I Read Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus. These are the Essential Stoic Lessons

If you consider yourself a victim, you will not have a good life.

I Read Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus. These are the Essential Stoic Lessons
Photo by Christopher Czermak 

It is your duty to put in the work. Imagine how much better the world would be if you can help people through your business or career.  

The goal of the Stoics is to banish negative emotions not all emotions.

Persuade yourself to want the things you already have to stop yourself from wanting more.

Imagine losing your belongings or relationships to realize why you should be grateful.

Hedonic adaption is when you start to take all that you have for granted and see it as your "new normal" even if it was your dream at one point.

Read novels and biographies about bad things that happened to people and imagine that they happened to you. Think about all of the luxuries you have now that your ancestors did not.

The Trichotomy of Control (a variation of Epictetus’ dichotomy of control):

  • Things we have complete control over.
  • Things we have some control over.
  • Things we have no control over.

You should set goals for things you have some control over the outcome by setting the goal on what you can do rather than an outcome. Ex) if you’re in a tennis match, make your goal to play your best rather than making your goal to win the match. Because you have only some control over the outcome.

Don’t dwell too much on things you have no control over.

Spend a lot of time on things you have full control over.

Staying in the present moment is fundamental in stoicism (Marcus Aurelius).

Stoics do not seek fame and fortune but if they get it, they a grateful for it and enjoy it. They want to be stoic in daily life, have a duty to the community, and want to be virtuous. These things can lead a stoic to become famous and wealthy even though they do not seek it.

You need to learn how to fight.

You need voluntary discomfort – underdress for cold weather, distance run, eat spicy foods, etc. It will make you enjoy the good parts of life.

Practice poverty. Ex) Take the bus instead of driving your car from time to time.

Have periods where you abstain from pleasure. This will make you enjoy pleasure more and be able to go without it. Ex) if you eat ice cream, you get the pleasure of eating the ice cream but you get the regret of eating it and the negative effects of it on your body. If you do not eat the ice cream, you get the pleasure of being able to tell yourself that you abstained from eating it and you get the benefits of not consuming sugar, dairy, extra calories.

  • The act of foregoing pleasure can itself be pleasant.

Journal and “meditate” on the day (This meditation is not like zen Buddhism meditation – there is a lot of thinking in stoic meditation):

  • What went well?
  • How can you recreate that good in the future?
  • What went bad?
  • How can you avoid that bad in the future?

Stoics do not care about insults from others. Other people will call you dumb – even if you are smarter than them.

Be careful when picking associates. Other people have the ability to ruin your tranquility.

  • This lines up with Adlerian psychology: most of the happiness you experience is from personal relationships but also most of the problems you have will be interpersonal problems.

You have a duty to do your best and serve the community. Your reward is a good life.

Choose friends who share Stoic values.

Avoid people with vices and people who are whiney.

  • A partner who is always upset will ruin your tranquility.

When you find someone who is annoying, think about how you could be annoying to others, this will allow you to empathize with them.

  • If you once believed the dumb thing they believe, then this can also make you empathize with them and see them as less annoying.

One of the best forms of revenge you can get on another person is to refuse to be like them.

Don’t have sex outside of marriage and in marriage, don't have sex unless to have children. To have sex outside of reproduction shows a lack of self-control.

If someone who is a fool disapproves of what you are doing or calls you an idiot, you know you are doing the right thing. Those insulting us have very flawed characters and deserve our pity rather than anger.

You should grieve a death of a loved one...but not too much. Find a balance. Try to imagine that it is better to have the times you shared with that person than to have them not live at all.

  • This is like the movie “Arrival”. The mom decided to have a daughter even though she knew she would get sick and die because she knew it would be better to have a daughter for a short time than not to have her at all.

Anger can be thought of as anti-joy. So we need to minimize anger.

You can pretend to be angry to get people to change in the short term.

  • Don’t actually get angry because that will ruin your day, but PRETEND to be angry.

You can pretend to grieve with your friend who just had something bad happen to them but don’t actually grieve with them. Just pretend to. To actually take on their negative emotions is unnecessary and will reduce the joy in your day.

Your internal state matches your external state. Relax your face and smile to reduce anger and increase happiness.

The price of fame is very high and outweighs its benefits.

Be indifferent to other people’s approval of us. Everyone has different values, so what you think is amazing is a dumb life choice to someone else.

Intentionally do things differently than others to trigger their disdain for you. So that you can practice not caring about their disdain for you.

Everyone around you (family, friends, etc.) wants you to fail because your success makes them look bad. They will likely never explicitly say this though.

  • Ignore the opinions of nay-sayers.

Have a simple, easy-to-prepare, bland, regular meal. This stops you from needing to have extravagant meals and saves time in meal prep.

  • Think of food as nutrients for survival – not for pleasure or taste. The pleasure from food is the most difficult of all pleasures to combat.

Have simple clothing, housing, and furnishings.

Stoicism and Buddhism line up in their view of wealth: It is ok to have wealth as long as you don’t take it for granted and it doesn’t corrupt you. But obtaining wealth should not be the goal.

Fame is even more dangerous than wealth. It is easier to be corrupted by it.

(1) Things in the past do not define the future and (2) dwelling on the past does not change the future. You can think of the past as a guide to avoiding mistakes in the future but you should not dwell on the past, regret it, or be resentful about the actions of others.

You should prevent negative emotions, not suppress them.

  • If you prevent or overcome an emotion, there is nothing to bottle. This contradicts modern psychology and the Stoics are right. Adler and Ernest Becker agree with the Stoics.
  • You overcome an emotion (such as grief) by reasoning why it isn’t bad because you are grateful for what you have.
  • Grief counseling and therapy, in general, can make it worse (especially if you have an incompetent therapist).
  • It makes no sense to be unhappy now because you were once unhappy in the past.

It is not helpful for anyone to consider themself a victim of society.

  • If you consider yourself a victim, you will not have a good life.

Life with a less-than-perfect mate is better than life with no mate at all. Some people are not a match for anyone and nobody is a match for everyone.

Ian Greer © . All rights reserved.