10 Stoic Life Rules: An Ancient Guide to Good Living

One of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations' most accessible passages is his fight with himself in book 5. He and many of us have had countless morning arguments with ourselves: He must get out of bed but wants to stay warm. 

Rule 1: Own the morning

Stoic philosophy's most crucial discipline is distinguishing what we can and cannot alter. What we control and don't. In practice, how does this look? Example: sports. An athlete cannot influence whether the other team cheats or whether refs call calls correctly. 

Rule 2: Only focus on what’s in your control

What worries you now? Your job? Your family? Your future? Your health? You're not crazy for worrying. Any of them may go wrong. Auto collision. An economic slump. Unexpected diagnosis. Let's travel back a month, year, or five years. Then, what worried you? Mostly the same, right? How many worries came true? Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Rule 3: Don’t suffer imagined trouble

Marcus Aurelius' metaphor was intriguing. He thought men, emperors, soldiers—everyone—were rocks. He said to throw the rock up, “it loses nothing by coming down and gained nothing by going up.” Rock is constant. His life may resemble this. Hadrian chose an ordinary guy to be emperor. He could have been dethroned at any time (and nearly was late in his reign). 

Rule 4: Treat success and failure the same

His friend Lucilius received many Seneca letters. Lucilius was from Pompeii, a Roman knight, the imperial procurator in Sicily then its governor, and possessed a rural home in Ardea. Despite his success, he fought with anxiety, distraction, fear, and temptation, just like us. Self-discipline.

Rule 5: Just do one thing every day

Epictetus claimed lovely choices were beauty's source. Probably more about truly beautiful human behavior than outward beauty, but it relates to both. A beautiful woman whose appearances are the consequence of vanity and self-obsession will be ugly when you know her. A man with ripped muscles from steroids and negligence isn't impressive.

Rule 6: Make beautiful choice

We must reassess things now more than ever. We examine our careers, finances, and homes. We're looking at several government, cultural, and familial systems. We're wondering why they're what they are and how they've survived this global pandemic. 

Rule 7: Constantly ask, “is this necessary?”

Friedrich Nietzsche's prescription for human grandeur was amor fati—love of fate. “That one wants nothing to change, forward, backward, or forever. Love what is required, not just tolerate or hide it. Stoics knew and accepted this mindset. Marcus Aurelius said two millennia earlier: “A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.”

Rule 8: Love your fate

Stoicism founder Zeno received cryptic instructions as a young man. Oracle advised Zeno, “To live the best life, you should have conversations with the dead.” That means what? As with ghosts and goblins? Chat in a cemetery? Of course not. The Oracle discussed reading. Because books let us communicate with the dead. The characters in a book may be dead or dusty, but they live on in the pages. 

Rule 9: Speak with the dead 

Cato detested extravagance. He despised elegance. He detested luxury. He thought such indulgences were dumb and weak. How did Cato view his less strict brother? The man loved him. Actually, he worshipped him. Keep in mind: Stoics are strict. We strongly believe in right and wrong. This is a significant point.Marcus Aurelius writes that we must forgive people shut off from truth.

Rule 10: Be tough on yourself and understanding to other

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