“Everything that happens happens as it should,
and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.”
- Marcus Aurelius
You may be wondering what the life of a Modern Stoic looks like. While there is no specific set of laws or dogma, I will lay out a general “Day in the Life.” What actions can we take to help increase our contentment and improve ourselves at the same time? Let’s see!
The Modern Stoic awakes fairly early and doesn’t need to repeatedly hit the snooze button since they know the importance of a good night’s sleep and went to bed so that they will get 7-8 hours of sleep. While performing their morning routine, they may meditate on the upcoming days. Stoic meditation, compared to Buddhist meditation most people are familiar with, is not strict; it may be as simple as reflecting on things when we have a quiet moment. A morning meditation may involve things such as:
- What should we expect on our commute? Heavy traffic, rude passengers…
- What is on our schedule at work to accomplish?
- Which of our associates will we meet during the day?
If we take a moment while brushing our teeth or making coffee to prepare ourselves for the day we can plan on things or people who may disturb our peace and tranquility. If we know what may happen, it is possible to lessen our disturbance by foreseeing events before they happen.
After our commute to the office, a Modern Stoic will aim to perform at their peak. One excellent idea in Stoicism is to live in the moment because we cannot control the past or even the very present. The present is the culmination of our past actions, so we actually have no control over it. What does this mean? Even if we are miserable at work, we should strive to do our best while planning our actions to change our future situation. If we no longer spend time and energy disappointed with our past and present position, it improves our attitude and work quality. Our improved attitude has the effect of opening up chances of promotions, inside and outside our current employer, which may help our employment situation. The Modern Stoic may also be able to take advantage of opportunities that arise because they are not dwelling on the past or present. This is a very valuable tool in the Stoics arsenal!
It may also help to realize that no matter which station we choose in life, we have to deal with people. The emperor, Marcus Aurelius, lamented about the fact that we have to deal with people who will disturb our contentment. This did not prevent him from performing his daily activities though. In fact, he took his duties so serious that he commanded military operations in the frontier himself when he could have easily lived in luxury in Rome. Stoics had several practices to ease our interactions with unpleasant people we will meet on a daily basis.
- If we are insulted. Instead of taking it to heart, consider the character of the person who issued it. If they are someone we respect, and their comment true, we should not be offended because they were correct and trying to help us improve ourselves. A very noble deed. If the person is someone who is of low character, why let their opinion of us matter. In fact, if our actions are disagreeable to them, we may be living well because we are not living like them!
- If someone’s actions disturb us. As we have seen in a previous post about control, we cannot control the actions of other people. Instead of becoming irritated at their poor driving or bad parking, realize that they may not be able to do any better and might not even realize what they did.
- Look at the big picture. Similar to Buddhism, when faced with a dilemma that may upset them, a Modern Stoic will try to think of how inconsequential we are in the world. Does it really matter that our coffee was cold before we had a chance to drink it!? If we forget one task for the day, will it matter in the course of decades in our career?
- How blessed we are. Even if we are having the worst day, look at how blessed we still are. Take a moment and write down 10 things you have that you’re thankful for. It is a little ‘cliche’ but it can lessen the impact of the occasional bad day.
After an eventful day at work the Modern Stoic heads back home and does all the usual evening tasks of the day. This will vary wildly from person-to-person based on their own living arrangements. A single Stoic may go out to eat for supper and relax at home while a married Stoic with children will probably have a lot of chores to accomplish before putting everyone to bed. I have found that my own contentment has increased if I think of my chores as part of natural human life. Even if I do not want to wash dishes every night, I can take pleasure in accomplishing this chore and “doing my part” around the house.
With all of the day’s events done, the Modern Stoic may sit down to read a good book or watch a little television. Before heading to bed though, it is a good practice to run down the day’s events and see if we have acted like a Modern Stoic should have. This can take just several moments. Consider things like:
- Why did we become angry today? (It can be okay to become angry depending on the situation.)
- Did we allow someone to irritate us? We should have…
- Did we live up to the standards that we hold ourselves to? We can improve by doing…
- How would a Stoic Master have handled our situation? They would have…
Taking several moments to return to the events of the day can help us grow as an individual. Even if we did not live completely up to the ideals of Stoicism, it gives us the opportunity to change ourselves for the better! If we take one small step each day the outcome over one year will be amazing. Realize that one of the Stoic Masters, Cato the Younger, even had days where he did not live up to his-own ideals. His critics used these slips as a chance to bash his character, but he let it bother him not and went down in the history books as one of the great Roman citizens!
Since the Modern Stoic has pondered the events of the day, they will eventually head to bed and be able to sleep peacefully knowing that there is another new day on the way.
Let me know what you think! I would love to hear from you!!!