When was the last time you thought about your death? Oh, maybe you weren’t expecting that, but then how are you a stoic?
You see, it will be plausible to first admit that contrary to the opinion of many who see stoicism from afar, we stoics learn more about the things it takes to have a life worth living in a world like this than living in isolation.
It reminds me of a question I came across recently: “Is stoicism more of emotional intelligence or detachment?”, well emotional intelligence is the most suitable way to summarise stoicism in this case, so by now you should know how sauced the practice can be too.
Be that as it may, let me introduce you to some habits or lifestyle practices that will make your year in 2024 and beyond as stoic. Let the countdown begin!
9. Do a good deed
“Be the change you want to see in the world”, Mahatma Gandhi.
Do you know stoicism ultimately teaches us all that it does so that we can be beneficial to society? Constantly, we have heard the early stoics talk about their people and often even put those people first.
This means that after learning all that stoicism has for you, you should know that you’re not equipped for yourself alone but for the good of all— stemming a better world from you.
With this practice, we’re exhorting you to go out there and help someone, not only those who are conspicuously in need, preferably an outright stranger.
You do not only want to do a good deed today because it is the ultimate reason for practicing stoicism but also because science has proven that the doer of a good deed also psychologically benefits from the act. It can instill a sense of fulfilment, among others.
8. Cut out a recurring expense
“However great the income, if there is extravagance, but little is left”, Cato the Elder wrote comparing man with farm.
The idea of cutting out a recurring expense cannot be more simply explained—it is what it is. The rationale for it, however, may need to be explicitly outlined: saving.
We all know that rainy days may come but only a few prepare for it. This is one reason people who sink into financial crucibles often drown.
Regardless of how much you have, you should learn to have something that can keep you up for about six months in case things go wrong.
In a reading, which shall soon appear in the book recommendation below, we saw fire consumed the assets of Liberalis, a friend of Seneca, and left him in a slough of despond, and seemed to have consumed his courage alongside.
In the book, we were made to realize that the problem Liberalis had was not planning for such future eventualities, even though a fire had just ruined a neighbourhood not far from his sometime earlier.
The financial problems we may face have been surfacing and resurfacing from every point in history, but we in the figment of our minds think we are a different people— for merely irrational reasons.
Cut out a recurring expense today and be more prepared for tomorrow’s unforeseen contingencies.
7. Put ‘Premeditatio Malorum’ into practice
As a stoic, you must have learnt about premeditatio malorum, but whether you’ve made it exist outside your head is the point.
“In peace prepare for war”, Sun Tzu had written.
More moderately, Charles Bukowski wrote: “Nothing was promised to you in life. You have not signed any contract.”
Finding common ground for both extractions, one sees that one is not guaranteed what one fantasizes about in life: war will come; the unexpected will.
This is closely related to the idea of saving for rainy days (previously examined), except that this is in a more general sense.
You see, as stoics, we must be honest and blunt in relating reality to ourselves. The occurrence of the good things in life isn’t as sure as those of the terrible things: the worst happens!!
But guess what, one thing will make us get along with the worst: admitting that it happens, preparing for it, and facing it in any case.
More crisply, this practice demands that you start living like you’ve lost or lose the most valuable thing to you.
It may mean getting rid of that material possession you think you cannot do without, pretending you have to search for a new job, or getting roasted (learning to talk insults and reacting as a non-living thing will), as Daily Stoic puts it.
If I’m permitted, I will cramp ‘staying physically fit’ here, since it is also a practice that can help you stand an unknown time.
Being physically fit is also important to us because as Seneca puts it, we should treat the body rigorously “that it may not be disobedient to the mind”.
Make sure you are not caught unaware when anything, even the worst, happens.
6. Widen your horizon
Epictetus was trying to promote epistemic humility in Stoics when he posited that it is impossible for one to learn what one thinks he already knows.
“I would never d!e for my beliefs because I might be wrong” Bertrand Russell.
Do not think that you know it all already, not even in your line of work. This thought is merely egoistic. You are encouraged to stay a student, as Ryan Holiday wrote in his book, “Ego is the Enemy”.
To wrap up, you’ll notice some of the quotes used to underscore the points on this list are from thinkers who are not defined stoics. That is what stoicism requires of us in terms of learning.
We must pick valuable ideas anywhere we can get one. The goal is to become advanced learners, not vainglorious competitors.
The words of a Facebook user, Jesse Whitson, who told me that as philosophers, we “are fools searching for correction” so much resonate with me that it cannot escape making it to this topic.
Every true learner thrives by being receptive and though also cautious of what he agrees with.
As a result, Daily Stoic suggests that we reread some (five will do) of the best books we’ve ever read every year to gain in-depth knowledge on whatever we’d learnt from the books the first time.
Read Also: 9 books on Stoicism
5. Say ‘Thank you’, not ‘Goddammit’
“Accept the present— all of it”, Marcus Aurelius.
I’d also quote Seneca as saying that we suffer more in imagination than in reality. Whatever happens to us cannot unhappen, so what is the point in adding to our troubles by making our minds believe we’ve run into a mess?
Knowing full well that the mind controls most of our actions and inactions, we’ve got to make it see what we wish to see and not what life has brought our way.
As a result, you’ve got to send a different message to your mind whenever something awful happens and emit (perhaps a sigh of) Thank You!! That will help your mind validate your fabricated thoughts.
4. Minimize your use of social media
“Wipe it clean—every annoyance and distraction—and reach your stillness”, Marcus Aurelius.
In an article, PMC wrote: “One of the outcomes of this study was that extreme use of social media— can lead to an increase in risk of anxiety— human empathy, and difficulties in handling solitude.”
This is a fair request that you do something with regard to the earlier discussed point of getting rid of your most valuable possession: minimize your use of social media or delete a social media app from your device now.
You can achieve a lot with the time you spend browsing the media every now and then. Social media can help, and sure it’s helping, but the bad sides of it unfortunately seem to be winning over its good counterpart.
Though often subliminal, so that even you will neither easily notice it nor believe it, there are a thousand and one ways in which your use of social media can make you unhappy, mentally constrained, and lagging. Most of these are scientifically proven.
Not to seem like some kind of a hater of their inventions, we won’t be saying more about the negative effects of these platforms on your life ourselves. We’d suggest you read some of the properly researched papers on the topic.
3. Embrace solitude
“The monotony of a quiet life stimulates a creative mind”, Albert Einstein.
It is high time you stopped getting engrossed in the things that make your mind wander every now and then because your mind and its functions should be for your betterment and not those of the 99% club.
Take some time for yourself every day. Sit alone, without any devices (like your AirPods), and focus your mind on one thing without getting distracted. As Daily Stoic exhorts, you should sit and count 1-1000 to yourself— it takes about 17 minutes if you allow each number go with a second.
The essence of this is to train yourself to understand that even in the hurly-burly of life, you haven’t lost yourself to the world. That you can always retrieve yourself and keep your equanimity whenever you wish.
Embracing solitude for a longer period or even working under it can guarantee multiplied productiveness and creativity.
2. Write your personal ten commandments
“Say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do”, Epictetus.
You are encouraged to state clearly what you should now begin to do or not do. It should be beyond lip service or idle talk.
Your commandments should be a written set of rules that guide your conduct and see to it that you’re restrained.
I shouldn’t be saying this, but since you’ve read this far, I’m disclosing this hint: In my personal ten commandments, number ten states that breaking the rules costs a virtue of not using data connection the day after the deed. Haha.
You know what this means for a media personality—a day without using the internet!! You should also sanction yourself for getting around your commandments.
1. Remind yourself of death
So back to the issue we began this piece treating. We must remind ourselves of not only the inevitability but also the uncertainty of our deadlines in life.
You never can tell when the time will be. The only sure thing is that death will catch up with all, and it will catch up anytime.
“Death smiles at us all; all a man can do is smile back”, Marcus Aurelius.
By reminding ourselves of this simple truth, we tend to do better all that we find ourselves doing. It makes us think of what the eulogy we’ll get at our funeral will look like.
Think of that again. It may help to write your eulogy now and see what’s missing. The missing part is the part you haven’t achieved and that which you should now start working towards. We’ll all be gone before long, but our legacies can remain for eons.
Build a system that constantly reminds you of the new lifestyle practices you’re committing to.
I have some papers sellotaped to the exit of my homestead to always keep me on track in a way. For instance, on one of these is the inscription: “Vivre sans temps mort” a French saying that translates: “Live without wasting time”.
For me, not wasting time means going back to keep to my rules, so it is ultimately a reminder that things have changed.
And yeah, you want to start that kind of practice too. You can get some cardboard papers, write the things that’ll trigger you the most on them, and put them in places where you’ll always come in contact with them.
A few months ago, I relied on my phone calendar for this sort of reminder. It is another good way to stay reminded. In any case, you don’t want to watch these practices slip away without using them.
You can reshape your mind and practically remold yourself into an actual stoic by not only reading but also putting the teachings of early stoics into practice. It is a lot more practical than you might think. Just don’t hesitate to start somewhere and start now.
Using the Daily Stoic platform as a point of contact to all the other sources of philosophical works, we wish to say that this piece would not have been possible without existing literary works, especially New Year, New You Challenge by Daily Stoic.
- New Year, New You Challenge by Daily Stoic.
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
- Letters from a Stoic by Seneca; and
- Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.
These books are our recommendations for all stoics who are preparing to make the best of their years.
Email [email protected]/ if you need a free PDF copy of any of the books mentioned here.Share