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Live like a Stoic

written by Matthew Rensberry on 2024-01-09


Live like a Stoic

  1. Recognize that which you have control over
  2. Recognize real problems from imaginary problems.

    “Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems” - Epictetus

  3. Learn what you can live without
  4. Cultivate your inner self

Four Cardinal Virtues to Live by:

  1. Wisdom Allows us to make better decisions that are logical and improves the lives of others and ourselves
  2. Justice Being fair and kind to others and treating them with dignity
  3. Courage The ability to act accordingly in the face of adversity, to face our fears and failures with equanimity
  4. Temperance Temperance helps us control our desires and become more disciplined

We are social

Us humans are:

  1. first and foremost thinking creatures
  2. We are also social creatures

Therefore, to live in agreement with nature is to live rationally and to use the ability of reasoning to better our society.

Objective representation

For example, if you have a habit of complaining, that could influence you to always focus on the negative side of an event even if you didn’t mean to.

It's not things that upset us but our judgment of things

"Life is opinion" - Marcus Aurelius

If you often use negative language, it will influence you to form negative conclusions before you even have the chance to think rationally.

Change your thought response:

But doing this, you will become less attached to external events, and as a by-product, you will also gain more respect from others.

Self Mentoring

Act as a mentor to yourself

A simple framework for daily stoic practices:

You can review your day by asking yourself three questions:

The point is not to judge ourselves and feel bad about our flaws but to constantly remind ourselves of the goal

Imagine being watched by a teacher or mentor or someone that you admire


Steps to Postpone Worry:

  1. Self-monitor
  2. Postpone thinking about it until a predetermined time
  3. Let go of your thoughts without trying to actively suppress them
  4. At the predetermined time, return yourself to the worry thoughts to consider
  5. If they seem insignificant when you return to them, just leave them alone. Otherwise visualize the worst possible scenario, using cognitive distancing and catastrophizing, and ask yourself what next ... figure out a plan

Avoiding Pleasure

It is a common misconception that the Stoics avoided pleasure; what the Stoic avoided was excess. Only when pleasure stands in the way of virtue, should it be avoided.

For example, if you are trying to lose weight and you have been offered a donut, you should reject it. It is pleasurable to eat that donut, but it would mean you are giving up the Stoic virtue of temperance (discipline).

Describing things objectively helps to resist the temptations of unhealthy desires.


Pain is not bad; Pain is indifferent; It is neutral. It is our perception of it that makes it good or bad.

Inner Peace

True inner peace comes from our thoughts rather than pleasant surroundings.

Much like happiness, inner peace is not influenced by external circumstances; it comes from the quality of our thoughts.


Most of the time, fear does us more harm than the thing we fear. Take death, for example, does fearing death benefit you?

However, it’s important to know that being cautious is not the same as being fearful. There are many things you should be cautious of, but almost nothing you should fear.

One could even say that all fear all irrational.

“If this will seem trivial to me 20 years from now, then why shouldn’t I view it as trivial today instead of worrying about it as if it’s a catastrophe.” – Donald Robertson

Think about some of the things that you fear today, and consider whether it will matter in the long run; most likely, the answer will be no.

Life is Unpredictable and thus Exciting!

Another Stoic belief is that you should never be surprised by anything in life because life is unpredictable by nature. The unpredictability of life is what makes it exciting.


"No man does wrong knowingly" - Socrates

One of the most useful techniques for managing anger is to realize that no one does wrong willingly.

10 “gifts from Apollo”, the god of healing, and his Muses

  1. We are naturally social animals designed to help one another. Humans naturally form communities and have deep-seated social instincts. We are adapted to work together for mutual benefit rather than conflict and destruction.
  2. Consider their character as a whole. We should particularly bear in mind how their opinions and values shape their behavior throughout the day. When we broaden our perspective beyond the behavior that’s annoying us, we tend to dilute our feelings of anger. We also understand their actions better by placing them in a wider context, and to understand all is to forgive all.
  3. Nobody does wrong willingly. The basis of Stoic forgiveness and empathy, and a key part of the remedy for anger. Marcus notes that everyone is offended when accused of wrongdoing. Even murderous dictators typically believe that their actions are justified, though they may seem morally egregious to everyone else.
  4. Nobody is perfect, yourself included. When you notice yourself becoming angry with another person you should take it as a signal to pause and examine whether or not you’re guilty of similar, wrong-headed thoughts or actions. Acknowledging our own flaws, and bearing them in mind, can moderate the anger we feel towards others.
  5. You can never be certain of other people’s motives. Anger, however, assumes an unwarranted certainty. Keeping an open mind, by contrast, will help weaken these feelings so that we can deal with the situation more calmly and rationally.
  6. Remember we all will die. When we think about the bigger picture, it doesn’t seem worth getting very flustered about other people’s actions.
  7. It’s our own judgement that upsets us. Marcus reminds himself that it’s not really the actions of others that make him feel angry but his own opinions about them, more specifically, opinions that are based upon negative value judgments. Noticing this fact alone can weaken the hold that strong emotions have on our mind but it should also encourage us to examine our beliefs and question whether there might be more healthy and constructive perspectives that we could adopt concerning the same situation.
  8. Anger does us more harm than good. Anger does us more harm, than the things we’re angry about. Focusing on the negative consequences of our anger can help motivate us to let it go.
  9. Nature gave us the virtues to deal with anger. Contemplate how a wise person, such as Socrates, would deal with challenging people or events, and what strengths or virtues he might employ in specific situations.
  10. It’s madness to expect others to be perfect. When someone acts in a way that’s objectionable we should tell ourselves that is to be expected from time to time. It’s just a part of life. Acting less shocked makes it easier to respond calmly and rationally to events that might otherwise make us feel enraged and offended.


Some of this came from this great reference:

Books to read: