How to live life properly — According To Stoics
Around 2000 years ago a man was born, who would go on to be one of the greatest philosophers to have ever lived. He taught people the importance of kindness, forgiveness, on doing one’s duty, on the power of poverty and the corruptive influence of wealth. Eventually, his wisdom became too much for the Romans to handle so he was painfully put to death. He asked his followers and loved ones, while experiencing a very public death, to forgive the Emperor and the people doing this to him, as they did not know what they were doing. In those final moments he immortalized himself.
Whenever we talk about stoicism, it’s most about Marcus Aurelius and the way he lived his life as a humble Roman Emperor. As weird as that sounds, he really was one of the few philosopher Emperors. Another man, perhaps even more influential in his teachings is Seneca. Before sharing some of my favorite quotes from Seneca, let’s look at his daily routine and all the things he to do every single day.
- Wake up early
- Stick to his routine
- Treat everyone he met as an opportunity for kindness
- Look for one nugget of wisdom
- Prepare for adversity
- Write to a friend
- Meditate on his mortality
- Put his day up for review
Some of the questions he would ask himself were:
In what have I done wrong? What have I done? What have I omitted that I ought to have done?
The fact that you know your day is up for review in the evening, you tend to act with more virtue and kindness throughout the day. Seneca would say “If in this examination you find that you have done wrong, reprove yourself severely for it; and if you have done any good, rejoice.
Apart from the day in review, he would also do a morning preview. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius both note the importance of “booting up” in the right frame of mind each morning, one that is in accordance with nature and prepares you for the work of the day.
In the morning when you rise unwillingly, let this thought be present: I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed and keep myself warm? — Marcus Aurelius
You can’t just write about stoicism without a few quotes from Marcus Aurelius.
Point of the matter is, the stoics previewed their day in the mornings, they write down all the things they plan for the day ahead, as well as some goals and aspirations they might have, and important things that need to be taken care of. In the evenings they would review all those events, see where they did the right thing and where they did the wrong thing.
As far as one of the wisest men in the history of the world is concerned, here are his thoughts:
Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.
It is a petty and sorry person who will bite back when he is bitten.
It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.
If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.
Enjoy the present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.
Those are my five favorite quotes from Seneca.
There’s a lot to be learned not only from his daily routine but also from the way the man thought. Yes, he lived in the moment, enjoyed pleasures, while also thinking about the future, meditating on his death much like Marcus Aurelius did. Stoics don’t shy away from meaningless pleasures, but don’t quite embrace them either. They look at them from neutral light, neither good nor bad, they’re just there to be experienced and nothing more.
I will leave you with a few more quotes, thanks for reading.
Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.
A man’s as miserable as he thinks he is.
Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.
It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.
A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.
Ignorance is the cause of fear.
Be wary of the man who urges action in which he himself incurs no risk.
What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.
If we could be satisfied with anything, we should have been satisfied long ago.