The Daily Stoic

by Ryan Holiday

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
 7 min read
The Daily Stoic
The Daily Stoic

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Understanding what we can and cannot control, especially our own thoughts, is important in Stoic thinking.
  2. Starting and ending each day with thinking and planning helps us focus on what's important and what we can change.
  3. Knowing yourself well and making choices based on this knowledge is key to being free and making good decisions.
  4. Stoicism teaches that being clear about what you want, controlling your actions, and accepting what you can't change are essential.
  5. Living a balanced life means being mindful, honest with yourself, and staying true to who you are, even when you become successful.

Summary

Core Disciplines in Stoic Philosophy

  • The Discipline of Perception. How we see and 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 change, attain clear and convincing judgment, and come to a true understanding of our place in the world

Stoic Practices for Daily Life

  • “The Stoics were pioneers of the morning and nightly rituals: preparation in the morning, reflection in the evening.”
  • “The single most important practice in Stoic philosophy is differentiating between what we can change and what we can’t.”

The Importance of Self-Knowledge and Making Conscious Choices

  • “Education—reading and meditating on the wisdom of great minds—is not to be done for its own sake. It has a purpose.”
  • “Knowledge—self-knowledge in particular—is freedom.”
  • “One of the hardest things to do in life is to say ‘No.’”
  • “The more you say no to the things that don’t matter, the more you can say yes to the things that do.”

The Significance of Clarity, Purpose, and Self-Control in Stoicism

  • “The following little reminder sums up the three most essential parts of Stoic philosophy worth carrying with you every day, into every decision: Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control.”
  • “Having an end in mind is no guarantee that you’ll reach it—no Stoic would tolerate that assumption—but not having an end in mind is a guarantee you won’t.”

Mindfulness and Responsibility in Stoic Thought

  • “Have you taken the time to get clarity about who you are and what you stand for?”
  • “You must reclaim the ability to abstain because within it is your clarity and self-control.”
  • “You don’t control the situation, but you control what you think about it.”
  • “All we have is our own mind.”
  • “If you want to be steady, if you want clarity, proper judgment is the best way.”
  • “Serenity and stability are results of your choices and judgment, not your environment.”

Understanding and Exercising Control in Stoic Philosophy

  • “This morning, remind yourself of what is in your control and what’s not in your control.”
  • “A wise person knows what’s inside their circle of control and what is outside of it.”
  • “According to the Stoics, the circle of control contains just one thing: YOUR MIND.”

The Importance of Self-Reflection and Making Conscious Choices

  • “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.”
  • “There is clarity (and joy) in seeing what others can’t see, in finding grace and harmony in places others overlook.”
  • “Whoever we are, wherever we are—what matters is our choices. What are they? How will we evaluate them? How will we make the most of them? Those are the questions life asks us, regardless of our station.”
  • “What happened yesterday—what happened five minutes ago—is the past. We can reignite and restart whenever we like.”
  • Ask yourself, “What bad habit did I curb today? How am I better? Were my actions just? How can I improve?”

Managing Desires, Emotions, and Impulses

  • “The more things we desire and the more we have to do to earn or attain those achievements, the less we actually enjoy our lives—and the less free we are.”
  • “Try to remember that when you find yourself getting mad. Anger is not impressive or tough—it’s a mistake. It’s weakness.”
  • “Today, when you find yourself getting anxious, ask yourself: Why are my insides twisted into knots? Am I in control here or is my anxiety? And most important: Is my anxiety doing me any good?”
  • “The next time you are afraid of some supposedly disastrous outcome, remember that if you don’t control your impulses, if you lose your self-control, you may be the very source of the disaster you so fear.”
  • “The next time you find yourself in the middle of a freakout, or moaning and groaning with flu-like symptoms, or crying tears of regret, just ask: Is this actually making me feel better? Is this actually relieving any of the symptoms I wish were gone?”
  • “Practice the ability of having absolutely no thoughts about something—act as if you had no idea it ever occurred. Or that you’ve never heard of it before. Let it become irrelevant or nonexistent to you. It’ll be a lot less powerful this way.”
  • “Locate that yearning for more, better, someday and see it for what it is: the enemy of your contentment.”
  • “Ask yourself: Is [my vice] really worth it? Is it really that pleasurable? Consider that when you crave something or contemplate indulging in a ‘harmless’ vice.”
  • “What we desire makes us vulnerable.”
  • “Whether it’s an opportunity to travel the world or to be the president or for five minutes of peace and quiet, when we pine for something, when we hope against hope, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Because fate can always intervene and then we’ll likely lose our self-control in response.”
  • “When it comes to your goals and the things you strive for, ask yourself: Am I in control of them or they in control of me?”
  • “It’s easy to act—to just dive in. It’s harder to stop, to pause, to think: No, I’m not sure I need to do that yet. I’m not sure I am ready.”

Pursuing a Balanced and Philosophical Life

  • “We should enjoy this brief time we have on earth—not be enslaved to emotions that make us miserable and dissatisfied.”
  • “Focus. Prioritize. Train your mind to ask: Do I need this thing? What will happen if I do not get it? Can I make do without it? The answers to these questions will help you relax, help you cut out all the needless things that make you busy—too busy to be balanced or happy.”
  • “One becomes a philosopher when they begin to exercise their guiding reason and start to question the emotions and beliefs and even language that others take for granted.”
  • “Don’t fear self-assessment because you’re worried you might have to admit some things about yourself.”
  • “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.”
  • “As you walk past your possessions today, ask yourself: Do I need this? Is it superfluous? What’s this actually worth? What is it costing me?”
  • “Ego and self-deception are the enemies of the things we wish to have because we delude ourselves into believing that we already possess them.”
  • “When we experience success, we must make sure that it doesn’t change us—that we continue to maintain our character despite the temptation not to.”

Questions

  1. How do you distinguish between what is within your control and what isn't in your daily life?
  2. What morning and evening rituals help you prepare for and reflect on your day?
  3. How has self-knowledge influenced your freedom and decision-making?
  4. In what ways do you practice saying 'no' to focus on what truly matters?
  5. How do you maintain clarity and purpose in your actions and accept things outside your control?
  6. What strategies do you use to manage anger and anxiety effectively?
  7. How do you ensure that your desires and impulses don't control you or your decisions?
  8. What daily practices help you maintain a balanced and philosophical approach to life?
  9. How do you assess your own actions and beliefs to ensure they align with your principles and goals?

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