immediate threats, as it's ingrained in our human nature. But if we learn to practice, repeatedly, analyzing situations with truth and reality, we'll be able to strip away the anxiety, the fear, the anger, the frustration, the depression that so easily follows. If you can find the reason behind your emotions, compare that reason with the reality of the situation before reacting to it. Trust me, when you focus on the truths of an event, you are able to take a step back and view it with fresh eyes. See the event for what it truly is and then pinpoint the parts of that event which evoke an emotional response within you. Ask why you feel that emotional response. How could the event be different to evoke a different emotional response? Knowing that once this event has taken place, history can't be unwritten. So, how will you react to the situation?

"...history can't be unwritten. So, how will you react to the situation?"

It's all in how you view the cards placed in front of you. Sometimes life events are out of our control and there is nothing we can do about that. But, it's how we react to them that makes us who we are today.


  • Mastin, L. (2009, January). Existence and Consciousness. Retrieved [October, 10, 2018], from https://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_stoicism.html

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©2020 by Haley Bengtson