The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Livingby Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman
The Daily Stoic will introduce you to the timeless wisdom of the Stoics and give you practical ways for using this powerful philosophy in your daily life. This will help you cultivate clarity, make reasoned choices, gain a new perspective and increase self-awareness, leading to a life oriented around simplicity, gratitude, virtue, and inner strength.
The Stoic Perspective
“A wise person knows what is inside their circle of control and what is outside of it.”
Stoicism is a philosophy that originated in Ancient Greece around 300BCE. It was a way of thought and life adopted by people from all walks of life. One of its essential teachings is that philosophy is pragmatic—it is meant to be lived and can be practiced in any circumstances. In other words, a Stoic embodies their philosophy in action.
The goal is to live and practice Stoicism in the situations of everyday life, but the path begins with getting the right perspective. Our behavior and actions emerge from our thought processes. Stoics cultivate a perspective of clarity, awareness, self-reflection, and wisdom.
There are several time-tested ways to enhance and embed these principles into our thought processes. The first is to engage in philosophy regularly. This means regularly exposing yourself to the Stoic way of thought, whether through books, lectures, or discussion with a like-minded community. When you consistently reflect on Stoic ideas, the Stoic philosophy will slowly seep into your way of thinking and being.
Studying philosophy also serves as a buffer against the dominant viewpoint of our society, which tends to be overly superficial and materialistic. As you become familiar with Stoic ideas, you will begin to see through the bedazzling high-speed consumer lifestyle we are constantly being sold to the deeper essence of what life is really about.
Cultivating a Stoic perspective in your life is an active process that you need to commit to as it yields powerful results from the very beginning. Exploring Stoicism is a way to achieve mental clarity, peace of mind, confidence, and better judgment. It will help you face any life situation with a resolute and reasoned attitude, and it will teach you to make well-founded choices that lead to clear, confident behavior.
Actions to take
“The good that the Stoics advocate is simple and straightforward: wisdom, self-control, justice, courage. No one who achieves these quiet virtues experiences buyer’s remorse.”
Stoics seek to discover the values that deeply matter to them and then orient their life around these values. One of the keys to Stoic philosophy is clarifying what is truly important in life: is it money, sex, or power? Or is it love, justice, morality, or truth? What deeper values are you going to dedicate your life to? What do you truly live for? Remembering that life is finite and fleeting is a powerful way to gain perspective on the meaning of life. We don’t know how long we have to live or what comes after, so what will we do with the time we have left? Contemplating our own mortality is a wake-up call we could all use to clarify how we want to live.
Several values could be considered classically Stoic, including simplicity, awareness, discipline, gratitude, acceptance, generosity, and dedication. This list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive to Stoicism, but they are highlighted repeatedly in the Stoic tradition. Stoics take pride in cultivating virtue and character by consciously practicing these and other values in their thoughts and actions.
Once we know our values, it is up to us to live according to them. We control how we spend our time and what we devote our attention to. With passion and discipline, we can dedicate ourselves to the things that truly matter to create and live a meaningful life.
Actions to take
“If we do not focus on our internal integration—on self-awareness—we risk external disintegration.”
Stoics are well-known for their razor-sharp clarity, especially when it comes to what is in our control and what isn’t. In the Stoic view, the only thing we have power over is our mind—our thoughts, responses, attitudes, and choices. Everything else, including other people’s feelings, behaviors, and events in the broader world, is out of our hands. Understanding this fundamental truth is the way toward wisdom, simplicity, and self-control. Maintaining this perspective while acting in alignment with our deepest values is the essence of a Stoic life.
Stoics are tasked with regular and honest self-reflection. The purpose of this is two-fold: firstly, to be reminded of the essential Stoic values you want to live by; secondly, to constructively evaluate where you are falling short of your own ideals and encourage yourself to do better. Self-reflection can take the form of journaling, meditation, or simply quiet time to think and process.
Actions to take
“There is clarity in simplicity.”
The Stoic lifestyle flows naturally from the philosophy, and one of the key values emphasized is simplicity. It is a quality that arises spontaneously from the exercise of reasoned choice and analytical thinking. It enhances our ability to reason and make logical choices. Many Stoic values operate symbiotically with the Stoic perspective, each one nurturing the other.
The following are ways to bring forth simplicity and purity from inside into the world. Adopting these habits creates a new way of living based on Stoic values. If some of these actions may feel strange or unfamiliar to you, go back to cultivating a Stoic perspective and allow the actions to emerge over time. While discipline is certainly required and prized, there is no sense in forcing yourself to be someone you are not (or not yet). It is always up to you to decide how to embody your values, given your context and your life. Make the philosophy fit you, not the other way around.
Actions to take
The Stoic Way of Life
“Serenity and stability are the results of your choices and judgment, not your environment.”
The main purpose of living a Stoic lifestyle means supporting and contributing to the good of all. Stoics believe that because we are interconnected with our environment and other beings, we must live well for the common good. An essential part of living as a Stoic is embracing depth: learning to look beyond the surface and live wholeheartedly. This is how we give the world the best and most of ourselves.
Living a Stoic lifestyle is not always easy or fashionable, but it’s a powerful way to understand the world and contribute to your community. By embodying the values of truth, justice, simplicity, tolerance, and generosity, you can not only craft a meaningful life for yourself, but you can also bring something beautiful and noble into the world.
Stoicism is not ‘all work, no play.’ While embracing simplicity and practicing philosophy is rewarding, the Stoics also recognized the value of rest, relaxation and leisure. Finding the right balance is part of navigating the application of philosophy to life. And since Stoicism is a way of life that emphasizes depth, we can take it to heart by both working and relaxing deeply.’
Actions to take
The Stoic Heart
“Dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness ever ready to flow if you will keep digging.” —Marcus Aurelius
One prevalent misconception about Stoicism is that it is anti-emotional. Stoics are neither unemotional nor anti-emotional; rather, they favor emotional balance, giving emotion its proper place concerning reason and logic. This means freeing our minds from the negative impacts of emotions and passions so that we can use both faculties (thought and feeling) independently or interdependently, as needed. It would be imprudent and unwise for a Stoic to live solely on feeling, as emotions (especially unpleasant ones) obscure judgment and lead to future regrets. Instead, a Stoic’s work begins by learning to handle strong emotions calmly and steadily.
Nowhere does Stoicism advocate the denial or suppression of emotion—but it does encourage moderation and self-restraint in behavior. We need to avoid catastrophizing, acting out, and uncontrolled emotional outbursts that make situations worse rather than better. Our job is to find healthy and safe outlets for processing emotion and regaining our perspective. In doing so, we will naturally reconnect with our balanced reason and the generosity and tolerance in our hearts.
There are also emotional states that are highly prized by the Stoics, such as peace, gratitude, contentment, and acceptance. Stoics engage in regular practice and cultivation of these qualities—digging deep within ourselves for goodness—in order to live well. Acting with love, appreciation, and peace in our hearts is a beautiful way to embody the essence of Stoic values in the world.
Actions to take
Stoic Advice for Hard Times
“A podium and a prison is each a place, one high and the other low, but in either place, your freedom of choice can be maintained if you so wish.” —Epictetus
Stoicism is often regarded as a philosophy for hard times. In the common understanding, to be stoic is to bear adversity without complaint. Stoicism, as a philosophy, applies to all aspects of life, but it shines brightest during difficult times when Stoics highlight the virtues of inner strength, acceptance, character, and resilience. ‘See your challenges as opportunities to cultivate your values’ is the essence of the approach. The idea of accepting and even loving one’s fate, known as amor fati is a major theme of Stoicism. This is not a passive endeavor, but a way of cutting through resistance, which often wastes more time and energy than is wise, and learning to play the hand we are dealt skilfully.
An essentially Stoic approach to a challenging circumstance is to return to what is in our control: our freedom of choice. No matter the situation, we can always choose how to react, think, and take action. In some situations, our ability to act may be limited, but we can always choose our perspective and attitude. We can and do have the power—and therefore the duty—to bring love, forgiveness, justice, and truth to any difficult circumstance. Every hardship that we meet in this way, using our reasoned choice, is a challenge that we have turned to our advantage. It is a way to celebrate our character's triumph and continually become stronger, more capable, and more resilient.
Stoicism encourages us to continually grow and evolve in the service of what is good and right. We aim at the ideal and work towards it without ever expecting or even needing to reach it. Life’s purpose is in the process of living rather than in achieving any goal, even the lofty ones.
Part of our task is to be nimble, flexible, and adaptable in the ever-changing landscape of everyday life. While Stoics prize determination and perseverance, they also emphasize wisdom, humility, and agility—especially knowing how to learn from experience and when to change strategies. There is no sense in continuing down roads that lead nowhere and no shame in choosing better approaches as we learn about them.