Few ancient philosophies stood the test of time quite like Stoicism. Many even see the 21st century as Stoicism’ finest hour. In this context, more people read the works of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius than ever before. Stoicism’s modern success resides mostly in its timelessness and practicability. By using a few Stoic guidelines, you can achieve tangible improvements in all aspects of life. On this basis, here are 6 powerful Stoic habits that changed my life.
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In our uber-connected, ever-accelerating world, teachings of stillness, mindfulness, and temperance become more and more appealing.
People start to move away from endless one-click distractions toward focus and substance.
That’s where Stoicism can change your life.
You don’t need to read every single vers of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.
You simply need to understand how the Stoics designed their mindset and routines.
A Stoic mindset requires conscious decisions and these can become a source of concentration, productivity, and satisfaction.
Better still, Stoic thinking provides strength and relief when times are tough.
Stoic habits that changed my life
The following are 6 effective Stoic habits that changed my life. Over time, all of these simple acts generated discernible personal growth.
1. Setting up a morning routine
“Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants, the spiders, and the bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being?” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 5
Every morning, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius reminded himself that he needed to contribute his part to the world.
That’s where well-defined morning habits come to fruition.
During his time at the helm of the Roman Empire, Marcus’ routine would become his productivity guarantor and ensure self-control.
Over 2,000 years ago, his morning routine consisted of journaling, breakfast, and self-reflection. The “philosopher king” planned the day and wrote about potential struggles.
In this context, a well-tailored morning routine is among the most effective Stoic habits that changed my life.
It took me a while to identify the right morning rituals, but once found, these habits became major pillars for a successful day.
My morning routine nowadays includes a cold shower, ten minutes of meditation, a hearty breakfast meal, a short walk, a bit of reading, and a brief stint of journaling.
I can safely say that these habits make or break my days. If I fail to follow my self-defined morning rituals, my days are less productive and I feel unsatisfied.
Journaling is an essential part of many philosophical streams and Stoicism is no exception.
In this context, Seneca sat down every night and journaled about what happened on that day.
“I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by.”
The act of journaling has various benefits.
First, it empties your mind and gives you time to breathe. By transferring your thoughts, fears, and hopes onto paper, you clear your mind and make way for new ideas.
Secondly, your journal can track your personal and professional endeavors.
Whatever goals you’re chasing, journaling will help you celebrate small wins, stay focused, and assess bumps along the way.
For more info on my journaling structures and methods, read My Daily Journaling Routine in 3 Essential Parts.
3. Looking for positives amid negativity
When it comes to finding positivity in bleak situations, Stoicism is your best friend.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
This famous quote epitomizes Stoic thinking. Marcus Aurelius always highlighted the importance of controlling your reactions to negativity.
Once you accept the fact that you cannot control external events, you learn how to deal with difficult situations.
You start to train your perceptions instead of feeling despondent about external occurrences.
As an example, you might have lost your job.
You could feel sad and look for culprits. You could blame yourself, your boss, your company, or the general state of the world.
Or you could react with Stoic acceptance, identify the lessons from the experience, and move on to the next project.
You cannot control your lay-off. You can, however, control the next steps on your professional route.
4. Cutting out distractions
If you struggle with procrastination, Stoicism can be a major concentration booster.
The ancient Stoics consciously avoided distractions by focusing their creativity and effort in the areas that truly matter.
“Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions.” – Marcus Aurelius
In other words, direct your energy toward fruitful activities. Don’t try to do everything at once.
Use your resources in a few select areas that advance your personal and professional quests.
Take out a notebook and write down everything you did today. How many of these small deeds take you further in life?
Was that 10-minute argument with my partner useful for our relationship or futile?
Did this 30-minute client call contribute to the growth of my business?
Was this 1-hour social media session relaxing or distracting?
Akin to journaling, separating useful endeavors from banal distractions is a major part of Stoicism.
Both help you cut out distractions and utilize your resources more efficiently. This will ultimately improve your productivity and mindfulness in everyday life.
5. Meditation and stillness
Stoicism is practically synonymous with meditation.
The idea of gathering your thoughts in stillness is omnipresent in ancient Stoicism and equally useful today.
There are many ways to meditate and everybody has to find their best method.
I usually meditate in the morning, just before breakfast. I first think about the day ahead and go through my plans.
I then sit still for five minutes and imagine a soothing waterfall. The entire session takes no more than ten minutes.
This seemingly mundane act has become a life-changing habit. It helps me approach the day with poise and determination – reducing stress factors from the getgo.
6. Remembering to use your time well
“It’s not at all that we have too short a time to live, but that we squander a great deal of it. Life is long enough, and it’s given in sufficient measure to do many great things if we spend it well.” – Seneca, On the Brevity of Life, 1.3
If Stoicism has taught me one thing, it’s that we ought to make the most out of every day we have.
Everything is temporary and nothing lasts forever. Change is the only constant in life.
As a whole, Stoic habits help us appreciate the importance of every single day.
I often compare my days to long-haul flights.
I recently spent twelve hours flying from Frankfurt to Bangkok without having downloaded a new book on my Kindle.
Worse still, the airline’s movie offer wasn’t great. Those hours felt like an eternity but there was nothing to show for them.
On the way back, I had sufficient reading materials and a few professional tasks to complete. I didn’t sleep at all, finished two books, and completed my work.
The same twelve hours went by in a jiffy. And yet, they felt like twenty-four hours.
Consequently, if you apply Seneca’s teachings and utilize your time, you feel like you’ve lived much longer.
Any given day can go both ways.
Either you fill your day with rewarding, productive activities, or with distractions. If you spend it well, you feel like you’ve done your part. You moved forward in life.
If you, on the other hand, spend it badly, you feel like you’ve wasted a long period.
That’s why my journal nowadays often contains a mention of “Frankfurt – Bangkok” or “Bangkok – Frankfurt.”
What kind of flight will you take today?
Stoicism and philosophy books for beginners
- Stillness is The Key by Ryan Holiday on Amazon
- How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci on Amazon
- The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday on Amazon
Useful links on 7 Powerful Stoic Habits That Changed My Life
- more under the topic “Stoicism”
- read My Daily Journaling Routine in 3 Essential Parts
- more in the section “Life”
- read 5 Stoic Questions to Ask Yourself Daily
- read Stoicism and Minimalism – 10 Lessons From Marcus Aurelius