ISBN: 1202221777 READ: December 2017
This book was a part of my daily routine for a full year. One page a day that contains a quote from a Stoic philosopher and a quick meditation on how it can be useful in today’s society. I really looked forward to reading each day and then trying to apply the daily lesson in my life that day. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to better their life and I will continue to re-read this every year as a reminder.
“Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live.” – Seneca
The goal of this book is to restore Stoicism to its rightful place as a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life.
Stoicism teaches that we can’t control or rely on anything outside what Epictetus called our “reasoned choice” = our ability to reason to choose how we categorize, respond, and reorient ourselves toe external events.
They ultimately framed their work around a series of exercises in three critical disciplines:
The Discipline of Perception: How we see the perceive the world around us.
The Discipline of Action: the decisions and actions we take – and to what end.
The Discipline of Will: How we deal with the things we cannot chance, attain clear and convincing judgement, and come to a true understanding of our place in the world.
Control and Choice
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate maters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not udner my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.” – Epictetus
The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t.
If we focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, we will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.
Be Ruthless to the Things that Don’t Matter
One of the hardest things to do in life is to say “No.” To invitations, to requests, to obligations, to the stuff that everyone else is doing. Even harder is saying no to certain time-consuming emotions: anger, excitement, distraction, obsession, lust.
Start my learning the power on “No!” as in “No thank you”, and “No, I’m not going to get caught up in that.” It mat hurt some feelings. It may turn people off. It may take some hard work. But the more you say no to the things that don’t matter, the more you can say yes to the things that do.
The Big Three
Control your perceptions
Direct your actions properly
Willingly accept what’s outside of your control.
What We Control and What We Don’t
“Some things are in our control, while others are not. We control our opinion, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything of our own doing. We don’t control our body, property, reputation, position, and, in a word, everything not of our own doing.
An honest understanding of what is within our control provides real clarity about the world: all we have is our own mind.
Never Do Anything Out of Habit
A worker is asked “Why did you do it this way?” The answer, “Because thats the way we’ve always done things.” The answer frustrates every good boos and sets the mouth of every entrepreneur watering. The worker has stopped thinking and is mindlessly operating out of habit.
Find what you do out of rote memory or routine. Ask yourself: Is this really the best way to do it? Know why you do what you do – do it for the right reasons.
Watching the Wise
“Take a good hard look at people’s ruling principle, especially of the wise, what they run away from and what they seek out.” – Marcus Aurelius
You Don’t Have to Stay On Top of Everything
“If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters – don’t wish to seem knowledgeable. And if some regard you as important, distrust yourself.” – Epictetus
For the Hot-Headed Man
“Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on – it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance – unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.” – Marcus Aurelius.
The Source of Your Anxiety
Today, when you find yourself getting anxious, ask yourself “Why are my insides twisted in knots? Am I in control here is is my anxiety? And most important: Is my anxiety doing me any good?
Did That Make You Feel Better?
The next time someone gets upset near you – crying, yelling, breaking something, being pointed or cruel – watch how quickly this statement will stop them cold: “I hope this is making you feel better.”
Is this actually making me feel better? Is this actually relieving any of the symptoms I wish were gone?
Only Bad Dreams
Many of the things that upset us, the Stoics believed, are a product of the imagination, not reality. Like dreams, they are vivid and realistic at the time but preposterous once we come out of it.
The Enemy of Happiness
“It is quite impossible to unite happiness with a yearning for what we don’t have. Happiness has all that it wants, and resembling the well-fed, there shouldn’t be hunger or thirst.” – Epictetus
Circumstances Have No Care For Our Feelings
“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to route anger, for they don’t care at all” – Marcus Aurelius
Circumstances are incapable of considering or caring for your feelings, your anxiety, or your excitement. They don’t care about your reaction. They are not people. Stop acting like getting worked up is having an impact on a given situation. Situations don’t care at all.
The Real Source of Harm
“Keep in mind that it isn’t the one who has it in for you and takes a swipe that harms you, but rather the harm comes from your own belief about the abuse. So when someone arouses your anger, know that it’s really you own opinion fueling it. Instead, make it your first response not to be carried away by such impressions, for with time and distance self-mastery is more easily achieved.” – Epictetus
The Smoke and Dust of Myth
Marcus likes to point our that Alexander the Great – one of the most passionate and ambitious men who ever lived – was buried in the same ground as his mule driver. Eventually, all of us will pass away and slowly be forgotten. We should enjoy this brief time we have one earth – not be enslaved to emotions that make us miserable and dissatisfied.
Where Philosophy Begins
Perhaps we could say that we begin our journey into philosophy when we become aware of the ability to analyze our own minds.
Don’t fear self-assessment because you’re worried you might have to admin some things about yourself.
It is equally damaging to value yourself at less than your true worth.
We underestimate our capabilities just as much and just as dangerously as we overestimate other abilities. Cultivate the ability to judge yourself accurately and honestly. Look inward to discern what you’re capable of and what it will take to unlock that potential.
Awareness is Freedom
Take an inventory of your obligations from time to time. How many of these are self-imposed? How many of them are truly necessary? Are you as free as you think?
Cutting Back on the Costly
Remember: even what we get for free has a cost, if only in what we pay to store it – in our garages and in our minds. As you walk past your possessions today, ask yourself: Do I need this? Is it superfluous? Whats this actually worth? What is it costing me? You might be surprised by the answers and much much we’ve been paying without even knowing it.
Don’t Unintentionally Hand Over Your Freedom
“If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious.Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled – have you no shame in that?” – Epictetus.
To the Stoics, this is an abomination. They know that the world can control our bodies – we can be thrown in jail or be tossed about by the weather. But the mind? That ours. We MUST protect it. Maintain control over your mind and perceptions, they’d say. It’s your most prized possession.
Find The Right Scene
Consciously consider whom you allow into your life – not like some snobby elitist bu like someone who is trying to cultivate the best life possible. Ask yourself about the people you meet and spend time with: Are they making me better? Do they encourage me to push forward and hold me accountable? Or do they drag me down to their level?
Self Deception is Our Enemy
Self-deception are the enemies of the things we wish to have because we delude ourselves into believing that we already possess them. So we must meet ego with the hostility and contempt that is insidiously deploys against us.
The Present is All We Possess
Today, notice how often you look for more.
When you do this, you’re neglecting the present moment. Talk about ungrateful!
If you enjoy all of it, it will be enough. It can last a whole lifetime.
That Sacred Part of You
Take a little time today to remember that you’re blessed with the capacity to use logic and reason to navigate situation and circumstances. This gives you unthinkable power to alter your circumstances and the circumstances of others. And remember that with power, comes responsibility.
Impossible Without Your Consent.
On tough days we might say, “My work is overwhelming” or “My boss is really frustrating” If only we could understand that this is impossible. Someone cant frustrate YOU, work cant overwhelm YOU. These are external objects, and they have no access to your mind. Those emotions you feel, as real as they are, come from the inside, not the outside.
We can’t blame other people for making us feel stressed or frustrated any more than we can blame them for our jealousy.
There Is Philosophy In Everything
This is what Epictetus means about the study of philosophy. Study, yes, but go live your life as well. It’s the only way that you’ll actually understand what any of it means. And more important, it’s only from your actions and choices over time that it will be possible to see whether you took any of the teachings to heart.
Wealth and Freedom are Free
“… freedom isn’t secured by filling yo on your heart’s desires buy by removing your desire” – Epicteus
Why Do You Need To Impress These People Again?
Is there anything sadder than the immense lengths we’ll go to impress someone?
We buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like. Doesn’t that sound pretty ridiculous But more than that, isn’t it about as far as possible as you can get from the serenity and security that philosophy can provide?
The Colour of Your Thoughts
“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is coloured by such impressions” – Marcus Aurelius.
If you hold a perpetually negative outlook, soon enough everything you encounter will seem negative. Close it off and you’ll become close-minded. Colour it with the wrong thoughts and your life will be dyed the same.
Expect To Change Your Opinions
We must fight our biases and preconceptions: because they are a liability. Ask yourself: What haven’t I considered? Why is this thing the way it is? Am I part of the problem here or the solution? Could I be wrong here? Be doubly careful to honour what you do not know, and then set against the knowledge you actually have.
The Cost of Accepting Counterfeits
Epictetus remind is, “the first and greatest task of the philosopher is to test and separate appearances, and to act on nothing that is untested.
Test Your Impressions
Part of Stoicism is cultivating the awareness that allow you to step back and analyze your own senses, question their accuracy, ad proceed only with the positive and constructive ones. Sure, it’s tempting to throw discipline and order to the wind and go with what feels right – but if our many youthful regrets are any indication, what feels right now doesn’t always stand of over time. Hold your senses suspect. Again, trust, but always verify.
If You Want to Learn, Be Humble
If you want to learn and improve your life, seeking out teachers, philosophers, and great books is a good start. But this approach will only be effective if you’re humble and ready to let go of opinions you already have.
Becoming and Expert in What Matters
At the end of your time on this planet, what expertise is going to be more valuable – your understanding of matters of living and dying, or your knowledge of the ’87 Bears? Which will help your children more – your insight into happiness and meaning, or that you followed breaking political news every day for 30 years?
Observe Cause and Effect
Become an observer of your own thoughts and the actions those thoughts provoke. Where do they come from? What biases do they contain? Are they constructive or destructive? Do they c
cause you to make mistakes or engage in behaviour you later regret? Look for patterns; find where cause meets effect.
Opinions Are Like…
“What is bad luck? Opinion. What are conflict, dispute, blame, accusation, irreverence and frivolity? They are all opinions and more than that, they are opinions that lie outside of our own reasoned choice, presented as if they were good or evil. Let a person shift their opinions only to what belongs in the field of their own choice, and I guarantee that person will have peace of mind, whatever is happening around them” – Epictetus
Real Good Is Simple
For centuries, people have assumed that wealth would be a wonderful cure-all for their unhappiness and problems. Why else would they have worked so hard for it? But when people actually acquired the money and status they craved, they discovered it wasn’t quite what they had hoped. The same is true of so many things we covet without really thinking. On the other hand, the good that the stoics advocate is simpler and more straightforward: wisdom, self-control, justice, courage. No one who achieves these quiet virtues experiences buyers remorse.
Don’t Let Your Attention Slide
Attention is a habit, and that letting your attention slip and wander builds bad habits and enables mistakes. You’ll never complete all your tasks if you allow yourself to be distracted with every tiny interruption. Your attention is one of your most critical resources. Don’t squander it!
There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Wrong
No one should be ashamed at changing his mind – that’s what the mind is for.
Remember: you’re a free agent. When someone points out a legitimate flaw in your belief or in your actions, they’re not criticizing you. They’re presenting you a better alternative. Accept it!
Wants Make You a Servant
“If you don’t take the money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.”
Remember: taking the money, wanting the money – proverbially or literally – makes you a servant to the people who have it. Indifference to it, as Seneca put it, turns the highest power into no power, at least as far as your life is concerned.
Be the Person You Want To Be
Our perceptions and principles guide us in the selection of what we want – but ultimately our actions determine whether we get there or not. So yes, spend some time – real, uninterrupted time – thinking about what’s important to you, what your priorities are. Then, work toward that and forsake all the others. It’s not enough to wish and hope. One must ACT. and Act right.
How To Have a Good Day
Do good things. Any other source of joy is outside your control or in nonrenewable. But this one is all you, all the time, and unending. It is the ultimate form of self-reliance.
Kindness is Always the Right Response
When someone says something pointed or mean today, they expect you to respond in kind – not with kindness. When that doesn’t happen, they are embarrassed. It’s a shock to their system – it makes them and you better. Most rudeness, meanness, and cruelty are a mask for deep-seated weakness. Kindness in these situations is only possible for people of great strength. You have that strength. Use it.
Fueling The Habit Bonfire
“We are what we repeatedly do” Aristotle said, “therefore, excellence is not an act but a habit.”
Count Your Blessings
“Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess as if they were yours, but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren’t already yours. But watch yourself, that you don’t value these things to the point of being troubled if you should lose them.” – Marcus Aurelius.
The Stoic is a Work in Progress
Instead of seeing philosophy as an end to which one aspires, see it as something one applies. Not occasionally, but over the course of a life – making incremental progress along the way. Sustained execution, not shapeless epiphanies.
Learn, Practice, Train.
“That’s why the philosophers warn us not to b satisfied with mere learning, but to add practice and then training. For as time passes we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite, and hold opinions the opposite of what we should.” -Epictetus.
Quality Over Quantity
What if, when it came to your reading and learning, you prioritized quality over quantity? What i you read the few great books deeply instead of briefly skimming all the new books? Your shelves might be emptier, but your brain and your life would be fuller.
Today is the Day
What stops us? The author Steven Pressfield calls this force The Resistance. As he put in the War of Art, “We don;t tell ourselves, I’m never going to write my symphony. Instead we say I’m going to rite my symphony tomorrow.
Today, not tomorrow, is the day that we can start to be good.
Stop Caring What People Think
Don’t spend much time thinking about what other people think. Think about what you think. Think instead about the results, about the impact, about whether it is the right thing to do.
The First Two Things Before Acting
Don’t get upset.
Do the right thing.
Work is Therapy
You know that feeling you get when you haven’t been to the gym ina few days? A bit doughy, Irritable, Claustrophobic, Uncertain.
The mind and the body are there to be used. They begin to turn on themselves when not put to some productive end.
The solution is simple, and thankfully, always right at hand. Get out there and work!
Working Hard or Hardly Working?
Evaluate what you are doing, why you are doing it, and where accomplishing it will take you. If you don’t have a good answer, then stop.
This Is What We’re Here For
No one said life was easy.
Don’t forget though, that you come from a long, unbroken line of ancestors who survived unimaginable adversity, difficulty, and struggle. It’s their genes and their blood that run through your body right now. Without them, you wouldn’t be here. You’re an heir to an impressive tradition – and as their viable offspring, you’re capable of what they are capable of. You’re meant for this. Bred for this.
You Can Do It
“If you find something very difficult to achieve yourself, don’t imagine it impossible – for anything possible and proper for another personal can be acieved easily by you.” – Marcus Aurelius
No Shame In Needing Help
“Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfill just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldier’s help?” – Marcus Aurelius.
Calm is Contagious
That’s who you want to be, whatever your line of work: the casual, relaxed person in every situation who tells everyone else to take a breath and not to worry. Because you’ve got this. Don’t be the agitator, the paranoid, the worrier, or the irrational. Be the calm, not the liability. It will catch on.
The Long Way Around
Freedom? That’s easy. It’s in your choices.
Happiness? That’s easy. It’s in your choices.
Respect of your peers? That too is in the choices you make.
And all of that is right in front of you. No need to take the long way to get there.
The Truly Educated Aren’t Quarrelsome
The next time you face a political dispute or a personal disagreement, ask yourself: Is there any reason to fight about this? Is arguing going to help solve anything? Would an educated or wise person really be as quarrelsome as you might initially be inclined to be? Or would they take a breath, relax, and resist the temptation for conflict?
The Wise Don’t Have Problems
We talk because we think it’s helping, whereas in reality it’s making things hard for us. If our spouse is venting, we want to tell them what they should do. In fact, all they actually want us to do is hear them.
The Obstacle is The Way
If something prevents you from getting to your destination on time, then this is a chance to practice patience.
If an employee makes an expensive mistake, then this is a chance to teach a valuable lesson.
If a computer glitch erases your work, it’s a chance to start over with a clean slate.
If someone hurts you, it’s a chance to practice forgiveness.
Is something is hard, it is a chance to get stronger.
Turn HAVE TO into GET TO
Don’t try to impose your will on the world. Instead see yourself as fortunate to receive and respond to the will in the world. Stuck in traffic? A few wonderful minute to relax and sit. Your car broke down after idling for so long? Ah, what a nice nudge to take a long walk the rest of the way. A swerving car driven by a distracted, cellphone-wielding idiot nearly hit you as you were walking and soaked you head to toe in muddy water? What a reminder about how precarious our existence is and how silly it is to get upset about something as trivial as being late or a bad commute.
Rise and Shine
“On those mornings you struggle with getting up, keep this though in mind – I am awakening to the work of a human being. Why then am I annoyed that I am going to do what I’m made for, the very things for which I was put into this world?” – Marcus Aurelius
Its comforting to think that even two thousand years ago the Emperor of Rome was giving himself a pop talk in order to summon the willpower to get out of bed.
So cummon. Get in the shower and GET GOING.
A Leader Leads
Stepping up and helping is a service that leaders provide to the world. It’s our duty to do this – in big situation and small ones. If you expect to be leaders, we must see that thankless services comes with the job. We must do what leaders do, because it’s what leaders do – not for the credit, not for the thanks, not for the recognition. It’s our duty.
A Little Knowledge is Dangerous
Early promise can lead to overconfidence and create bad habits. Those who pick things up quickly are notorious for skipping the basic lessons and ignoring the fundamentals. Don’t get carried away. Take it slow. Train with humility.
Make For Working Together
According to the Stoics, we humans have a higher obligation – not to the gods but to eachother.
People are depending on you. Your purpose is to help us render this great work together.
Somewhere Someone’s Dying
A well-meaning friend might ask you today: “What do you think about [random tragedy in the world rn]?” You, in your equally well-meaning concern, might say, “I just feel awful about it.”
In this scenario, both of you have out aside your reasoned choice without doing a single thing for the victims suffereing from the actual tragedy. It can be so easy to get distracted by, even consumed by, horrible news from all over the world. The proper response of the Stoic to these events is not to not care, but mindless, meaningless sympathy does very little either. If emoting is the end of your participation, then you ought to get back to your own individual duty – to your self, to your family, to your country.
When Good Men Do Nothing
All evil needs to prevail is for good men to do nothing. It’s not enough to just not do evil. You must also be a force for good in the world as best you can.
But can you be fully content with you life, can you bravely face what life has in store from one day to the next, can yo bounce back from every kind of adversity without losing a step, can you be a source of strength and inspiration to others around you That’s Stoic Joy – the joy that comes from purpose, excellence, and duty. It’s a serious thing – far more serious than a smile and a chipper voice.
The Good Life is Anywhere
We tell ourselves that we need the right setup before we finally buckle down and get serious. This is self deceit at its finest.
Its far better that we become pragmatic and adaptable – able to do what we need to do anywhere, anytime. The place to do your work, to live the good life, is here.
Silence is Strength
The more you say, the more likely you are to blow pas opportunities, ignore feedback, and cause yourself suffering.
The inexperienced and fearful talk to reassure themselves. The ability to listen, to deliberately keep out of conversation and subsist without its validity is rare. Silence is a way to build strength and self sufficiency.
Perfection is The Enemy of Action
“We don’t abandon our pursuits because we despair of ever perfecting them.” – Epictetus.
Perfectionism rarely begets perfection — only disappointment. Pragmatism has no such hang-ups. It’ll take what it can get. That’s what Epictetus is reminding us. We’re never going to be perfect – if there is even such a thing. We’re human, after all. Our pursuits should be aimed at progress, however little that it’s possible for us to make.
Take Charge and End Your Troubles
“You’ve endured countless troubles – all from not letting your ruling reason do the word it was made for – enough already!” – Marcus Aurelius.
How many things you fear have actually come to pass? How many times has anxiety driven yo to behave in a way you later regret? How many times have you let jealousy or frustration or greed lead you down a bad road?
The Supreme Court of Your Mind
Think about someone you know who has character of granite. Why are they so dependable. trustworthy, excellent? You might see a pattern: consistency. They are honest not only when it’s convenient. They are not only there for you when it counts.
DON’T BE MISERABLE IN ADVANCE
“It’s ruinous for the soul to be anxious about the future and miserable in advance of misery, engulfed by anxiety that the things it desires might remain its own until the very end. For such a soul will never be at rest – by longing for things to come it will lose the ability to enjoy present thing” – Seneca
The way we nervously worry about some looming bad news is strange if you think about it. By definition, the waiting means it hasn’t happened yet, so that feeling bad in advance is totally voluntary. But that’s what we do: chewing our nails, felling sick to our stomachs, rudely brushing aside the people around us. Why? Because something bad MIGHT occur soon.
The pragmatist, the person of action, is too busy to waste time on such silliness. The pragmatist can’t worry about every possible outcome in advance. Think about it. Best case scenario – if the news turns out to be better than expected, all this time was wasted with needless fear. Worst case scenario – we were miserable for extra time, by choice. And what better use could you make of that time? A day that could be your last – you want to spend it on worry? In what other area could you make some progress while other might be sitting on he edges of their seat, passively awaiting some fate? Let the news come when it does. Be too busy working to care.
Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Don’t spend your time (the most valuable and least renewable of all your resources) on the things that don’t matter. What about the things that don’t matter but you’re absolutely obligated to do? Well, spend as little time and worry on them as possible.
Respect the Past, But Be Open to the Future
“Won’t you be walking in your predecessors’ footsteps? I surely will use the older path, but if I find a shorter and smoother way, I’ll blaze a trail there. The ones who pioneered these paths aren’t our masters but our guides.”
Want Nothing = Have Everything
“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.” – Seneca
How Can You Know Whether You’ve Never Been Tested?
“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without and opponent – no one can never know what you are capable of, not even you.” – Seneca
They Can Throw You In Chains But…
They don’t have the power to change who you are. Even under the worst torture and cruelties that humans can inflict on one another, our power over our own mind and our power to make decisions cannot be broken.
Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself
The Stoics knew that fear was to be feared because of the miseries it creates. The things we fear pale in comparison to the damage we do to ourselves and others when we unthinkingly scramble to avoid them.
Dealing With Haters
When someone has a strong opinion about something, it usually says more about them than whatever or whomever the opinion happens to be about. This is especially true when it comes to resentment and hatred of other people. We don’t have time to think about what other people are thinking, even if its about us.
Flexibility Of The Will
The point is not to have an iron will, but an adaptable will – a will that makes full use of reason to clarify perception, impulse, and judgement to act effectively for the right purpose. Its not weak to change and adapt. In fact, this flexibility combined with strength is what will make us resilient and unstoppable.
Life Isn’t a Dance
Anyone who has tried to do something difficult, where there is competition or and adversary, knows that the dancing metaphor is insufficient. Nobody ever gets up on stage and tries to tackle a dancer. The dancer never gets choked out by a rival.
Life, like wrestling, requires more than graceful movement. We have to undergo hard training and cultivate an indomitable will to prevail. Philosophy i the steel against which we sharpen that will and strengthen that resolve.
The Most Secure Fortress
Think about which behaviours you’d like to be able to default to if you could. How many of them have you practiced only once? Let today be twice.
The Vulnerability of Dependance
We’re all addicts in one way or another. We’re addicted to our routines, coffee, to comfort, to someone else’s approval. These dependencies mean we’re not in control of our own lives – the dependency is.
“Anyone who truly wants to be free” Epictetus said, “won’t desire something that is actually in someone else’s control, unless they want to be a slave. Make yourself invulnerable to your dependency on comfort and convenience, or one day your vulnerability might bring you to your knees.
What Time Off is For
“Leisure without study is death – a tomb for the living person” – Seneca
What Will Perosperity Reveal?
It’s foolish to hope for good fortune. If you were to hope for one thing, you could hope for the strength of character that’s able to thrive in good fortune. Or better, work for that kind of character and confidence.
Your Actual Needs Are Small
Remember today that you’d be OK if things suddenly went wrong. Your actual needs are small. There is very little that could happen that would truly threaten your survival. Think about that – and adjust your worries and fear accordingly.
A Mantra of Mutual Interdependance
“Meditate often on the interconnections and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe. For in a sense, all things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other.
Words Can’t Be Unsaid
“Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue.” – Zeno
You can always get up after you fall, but remember, what has been said can never be unsaid. Especially cruel and hurtful things.
Revenge is a Dish Best Not Served
“Vengeance wastes a lot of time and exposes you to many more injuries than the first that sparked it. Anger always outlasts hurt. Best to take the opposite course. Would anyone think it normal to return a kick to a mule or a bite to a dog?” – Seneca
Don’t Get Mad. Help.
The person sitting next to you on the plane, the one who is loudly chattering and knocking around in your space? We’d rather be pissed off, bitter, raging inside than risk an awkward conversation that might actually help this person and make the world a better place.
Give People The Benefit Of The Doubt
A virtuous person does not jump to hasty judgments about other people. A virtuous person is generous with assumptions: that something was an accident, that someone didn’t know, this it won’t happen again. This makes life easier to bear and makes us more tolerant.
Ultimately that’s what Stoicism is about – not judging other people’s behavior, but judging your own.
Good Habits Drive Out Bad Habits
When a bad habit reveals itself, counteract it with a commitment to a contrary virtue. For instance, let’s say you find yourself procrastinating today – don’t dig in and fight it. Get up and take a walk to clear your head and reset instead.
Oppose established habits, and use the counterforce of training to get traction and make progress. If you find yourself cutting corners during a workout or on a project, say to yourself: “OK, now I am going to go even further or do even better.”
We Were Made For Eachother
Philosophy attracts introverts. The study of human nature can make you aware of other people’s faults ad can breed contempt for others.
But none of that changes that we are, as Aristotle puts it, social animals. We need each other. We must be there for each other. We must take care of each other. To pretend otherwise is to violate our nature, to be more or less than what it means to be a human being.
Accepting What Is
Accept what happened and change your wish that it had not happened.
And the most practiced Stoics take it a step further. Instead of simply accepting what happens, they urge us to actually enjoy what has happened. Whatever it is.
amor fati (a love of fate)
Not Good, Nor Bad
Change isn’t good. That status quo isn’t bad. They just are.
Remember, events are objective. It’s only our opinion that says something is good or bad (and thus worth fighting against or fighting for.) A better attitude? To decide to make the most of everything.
How To Be Powerful
“Don’t trust in your reputation, money, or position, but in the strength that is yours – namely, your judgement about the things that you control and don’t control. For this alone is what makes us free and unfettered, that picks us up by the neck from the depths and lifts us eye to eye with the rich and powerful.” – Epictetus
It’s Not The Thing It’s What We Make Of It
“When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the think itself that troubles you, but only your judgement of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice. ” – Marcus Aurelius
Everything is Change
“No man steps in the same river twice.” Because the river has changed, and so has the man. – Heraclitus
Hope and Fear Are The Same
“cease to hope and you will cease to fear” – Seneca
Both are the enemy of this present moment that you are actually in.
Four Habits of the Stoic Mind
1. Accept only what is true.
2. Work for the common good.
3. Match our needs and wants with what is in our control.
4. Embrace what nature has in store for us.
The Pleasure of Tuning Out The Negative
Always shun that which makes you angry. Meaning: Turn your mind away from the things that provoke it. If you find that discussing politics at the dinner table leads to fighting, why do you keep bringing it up? If your sibling’s life choices bother you, why don’t you stop picking at them and making them your concern?
It’s not a sign of weakness to shut them out. Instead, it’s a sign of strong will. Try saying: “I know the reaction I typically take in these situations, and I’m not going to do it this time.” And then follow it with: ” I’m also going to remove this stimulus from my life in the future as well.”
Because what follow is peace and serenity.
Follow The Logos
We are like a dog leased to a moving cat . The direction of the cart will determine where we go. Depending on the length of the leash, we also have a fair amount of room to explore and determine the pace, but ultimately what each of us must choose is whether we will go willingly or be painfully dragged. Which will it be? Cheerful acceptance? Or ignorant refusal? In the end, they amount to the same.
Pretend Today Is The End
Live each day as if it were your last is a cliche.
A better analogy would be a soldier about to leave on deployment. Not knowing whether they’ll return or not, what do they do?
They get their affairs in order. They handle their business. They tell their children or their family that they love them. They don’t have time for quarreling or petty matters. And then in the morning they are ready to go – hoping to come back in one piece but prepared for the possibility they might not.
Let us live today that same way.
Don’t Mind Me, I’m Only Dying Slow
Every person is born with a death sentence. Each second that passes by is one you’ll never get back.
Once you realize this, it will have a profound impact on what you do, say, and think. Don’t let another day tick away in ignorance of the reality that you’re a dying person. We all are. Can today be the day we stop pretending otherwise?
The Cards We’re Dealt
We have an irrational fear of acknowledging our own mortality. We avoid thinking about it because we think it will be depressing. In fact, reflecting on mortality often has the opposite effect – invigorating us more than saddening us. Why? Because it gives us clarity. If you were suddenly told you had but a week to live, what changes would you make?
It’s Just A Number
Use today. Use every day. Make yourself satisfied with what you have been given.
Know Thyself – Before It’s Too Late
We ignore Socrates’s dictum to :know thyself” – often realizing we have done so at our peril, years later, when we wake up one day and realize how rarely we have asked ourselves questions life “Who am I? What’s important to me? What do I like? What do I need?”
Now -right now- you have time to explore yourself, to understand your own mind and body. Don’t wait. Know yourself. Before it’s impossibly late.
“Think of the whole universe of matter and how small your share. Think about the expanse of time and how brief – almost momentary – the park marked for you. Think of the workings of fate and how infinitesimal your role.” – Marcus Aurelius
What Do You Have To Show For Your Years?
How many hours have you lived? What do you have to show for all of them?
The answer for many people is: not enough. We had so many hours that we took them for granted.
One day, our hours will begin to run out. It would be nice to be able to say “Hey, I really made the most of it.” Not in the form of achievements, not money, not status – you know what the Stoics think of all that – but in wisdom , insight, and real progress in the things that all humans struggle against.
What if you could say that you really made something of this time that you had? What if you could prove that you really did live * years? And not just lived them, but lived them FULLY.
Meaningless… Like a Fine Wine
“You know what wine and liqueur tastes like. It makes no difference whether a hundred or a thousand bottles pass through your bladder – you are nothing more than a filter.” – Seneca
You don’t get a prize at the end of your life for having consumed more, worked more, spent more, collected more, or learned more about the various vintages than everyone else.
Life is Long, If You Know How To Use It.
So today, if you find yourself rushed or uttering the words “I Just don’t have enough time,” stop and take a second. Is this actually true? Or have you just committed to a lot of unnecessary things? Are you actually being efficient, or have you assumed a great deal of waste into your life? The average American spends something like forty hours a year in traffic. That’s months over the course of a life. And for “traffic” you can substitute so many activities – from fighting with others to watching television to daydreaming.
Your life is plenty long – just use it properly.
Think of all the things you can be grateful for today. That you are alive, that you live in a time of primarily peace, that you have enough health and leisure to read this book. What of the little things? The person who smiled at you, the woman who held the door open.
Gratitude is infectious. Its positivity is radiant.
How much better would your life be if you kicked off everyday like that? If you let it carry through from morning to night and touche very part of your life?
Get Active In YOur Own Rescue
The purpose of all our reading and studying is to aid us in the pursuit of the good life (and death). At some point, we must put our books aside and take action. So that, as Seneca put it, the “words become works.”
That’s what’s next for you. Move forward, move onward. Another book isn’t the answer. The right choices and decision are. Who knows how much time you have left, or what awaits us tomorrow?