A Guide to the Good Life
A Guide to the Good Life

A Guide to the Good Life

They both, for example, stress the importance of contemplating the transitory nature of the world around us and the importance of mastering desire, to the extent that it is possible to do so. (Location 138)

individuals. I discovered, though, that the goal of the Stoics was not to banish emotion from life but to banish negative emotions. (Location 146)

I encountered individuals who were cheerful and optimistic about life (even though they made it a point to spend time thinking about all the bad things that could happen to them) and who were fully capable of enjoying life’s pleasures (while at the same time being careful not to be enslaved by those pleasures). (Location 147)

His Stoicism did not prevent Cato from fighting bravely to restore the Roman republic. (Location 159)

There was also agreement that one wonderful way to tame our tendency to always want more is to persuade ourselves to want the things we already have. (Location 165)

We will reconsider our goals in living. In particular, we will take to heart the Stoic claim that many of the things we desire—most notably, fame and fortune—are not worth pursuing. (Location 184)

We will, for example, take care to distinguish between things we can control and things we can’t, so that we will no longer worry about the things we can’t control and will instead focus our attention on the things we can control. (Location 191)

But their pastor will probably have relatively little to say on what they must do to have a good life. (Location 305)

The early Stoics, for example, were interested not only in a philosophy of life, but in physics and logic as well, for the simple reason that they thought these areas of study were inherently entwined. (Location 358)

The Cyrenaics, for example, thought the grand goal in living was the experience of pleasure and therefore advocated taking advantage of every opportunity to experience it. (Location 363)

They thought people should enjoy the good things life has to offer, including friendship and wealth, but only if they did not cling to these good things. (Location 365)

Few people, one imagines, had the courage and endurance to live the life of a Cynic. (Location 398)

The Stoics favored a lifestyle that, although simple, allowed creature comforts. (Location 436)

The Stoics enjoyed whatever “good things” happened to be available, but even as they did so, they prepared themselves to give up the things in question. (Location 438)

Stoic logic showed an unprecedented degree of sophistication. The Stoics’ interest in logic is a natural consequence of their belief that man’s distinguishing feature is his rationality. (Location 442)

Students who knew logic could detect the fallacies committed by others and thereby prevail over them in arguments. (Location 448)

It is concerned not with moral right and wrong but with having a “good spirit,” that is, with living a good, happy life or with what is sometimes called moral wisdom. (Location 457)

The Stoics, however, thought it entirely possible for someone to have a bad life despite making a very good living. (Location 463)

For the Stoics, a person’s virtue does not depend, for example, on her sexual history. Instead, it depends on her excellence as a human being—on how well she performs the function for which humans were designed. (Location 470)

To be virtuous, then, is to live as we were designed to live; it is to live, as Zeno put it, in accordance with nature. (Location 473)

We have the ability to reason. From this we can conclude, Zeno would assert, that we were designed to be reasonable. (Location 477)

Most significantly, since nature intended us to be social creatures, we have duties to our fellow men. We should, for example, honor our parents, be agreeable to our friends, and be concerned with the interests of our countrymen. (Location 479)

namely, to behave in a rational manner. (Location 484)

Although he drinks wine, he doesn’t do so in order to get drunk. The Stoic sage is, in short, “godlike.”21 (Location 492)

When Panaetius traveled to Rome in around 140 BC, he took Stoicism with him. He befriended Scipio Africanus and other Roman gentlemen, got them interested in philosophy, and thereby became the founder of Roman Stoicism. (Location 502)

For one thing, they showed less interest in logic and physics than the Greeks had. (Location 505)

The Roman Stoics retained this goal, but we find them also repeatedly advancing a second goal: the attainment of tranquility. (Location 509)

Stoic tranquility was a psychological state marked by the absence of negative emotions, such as grief, anger, and anxiety, and the presence of positive emotions, such as joy. (Location 511)

I think, is that the Roman Stoics had less confidence than the Greeks in the power of pure reason to motivate people. (Location 530)

Seneca talks about the things that typically make people unhappy—such as grief, anger, old age, and social anxieties— (Location 576)

he was instead an active participant in it. (Location 578)

This wealth has given rise to the charge that Seneca was a hypocrite, that he advocated Stoic restraint while living a life of extreme affluence. (Location 595)

we must be ready to give up the good things without regret if our circumstances should change. (Location 599)

Basically, we need to use our reasoning ability to drive away “all that excites or affrights us.” (Location 609)

Seneca telling his friend Lucilius that if he wishes to practice Stoicism, he will have to make it his business to “learn how to feel joy.” (Location 615)

ACCORDING TO MUSONIUS, we should study philosophy, since how otherwise could we hope to live well? (Location 639)

your life is the medium on which you practice the art of living. (Location 674)

Epictetus promised, they would experience a life that was filled with purpose and dignity, and more important, they would attain tranquility. (Location 679)

We are rational, as are the gods. We are therefore a curious hybrid, half-animal and half-god. (Location 691)

he needs to perform well the function of a human being, the function Zeus designed him to fulfill. (Location 710)

“BEGIN EACH DAY by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness—all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.” (Location 718)

it was Apollonius who impressed on him the need to be decisive and reasonable, taught him how to combine days full of intense activity with periods of relaxation, and taught him how, “with the same unaltered composure,” to withstand sickness and pain—and in particular, (Location 730)

how to withstand the mental anguish he later experienced on losing a son. (Location 732)

As Roman emperors go, Marcus was exceptionally good. For one thing, he exercised great restraint in his use of power. (Location 744)

Marcus is, in other words, a rare example of a philosopher king and perhaps the only example of a philosopher whom subjects wanted to have as their king. (Location 753)

It is therefore with good reason that Marcus observed, in his Meditations, that “the art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.” (Location 766)

They instead tend to spend their days working hard to be able to afford the latest consumer gadget, in the resolute belief that if only they buy enough stuff, they will have a life that is both meaningful and maximally fulfilling. (Location 783)

Misfortune weighs most heavily, he says, on those who “expect nothing but good fortune.” (Location 798)

We humans are unhappy in large part because we are insatiable; after working hard to get what we want, we routinely lose interest in the object of our desire. Rather than feeling satisfied, we feel a bit bored, and in response to this boredom, we go on to form new, even grander desires. (Location 802)

One key to happiness, then, is to forestall the adaptation process: We need to take steps to prevent ourselves from taking for granted, once we get them, the things we worked so hard to get. (Location 821)

the easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have. (Location 827)

They recommended that we spend time imagining that we have lost the things we value—that our wife has left us, our car was stolen, or we lost our job. (Location 830)

Besides contemplating the death of relatives, the Stoics think we should spend time contemplating the loss of friends, to death, perhaps, or to a falling-out. (Location 854)

We should live as if this very moment were our last.11 (Location 859)

Some people assume that it means living wildly and engaging in all sorts of hedonistic excess. (Location 861)

This in turn will make it less likely that we will squander our days. (Location 867)

And besides contemplating the loss of our life, say the Stoics, we should contemplate the loss of our possessions. (Location 871)

We would be much better off, Marcus says, to spend this time thinking of all the things we have and reflecting on how much we would miss them if they were not ours. (Location 873)

But thanks to hedonic adaptation, as soon as we find ourselves living the life of our dreams, we start taking that life for granted. (Location 878)

As long as he retains his health, his circumstances could again be worse—a point worth considering. And if his health deteriorates? He can be thankful that he is still alive. (Location 886)

By consciously thinking about the loss of what we have, we can regain our appreciation of it, and with this regained appreciation we can revitalize our capacity for joy. (Location 909)

is because they take almost nothing for granted. (Location 910)

To them, the world is wonderfully new and surprising. (Location 911)

they are likely to take almost everything and everyone around them for granted. (Location 913)

Those who survive them might come to appreciate whatever they still possess. (Location 922)

Consider, for example, those individuals who say grace before a meal. (Location 940)

And even if the food were available, they might not have been able to share it with the people now at their dinner table. Said with these thoughts in mind, grace has the ability to transform an ordinary meal into a cause for celebration. (Location 944)

They analyze their circumstances not in terms of what they are lacking but in terms of how much they have and how much they would miss it were they to lose it. Many of them have been quite unlucky, objectively speaking, in their (Location 947)

objectively speaking, “have it all,” but who, because they appreciate none of what they have, are utterly miserable. (Location 950)

life in a state of self-induced dissatisfaction when satisfaction lies within your grasp, if only you will change your mental outlook. (Location 959)

Alternatively, we can do some historical research to see how our ancestors lived. We will quickly discover that we are living in what to them would have been a dream world—that we tend to take for granted things that our ancestors had to live without, including antibiotics, air conditioning, toilet paper(!), cell phones, television, windows, eyeglasses, and fresh fruit in January. (Location 966)

Besides imagining that the bad things that happened to others happen to us, we can imagine that the bad things that happen to us happened instead to others. (Location 970)

In response to this objection, let me point out that it is a mistake to think Stoics will spend all their time contemplating potential catastrophes. It is instead something they will do periodically: (Location 984)

Furthermore, there is a difference between contemplating something bad happening and worrying about it. (Location 987)

The first father, however, will not have similar regrets; because he appreciated his daughter he will have taken full advantage of opportunities to interact with her. (Location 1005)

The first father will grieve the death of his child. (Location 1006)

But at least this father can take consolation in the knowledge that he spent well what little time he had with his child. (Location 1007)

appreciate the world, it is preparing us for changes in that world. To practice negative visualization, after all, is to contemplate the impermanence of the world around us. (Location 1011)

He is lucky to have a child, and because he cannot be certain of her continued presence in his life, he should be prepared to lose her. (Location 1012)

Negative visualization, in other words, teaches us to embrace whatever life we happen to be living and to extract every bit of delight we can from it. But it simultaneously teaches us to prepare ourselves for changes that will deprive us of the things that delight us. It teaches us, in other words, to enjoy what we have without clinging to it. (Location 1018)

We need to keep firmly in mind that everything we value and the people we love will someday be lost to us. (Location 1029)

By contemplating the impermanence of everything in the world, we are forced to recognize that every time (Location 1039)

we do something could be the last time we do it, and this recognition can invest the things we do with a significance and intensity that would otherwise be absent. (Location 1039)

particular, he will give up the rewards the external world has to offer in order to gain “tranquility, freedom, and calm.” (Location 1048)

While most people seek to gain contentment by changing the world around them, Epictetus advises us to gain contentment by changing ourselves—more precisely, by changing our desires. (Location 1054)

Indeed, says Epictetus, you will become invincible: If you refuse to enter contests that you are capable of losing, you will never lose a contest.5 (Location 1061)

In particular, Epictetus says, it is foolish for us to want friends and relatives to live forever, since these are things that aren’t up to us. (Location 1069)

We should take it to mean that there are things over which we don’t have complete control. If we accept this interpretation, we will want to restate Epictetus’s dichotomy of control as follows: There are things over which we have complete control and things over which we don’t have complete control. Stated in this way, the dichotomy is a genuine dichotomy. Let us therefore assume that this is what Epictetus meant in saying that “some things are up to us and some things are not up to us.” (Location 1086)

two ways we can fail to have complete control over something: (Location 1091)

We might have no control at all over (Location 1091)

we might have some but not complete control. (Location 1091)

things over which we have no control at all (such as whether the sun will rise tomorrow) (Location 1093)

things over which we have some but not complete control (such as whether we win at tennis). (Location 1093)

What are the things over which we have complete control? In the passage quoted above, Epictetus says we have complete control over our opinions, impulses, desires, and aversions. (Location 1105)

I have a degree of control over whether I act on this impulse but no control over whether it arises in me. (If something is truly an impulse, we can’t preclude experiencing it.) (Location 1111)

To begin with, I think we have complete control over the goals we set for ourselves. (Location 1121)

obviously don’t have complete control over whether I achieve any of them; my achieving the goals I set for myself instead typically falls into the category of things over which I have some but not complete control. (Location 1123)

It is something over which we have some but not complete control. (Location 1126)

Marcus thinks the key to having a good life is to value things that are genuinely valuable and be indifferent to things that lack value. (Location 1131)

Marcus points out that we have complete control over our character. (Location 1135)

those things over which we have some but not complete control. (Location 1147)

A safer course of action for a Stoic, then, would seem to be to refrain from playing tennis. (Location 1151)

he will be very careful about the goals he sets for himself. (Location 1165)

Thus, his goal in playing tennis will not be to win a match (something external, over which he has only partial control) but to play to the best of his ability in the match (something internal, over which he has complete control). (Location 1166)

When it comes to other, more significant aspects of his life, a Stoic will likewise be careful in the goals he sets for himself. (Location 1179)

to behave, to the best of my ability, in a lovable manner. (Location 1183)

IT IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT, I think, for us to internalize our goals if we are in a profession in which “external failure” is commonplace. (Location 1187)

I would point out, to begin with, that it might be possible for someone, by spending enough time practicing goal internalization, to develop the ability not to look beyond her internalized goals—in which case they would become her “real” goals. (Location 1203)

Fear of failure is a psychological trait, so it is hardly surprising that by altering our psychological attitude toward “failure” (by carefully choosing our goals), we can affect the degree to which we fear it. (Location 1205)

By thinking about how things could be worse, we forestall or reverse the hedonic adaptation process. (Location 1209)

They internalized their goals. Their goal was not to change the world, but to do their best to bring about certain changes. (Location 1224)

those over which he has complete control, those over which he has no control at all, and those over which he has some but not complete control. (Location 1227)

According to Seneca, we should offer ourselves to fate, inasmuch as “it is a great consolation that it is together with the universe we are swept along.” (Location 1235)

but regardless of the role we are assigned, we must play it to the best of our ability. (Location 1238)

we should, rather than wanting events to conform to our desires, make our desires conform to events; we should, in other words, want events “to happen as they do happen.” (Location 1240)

The Fates already knew who would win and who would lose life’s contests. (Location 1250)

The Stoics, for example, did not sit around apathetically, resigned to whatever the future held in store; to the contrary, they spent their days working to affect the outcome of future events. (Location 1254)

Although the Stoics advocate fatalism, they seem not to have practiced it. What (Location 1257)

fatalism with respect to the future and fatalism with respect to the past. (Location 1259)

When a person is fatalistic with respect to the future, she will keep firmly in mind, when deciding what to do, that her actions can have no effect on future events. (Location 1259)

When the Stoics advocate fatalism, they are, I think, advocating a restricted form of the doctrine. (Location 1263)

to keep firmly in mind that the past cannot be changed. (Location 1265)

But if the child dies, they will counsel this woman to be fatalistic with respect to the past. (Location 1267)

But to dwell on that death is a waste of time and emotions, inasmuch as the past cannot be changed. (Location 1268)

We sometimes should think about the past to learn lessons that can help us in our efforts to shape the future. The abovementioned mother, for example, should think about the cause of her child’s death so that she may better protect her other children. (Location 1270)

affect the present, if by the present we mean this very moment. (Location 1280)

“to happen as they do happen,” he is giving us advice regarding events that do happen—that either have happened or are happening—not advice regarding events that will happen. (Location 1285)

We can either spend this moment wishing it could be different, or we can embrace this moment. If (Location 1294)

It is why Marcus reminds us that all we own is the present moment and why he advises us to live in “this fleeting instant.” (Location 1297)

that we not concern ourselves with things over which we have no control. (Location 1300)

Instead of thinking about how our situation could be worse, we refuse to think about how it could be better. (Location 1305)

Stoic philosophy, while teaching us to be satisfied with whatever we’ve got, also counsels us to seek certain things in life. (Location 1316)

Besides contemplating bad things happening, we should sometimes live as if they had happened. (Location 1334)

we should periodically “practice poverty”: (Location 1335)

Whereas Seneca wanted to appreciate what he had, Epicurus wanted to examine the things he thought he needed so he could determine which of them he could in fact live without. (Location 1338)

He thinks that besides living as if bad things had happened to us, we should sometimes cause them to happen. (Location 1342)

Or we might periodically allow ourselves to become thirsty or hungry, even though water and food are at hand, and we might sleep on a hard bed, even though a soft one is available. (Location 1344)

The Stoics, by way of contrast, welcomed a degree of discomfort in their life. What (Location 1350)

we harden ourselves against misfortunes that might befall us in the future. (Location 1356)

Alternatively, voluntary discomfort can be thought of as an insurance premium which, if paid, makes us eligible for benefits: (Location 1359)

might dread the possibility of someday being cold and hungry. (Location 1365)

namely, anxiety with respect to what the future holds in store for him. (Location 1366)

BESIDES PERIODICALLY ENGAGING in acts of voluntary discomfort, we should, say the Stoics, periodically forgo opportunities to experience pleasure. (Location 1377)

They also counsel us to make a point of sometimes abstaining from other, relatively harmless pleasures. (Location 1391)

but so we can learn self-control. (Location 1392)

The Stoics see nothing wrong, for example, with enjoying the pleasures to be derived from friendship, family life, a meal, or even wealth, but they counsel us to be circumspect in our enjoyment of these things. (Location 1401)

Whereas the ordinary person embraces pleasure, the sage enchains it; whereas the ordinary person thinks pleasure is the highest good, the sage doesn’t think it is even a good; and whereas the ordinary person does everything for the sake of pleasure, the sage does nothing. (Location 1405)

What Stoics discover, though, is that willpower is like muscle power: The more they exercise their muscles, the stronger they get, and the more they exercise their will, the stronger it gets. Indeed, by practicing Stoic self-denial techniques over a long period, Stoics can transform themselves into individuals remarkable for their courage and self-control. (Location 1413)

consciously abstaining from pleasure can itself be pleasant. (Location 1423)

If you refrain from eating the ice cream, though, you will forgo this gastronomic pleasure but will experience pleasure of a different kind: (Location 1425)

He suggests that as we go about our daily business, we should simultaneously play the roles of participant and spectator. (Location 1461)

We will also shrug off any praise they might direct our way. Indeed, Epictetus thinks the admiration of other people is a negative barometer of our progress as Stoics: “If people think you amount to something, distrust yourself.” (Location 1477)

We will stop blaming, censuring, and praising others; we will stop boasting about ourselves and how much we know; and we will blame ourselves, not external circumstances, when our desires are thwarted. (Location 1479)

Another sign of progress in our practice of Stoicism is that our philosophy will consist of actions rather than words. (Location 1486)

We will instead find ourselves experiencing fewer negative emotions. We will also find that we are spending less time than we used to wishing things could be different and more time enjoying things as they are. (Location 1494)

We will, out of the blue, feel delighted to be the person we are, living the life we are living, in the universe we happen to inhabit. (Location 1497)

ON EXAMINING OUR LIFE, we will find that other people are the source of some of the greatest delights life has to offer, including love and friendship. (Location 1524)

discover that they are the cause of most of the negative emotions we experience. (Location 1525)

Notice, too, that to afford socially desirable clothes, cars, and houses, we have to work for a living and will probably experience anxiety in connection with our job. (Location 1532)

function of a man is to do man’s work—to perform, that is, the function for which the gods created us.2 (Location 1542)

must feel a concern for all mankind. I must remember that we humans were created for one another, that we were born, says Marcus, to work together the way our hands or eyelids do. Therefore, in all I do, I must have as my goal “the service and harmony of all.” More precisely, “I am bound to do good to my fellow-creatures and bear with them.”5 (Location 1549)

Nothing else, he says, should distract us. Indeed, when we awaken in the morning, rather than lazily lying in bed, we should tell ourselves that we must get up to do the proper work of man, the work we were created to perform. (Location 1555)

The biggest obstacle to Marcus’s practice of Stoicism, though, appears to have been his rather intense dislike of humanity. (Location 1563)

“Eating, sleeping, copulating, excreting, and the like; what a crew they are!” (Location 1572)

The reward in question is not the thanks of those we help; Marcus says that he no more expects thanks for the services he performs than a horse expects thanks for the races it runs. (Location 1582)

Rather than spending our days doing things we have to do, we should spend them doing things we want to do. (Location 1591)

have drawn the conclusion that spending our days working to get whatever it is we find ourselves wanting is unlikely to bring us either happiness or tranquility. (Location 1593)

To begin with, the Stoics recommend that we prepare for our dealings with other people before we have to deal with them. (Location 1601)

There will be times when we must associate with annoying, misguided, or malicious people in order to work for common interests. (Location 1604)

The Stoics therefore recommend that we avoid befriending people whose values have been corrupted, for fear that their values will contaminate ours. (Location 1605)

Seneca advises us to avoid people who are simply whiny, “who are melancholy and bewail everything, who find pleasure in every opportunity for complaint.” (Location 1614)

He also advises us, when we do socialize, to be circumspect in our conversation. (Location 1620)

Epictetus advises us to be silent or to have few words; alternatively, we might subtly attempt to divert the talk to “something appropriate.” (Location 1622)

we keep in mind that there are doubtless people who find us to be annoying. (Location 1630)

We can also, Marcus suggests, lessen the negative impact other people have on our life by controlling our thoughts about them. (Location 1635)

good Stoic, Marcus says, will not think about what other people are thinking except when he must do so in order to serve the public interest. (Location 1638)

what might be called social fatalism: In our dealings with others, we should operate on the assumption that they are fated to behave in a certain way. (Location 1645)

Marcus suggests not only that other people can be changed but that we should work to change them.10 Perhaps what Marcus is saying is that even though it is possible to change others, we can take some of the agony out of dealing with them by telling ourselves that they are fated to behave as they do. (Location 1647)

He adds that if we detect anger and hatred within us and wish to seek revenge, one of the best forms of revenge on another person is to refuse to be like him. (Location 1656)

We would therefore be foolish to place a high value on sexual relations and more foolish still to disrupt our life in order to experience such relations. (Location 1667)

A wise man, Musonius says, will marry, and having married, he and his wife will work hard to keep each other happy. (Location 1682)

One of their sting-elimination strategies is to pause, when insulted, to consider whether what the insulter said is true. If it is, there is little reason to be upset. (Location 1715)

I should feel relieved: If he disapproves of what I am doing, then what I am doing is doubtless the right thing to do. (Location 1727)

“I’m relieved that you feel that way about me.” (Location 1729)

It all depends, say the Stoics, on my values. They would go on to remind me that my values are things over which I have complete control. (Location 1753)

Seneca points approvingly to Cato’s use of humor to deflect a particularly grievous insult. (Location 1758)

Seneca also approves of Socrates’ response to an even more abusive insult. (Location 1761)

For this reason, a humorous reply to an insult can be far more effective than a counterinsult would be. (Location 1771)

The advantage of a nonresponse, of simply carrying on as if the insulter hadn’t even spoken, is that it requires no thought on our part. (Location 1779)

Refusing to respond to an insult is, paradoxically, one of the most effective responses possible. (Location 1784)

If a humorous response to an insult shows that we don’t take the insulter seriously, a nonresponse to an insult makes it look as if we are indifferent to the existence of the insulter: (Location 1789)

According to Seneca, there are times when it is appropriate for us to respond vigorously to an insult. (Location 1793)

Rather than being humiliated by our response, they might be encouraged by our jokes or silence, and they might start bombarding us with an endless stream of insults. (Location 1796)

The insulter and her peers might, after all, interpret the teacher’s nonresponse as acquiescence and as a result unleash a barrage of insults against him. (Location 1801)

him but to correct her improper behavior. (Location 1804)

it should be because we want him to obey us in the future, (Location 1805)

Advocates of politically correct speech therefore petition the authorities—government officials, employers, and school administrators—to punish anyone who insults a disadvantaged individual. (Location 1810)

One is that the process of protecting disadvantaged individuals from insults will tend to make them hypersensitive to insults: (Location 1813)

The belief that Stoics never grieve, although widely held, is mistaken. (Location 1828)

Emotions such as grief, the Stoics understood, are to some extent reflexive. (Location 1829)

In proper grief, Seneca tells Polybius, our reason “will maintain a mean which will copy neither indifference nor madness, and will keep us in the state that is the mark of an affectionate, and not an unbalanced, mind.” (Location 1834)

THE STOICS’ PRIMARY grief-prevention strategy was to engage in negative visualization. (Location 1842)

we will in a sense have seen it coming. (Location 1844)

Besides being used to prevent grief, negative visualization can be used to extinguish it. (Location 1846)

Marcia should, says Seneca, think about how much worse off she would be today if she had never been able to enjoy his company. (Location 1849)

retrospective negative visualization. (Location 1851)

we imagine losing something we currently possess; in retrospective negative visualization, (Location 1852)

we imagine never having had something that we have lost. (Location 1852)

For example, he argues that the brother whose death Polybius is grieving either would or wouldn’t want Polybius to be tortured with tears. (Location 1858)

We should, says Epictetus, sympathize with her and maybe even accompany her moaning with moaning of our own. (Location 1874)

He should punish the wrongdoer and protect his parents, but to the extent possible he should remain calm as he does so. (Location 1910)

We are punishing people not as retribution for what they have done but for their own good, to deter them from doing again whatever they did. Punishment, in other words, should be “an expression not of anger but of caution.” (Location 1913)

We should, he says, fight our tendency to believe the worst about others and our tendency to jump to conclusions about their motivations. (Location 1923)

He recommends, as we have seen, that we contemplate the impermanence of the world around us. (Location 1944)

But, he points out, “of all that life, not a trace survives today.”9 By implication, this will be the fate of our generation: (Location 1947)

When angry, says Seneca, we should take steps to “turn all [anger’s] indications into their opposites.” We should force ourselves to relax our face, soften our voice, and slow our pace of walking. (Location 1953)

For one thing, life is too short to spend it in a state of anger. (Location 1968)

in large part because they are confused about what is valuable. (Location 1973)

Suppose it is your goal to be a socially prominent individual, to be “famous” within your social circle, and suppose someone within your circle is giving a banquet. (Location 1981)

Epictetus adds that you are both greedy and stupid if you expect a place at the banquet table without having paid this price. (Location 1984)

Stoics value their freedom, and they are therefore reluctant to do anything that will give others power over them. (Location 1988)

We have to do things calculated to make them admire us, and we have to refrain from doing things that will trigger their disfavor. (Location 1989)

to be indifferent to what they think of us. (Location 1993)

After all, think about how foolish it is to want to be remembered after we die. (Location 2005)

we will not be able to enjoy our fame. For another, we are foolish to think that future generations will praise us, without even having met us, when we find it so difficult to praise our contemporaries, even though we meet them routinely. (Location 2006)

we should, he advises, “make the best of today.”6 (Location 2008)

Most of us, after all, are obsessed with other people’s opinions of us: We work hard, first to win the admiration of other people and then to avoid losing it. (Location 2010)

More precisely, we will have to live a life that is successful according to their notion of success. (Location 2012)

is to go out of our way to do things likely to trigger their disdain. Along these lines, (Location 2017)

MANY PEOPLE are haunted by a fear that in some cases significantly constrains their freedom, namely, the fear of failure. (Location 2022)

The cost of failure is instead having to endure the open mockery, or maybe the silent pity, of those who learn of their failure. (Location 2027)

Realize that many other people, including, quite possibly, your friends and relatives, want you to fail in your undertakings. (Location 2029)

Consequently, if you attempt something daring they might ridicule you, predict disaster, and try to talk you out of pursuing your goal. If, despite their warnings, you make your attempt and succeed, they might finally congratulate you—or they might not. (Location 2032)

It is, of course, possible for this woman to win the approval of these naysayers: She need only abandon her dream of becoming a novelist. (Location 2039)

IRONICALLY, BY REFUSING to seek the admiration of other people, Stoics might succeed in gaining their (perhaps grudging) admiration. (Location 2045)

Only someone who really knows who she is—someone who, as they say, feels good about herself—would display this kind of indifference. (Location 2047)

people typically value wealth. (Location 2056)

Wealth has the power to make people miserable. (Location 2069)

MOST PEOPLE USE their wealth to finance a luxurious lifestyle, one that will win them the admiration of others. (Location 2073)

we will lose our ability to take delight in simple things. (Location 2079)

When, as the result of being exposed to luxurious living, people become hard to please, a curious thing happens. (Location 2085)

The Stoics work hard to avoid falling victim to this kind of connoisseurship. (Location 2089)

More precisely, he thought it best to eat foods that needed little preparation, including fruits, green vegetables, milk, and cheese. (Location 2091)

“not for pleasure but for nourishment, not to please his palate but to strengthen his body.” (Location 2093)

But according to the Stoics, in the same way that we should favor a simple diet, we should favor simple clothing, housing, and furnishings. (Location 2102)

our housing should be functional: It should do little more than keep out extreme heat and cold, and shelter us from the sun and wind. (Location 2103)

People who achieve luxurious lifestyles are rarely satisfied: Experiencing luxury only whets their appetite for even more luxury. (Location 2108)

unnatural desires cannot. (Location 2112)

Therefore, he concludes, “luxurious living must be completely avoided.” (Location 2117)

we will find that our needs are easily met, for as Seneca reminds us, life’s necessities are cheap and easily obtainable. (Location 2119)

It is worth noting that despite living a spartan lifestyle, the Stoic, because he practices negative visualization, might be more content with what he has than someone living in the lap of luxury. (Location 2128)

A Stoic will, after all, do what she can to make herself useful to her fellow humans. (Location 2136)

As a result, she might be quite effective in helping others, and they might reward her for doing so. (Location 2138)

As a result, she is likely to retain a large portion of her income and might thereby become wealthy. (Location 2141)

it allows her to enjoy it and use it to the benefit of herself and those around her. (Location 2146)

More generally, it is perfectly acceptable, says Seneca, for a Stoic to acquire wealth, as long as he does not harm others to obtain it. (Location 2153)

while Seneca and Marcus thought it possible to live in a palace without being corrupted.) (Location 2160)

that wealth will corrupt us, particularly if we use it to finance luxurious living. (Location 2171)

By stubbornly doing what they took to be their social duty, even though it meant defying the powers that be, the Stoics made lots of political enemies. (Location 2183)

“This is what it means to have rehearsed the lessons one ought to rehearse, to have set desire and aversion free from every hindrance and made them proof against chance. I must (Location 2194)

Exile, he explains, is nothing but a change of place. Furthermore, even in the worst places of exile, the exiled person will find people who are there of their own free will. (Location 2205)

his place in Nature and his virtue. (Location 2208)

Musonius says, a person must keep in mind that his happiness depends more on his values than on where he resides. (Location 2217)

If those in exile find themselves lacking things, he asserts, it is because they seek to live in luxury. (Location 2220)

Many of them, I have found, are convinced that the world will be their oyster. (Location 2236)

For them, Stoicism sounds like a philosophy for losers, and they aren’t losers. (Location 2240)

They are getting paid twenty times more than they once were, they are living in a four-bedroom house instead of a studio apartment, and they are the subject of adulatory articles in the newspaper, but they are no closer to happiness than they used to be. (Location 2250)

OLD AGE, Seneca argues, has its benefits: “Let us cherish and love old age; for it is full of pleasure if one knows how to use it.” (Location 2292)

Most significantly, as one loses the ability to experience certain pleasures, one loses the desire to experience them: “How comforting it is,” he says, “to have tired out one’s appetites, and to have done with them!”1 (Location 2295)

Seneca points out that by causing our bodies to deteriorate, old age causes our vices and their accessories to decay. The same aging process, though, needn’t cause our mind to decay; (Location 2304)

ONE DOWNSIDE of being old is that we live in the knowledge that our death is in some sense imminent. (Location 2308)

We examined this seeming paradox back in chapter 4. We saw that by imagining how our days could go worse—and in particular, by contemplating our own death—we could increase our chance of experiencing joy. (Location 2312)

Old age therefore has a way of making us do something that, according to the Stoics, we should have been doing all along. (Location 2315)

them. In our old age, however, waking up each morning can be a cause for celebration. (Location 2317)

It is entirely possible for an octogenarian to be more joyful than her twenty-year-old grandchild, particularly if the octogenarian, in part because of her failing health, takes nothing for granted, while the grandchild, in part because of her perfect health, takes everything for granted and has therefore decided that life is a bore. (Location 2320)

WHAT MAKES OLD AGE a miserable thing, Musonius says, usually isn’t the frailty or sickness that accompanies it; rather, it is the prospect of dying. (Location 2337)

Many more, though, are disturbed because they fear that they have mislived—that they have, that is, lived without having attained the things in life that are truly valuable. (Location 2340)

Someone with a coherent philosophy of life will know what in life is worth attaining, and because this person has spent time trying to attain the thing in life he believed to be worth attaining, he has probably attained it, to the extent that it was possible for him to do so. (Location 2343)

They might want the delay so that they can get the thing that—at last!—they have discovered to be of value. (Location 2355)

is individuals who committed suicide on a whim or out of boredom with life, the way a nihilist might. (Location 2375)

death, it is not because they long for death but because they want to get the most out of life. (Location 2376)

We are all going to die, after all, and it is better that our death not be marred by fear. (Location 2381)

The Stoics, I am convinced, would respond to such thinking by asking whether a life in which nothing is worth dying for can possibly be worth living. (Location 2395)

if, instead of knocking ourselves out trying to become popular, we worked to maintain and improve our relationships with those we knew to be true friends. (Location 2408)

When choosing between the options life offers, you simply choose the one most likely to help you attain the goals set forth by your philosophy of life. (Location 2411)

According to the Stoics, we can hope to become more virtuous, in the ancient sense of the word. (Location 2427)

delight in the world around us. (Location 2430)

because they practice negative visualization, they will deeply appreciate the things they already have. (Location 2432)

To begin with, they will do their best to enjoy things that can’t be taken from them, most notably their character. (Location 2434)

we can still take delight in the fact that it has not, because of the character we possess, made us bitter. (Location 2436)

them—the Stoics, as we have seen, are not averse to doing this—they will simultaneously be preparing for the loss of those things. (Location 2438)

that our enjoyment of it might end abruptly, and that we might never be able to enjoy it again. (Location 2440)

becoming, that is, individuals who are incapable of taking delight in anything but “the best.” (Location 2442)

Stoics will quickly find another to take its place: Stoic enjoyment, unlike that of a connoisseur, is eminently transferable. (Location 2446)

they set about studying their new environment. (Location 2448)

Stoics might also find that besides enjoying things in life, they enjoy the mere fact of being alive; they experience, in other words, joy itself. (Location 2451)

Keep this up and we will one day realize that we have grown old without having acquired a philosophy of life—and that, as a result, we have wasted our life. (Location 2456)

which, as we have seen, calls for considerable self-control—unattractive to many Romans. (Location 2468)

They were living proof that Stoicism, if practiced, would yield the benefits the Stoics promised. (Location 2472)

“His was always the practical question, how best can I live my daily life?,” and his life itself can best be understood, says (Location 2496)

A primary motive in going to Walden, he tells us, was his fear that he would, “when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” (Location 2500)

They realized, for example, that what makes insults painful is our interpretation of the insults rather than the insults themselves. (Location 2518)

insights but go on to point out that a lot has happened in the two millennia since the Roman Stoics pondered the human psyche. (Location 2521)

As a result, many of them simply bore the disaster with, as the British say, a stiff upper lip. (Location 2542)

the Stoics did not advocate that we “bottle up” our emotions. (Location 2545)

Stoic finds himself grieving the loss of a loved one. This Stoic, it should be noted, will not react by trying to stifle the grief within him—by pretending, (Location 2548)

that people are not well equipped to deal with grief on their own. (Location 2564)

I think people are less brittle and more resilient, emotionally speaking, than therapists give them credit for. (Location 2564)

One study on the efficacy of grief counseling examined parents whose children had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (Location 2576)

Similar research, by the way, has focused on Holocaust survivors, abused young women, and the partners of men who died of AIDS, and has obtained similar results. (Location 2581)

For many temperaments, an excessive focus on introspection and self-disclosure is depressing. Victims of loss and tragedy differ widely in their reactions: (Location 2592)

The Stoics, of course, rejected such thinking. They were convinced that what stands between most of us and happiness is not our government or the society in which we live, but defects in our philosophy of life—or our failing to have a philosophy at all. (Location 2605)

the Roman Stoics, as we have seen, had an unfortunate tendency to be unjustly punished by the powers that be. (Location 2610)

In particular, the Stoics don’t think it is helpful for people to consider themselves victims of society—or victims of anything else, for that matter. (Location 2612)

More precisely, they thought the first step in transforming a society into one in which people live a good life is to teach people how to make their happiness depend as little as possible on their external circumstances. (Location 2619)

It teaches us that we are very much responsible for our happiness as well as our unhappiness. (Location 2623)

was their insight, in the first decades of the twentieth century, that many traditional philosophical puzzles arise because of our sloppy use of language. (Location 2631)

but by thinking very carefully about language and how we use (Location 2633)

that it simply was not the business of philosophy to tell people how to live their life. (Location 2634)

His conclusion: It makes no sense to ask how to live a good life. (Location 2640)

but you might also conclude, with good reason, that he himself lacked a coherent philosophy of life. (Location 2641)

We would do well, say the Stoics, to content ourselves with a simple lifestyle. (Location 2644)

the Stoics want us to set many of our other personal desires aside so we can do our duty to serve our fellow humans. (Location 2645)

the Stoics were convinced that there was something in life bigger than themselves. (Location 2646)

If you don’t have something you want, they reason, you will obviously be unhappy. (Location 2648)

First, you take an inventory of the desires that lurk in your mind; second, you devise a plan for satisfying those desires; and third, you implement that plan. (Location 2649)

In some cases, they advise us to extinguish rather than fulfill our desires, and in other cases, they advise us to do things we don’t want to do, because it is our duty to do them. (Location 2651)

For each desire we fulfill in accordance with this strategy, a new desire will pop into our head to take its place. This means that no matter how hard we work to satisfy our desires, we will be no closer to satisfaction than if we had fulfilled none of them. We will, in other words, remain dissatisfied. (Location 2655)

In particular, we need to take steps to slow down the desire-formation process within us. (Location 2658)

It may be true that being a Stoic requires self-control and requires that we sacrifice in order to do our duty, but the Stoics would argue that we are more likely to achieve happiness—indeed, joy—by following this path than by spending our life, as most people do, working to fulfill whatever desires pop into our head. (Location 2661)

The Stoics, while doing their social duty, will not think in terms of sacrifice. (Location 2664)

don’t think of parenting as a burdensome task requiring endless sacrifice; instead, they think about how wonderful it is that they have children and can make a positive difference in the lives of these children. (Location 2667)

The Stoics, as we have seen, thought tranquility was worth pursuing, and the tranquility they sought, it will be remembered, is a psychological state in which we experience few negative emotions, such as anxiety, grief, and fear, but an abundance of positive emotions, especially joy. (Location 2678)

They sought to determine what sorts of things disrupt people’s tranquility, how people can avoid having their tranquility disrupted by these things, and how they can quickly restore their tranquility when, despite their efforts, it is disrupted. (Location 2682)

We should also use our reasoning ability to master our desires, to the extent that it is possible to do so. (Location 2688)

But although we should enjoy wealth, we should not cling to it; indeed, even as we enjoy it, we should contemplate its loss. (Location 2693)

our insatiability (Location 2701)

our tendency to worry about things beyond our control— (Location 2701)

We should contemplate the impermanence of all things. (Location 2703)

We should imagine ourselves losing the things we most value, including possessions and loved ones. (Location 2703)

My goal in playing tennis, for example, should be not to win the match but to play the best match possible. (Location 2713)

We should realize that what has happened to us in the past and what is happening to us at this very moment are beyond our control, (Location 2715)

Indeed, an individual who is utterly miserable but manages, despite his misery, to survive and reproduce will play a greater role in evolutionary processes than a joyful individual who chooses not to reproduce. (Location 2740)

Likewise, our tendency to experience anxiety and insatiability is a consequence of our evolutionary past. (Location 2748)

Our ability to experience pleasure also has an evolutionary explanation. (Location 2752)

We inherited the genes of those ancestors for whom sex felt good, and as a result we also find it to be pleasurable. (Location 2754)

I think we are programmed to seek social status among them. (Location 2758)

Thanks to our evolutionary past, today’s humans find it pleasant to gain social status and unpleasant to lose it. (Location 2763)

Instead we might use it to listen to Beethoven, an activity that in no way increases our chances of surviving and reproducing. (Location 2774)

But thanks to our reasoning ability, we can decide to forgo opportunities for sex because taking advantage of these opportunities will lead us away from various goals we have set for ourselves, goals that have nothing to do (Location 2781)

with our surviving and reproducing. (Location 2783)

Evolutionary processes made us susceptible to suffering but also gave us—accidentally—a tool by which we can prevent much of this suffering. (Location 2788)

Consider, for example, the pain we might experience when someone publicly insults us. (Location 2792)

Today it is quite possible to survive despite having low social status; even if others despise us, the law prevents them from taking our food from us or driving us from our home. (Location 2795)

If our goal is not merely to survive and reproduce but to enjoy a tranquil existence, the pain associated with a loss of social status isn’t just useless, it is counterproductive. (Location 2798)

would not talk about the function that humans were designed to fulfill. Instead, I would talk about our evolutionary past; about how, because of this past, we are evolutionarily programmed to want certain things and to experience certain emotions under certain circumstances; about how living in accordance with our evolutionary programming, although it may have allowed our evolutionary ancestors to survive and reproduce, can result in modern humans living miserable lives; and about how, by “misusing” our reasoning ability, we can overcome our evolutionary programming. (Location 2822)

The disease in question is the anxiety, grief, fear, and various other negative emotions that plague humans and prevent them from experiencing a joyful existence. (Location 2828)

the Stoics stumbled across a cure for negative emotions; more precisely, they developed a group of psychological techniques that, if practiced, could promote tranquility. (Location 2847)

Exercise, done properly, not only isn’t dangerous but promotes our health. Furthermore, the benefits of exercise will probably spill over into other areas of our life. (Location 2867)

And Musonius and Seneca, while agreeing that Stoics needn’t be ascetics—that their philosophy should not prevent them from enjoying life—disagreed on just how heartily Stoics should enjoy it. (Location 2884)

Having the attainment of tranquility as a goal in living will eliminate some potential philosophies of life. It will, for example, eliminate hedonism, which has as its goal not tranquility but maximization of pleasure. (Location 2919)

These “congenital Stoics” are perpetually optimistic, and they are appreciative of the world they find themselves in. (Location 2926)

Although I will not try to talk anyone into thinking that tranquility is the thing to be most valued in life, I will try to talk people out of certain other life goals. (Location 2950)

Suppose, on the other hand, that you tell me your goal in living is the same as that of the Zen Buddhists and Stoics—namely, the attainment of tranquility—but that you have a different strategy for attaining this goal than they (Location 2953)

Do you honestly think that getting mentioned in People will induce a state of tranquility? And if so, how long will it last? (Location 2957)

life with a less than perfect mate is better than life with no mate at all. (Location 2961)

without anyone being the wiser. If your practice of Stoicism is successful, friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers might notice a difference in you—a change for the better— (Location 2974)

good technique to start with, I think, is negative visualization. (Location 2978)

It is my experience that negative visualization is to daily living as salt is to cooking. (Location 2981)

You might find yourself, after engaging in negative visualization, embracing the very life that, a short time before, you had complained wasn’t worth living. (Location 2984)

The Stoics, however, would remind us that negative visualization, besides making us appreciate what we have, can help us avoid clinging to the things we appreciate. (Location 2989)

I have instead made it my practice to engage in negative visualization (and more generally to assess my progress as a Stoic) while driving to work. By doing this, I transform idle time into time well spent. (Location 2994)

According to the Stoics, we should perform a kind of triage in which we distinguish between things we have no control over, things we have complete control over, and things we have some but not complete control over; and having made this distinction, we should focus our attention on the last two categories. (Location 2997)

you will also want, in conjunction with applying the trichotomy of control, to become a psychological fatalist about the past and the present—but not about the future. (Location 3011)

you will refuse to spend time engaging in “if only” thoughts about the past and present. (Location 3013)

but one consequence of the practice of Stoicism is that one seeks opportunities to put Stoic techniques to work. (Location 3020)

To begin with, I have become fully aware of the extent to which anger has a life of its own within me. It can lie dormant, like a virus, only to revive and make me miserable when I least expect (Location 3043)

I have drawn the conclusion that Seneca was mistaken in suggesting that there is no pleasure in expressing anger. (Location 3046)

It feels good to vent it and feels bad to suppress it. (Location 3048)

The problem with mosquito bites, of course, is that after you scratch one, you typically wish you hadn’t done so: (Location 3050)

By venting it, I accomplish nothing other than to disturb my own tranquility. (Location 3057)

Seneca, for example, advises us periodically to live as if we were poor, and Musonius advises us to do things to cause ourselves discomfort. (Location 3078)

and made me acutely aware of how little control I have over the contents of my mind. (Location 3084)

Shortly after I began practicing Stoicism, I learned to row a racing shell and have since started racing competitively. (Location 3090)

WHENEVER YOU UNDERTAKE an activity in which public failure is a possibility, you are likely to experience butterflies in your stomach. (Location 3098)

I like to engage in activities, such as competitive rowing, that give me butterflies simply so I can practice dealing with them. (Location 3100)

I initially rejected the offer; it sounded like no fun at all to risk public humiliation trying to play banjo in front of a bunch of strangers. (Location 3106)

cause myself psychological discomfort and to confront—and hopefully vanquish—my fear of failing. (Location 3107)

To win points in the contest with my other self, I must establish my dominance over him. To do this, I must cause him to experience discomfort he could easily have avoided, and I must prevent him from experiencing pleasures he might otherwise have enjoyed. When he is scared of doing something, I must force him to confront his fears and overcome them. (Location 3125)

And it is entirely possible for someone to lose the competition against the other rowers—indeed, to come in last—but in the process of doing so to have triumphed in the competition against his other self. (Location 3145)

THE STOICS, as we have seen, recommend simplifying one’s lifestyle. (Location 3147)

And if you explain to them that you have overcome your desire to impress those who are impressed by a person’s external trappings, you will only make matters worse. (Location 3151)

He wanted to teach himself “to be ashamed only of what was really shameful.” He therefore went out of his way to do things that would trigger inappropriate feelings of shame in himself, simply so he could practice overcoming such feelings. I have lately been trying to emulate Cato in this respect. (Location 3155)

I used to dress nattily, but my wardrobe has lately become what can best be described as utilitarian: (Location 3158)

Having said this, I should add that the reason I have so few consumer desires is not because I consciously fight their formation. (Location 3174)

The profound realization, thanks to the practice of Stoicism, that acquiring the things that those in my social circle typically crave and work hard to afford will, in the long run, make zero difference in how happy I am and will in no way contribute to my having a good life. (Location 3177)

If hardship doesn’t follow, it is possible for a curious kind of disappointment to set in. (Location 3184)

Likewise, according to Seneca, when someone attempts to harm a wise man, he might actually welcome the attempt, since the injuries can’t hurt him but can help him: “So far … is he from shrinking from the buffetings of circumstances or of men, that he counts even injury profitable, for through it he finds a means of putting himself to the proof and makes trial of his virtue.” (Location 3189)

found myself reflecting on how I would respond to being blind in one eye. In particular, would I be able to deal with it in proper Stoic fashion? I was, in other words, responding to the possible loss of sight in an eye by sizing up the Stoic test potential of such a loss! (Location 3206)

UNLESS AN UNTIMELY DEATH prevents it, I will, in about a decade, be confronted with a major test of my Stoicism. I will be in my mid-sixties; I will, in other words, be on the threshold of old age. (Location 3213)

that nonexistence is preferable to old age. (Location 3223)

Time after time during this period, I was struck by how natural and appropriate it is to invoke Stoic principles to help someone cope with the challenges of old age and ill health. (Location 3246)

My time is coming, I told myself, and I must do what I can to prepare for it. (Location 3268)

It has, however, resulted in my being substantially more tranquil than was formerly the case. (Location 3271)

I am also less anxious than I once was about the disasters that might befall me and in particular about my own death—although the real test for this, as Seneca says, will be when I am about to take my last breath. (Location 3274)

Apparently as the result of practicing negative visualization, I have become quite appreciative of what I’ve got. (Location 3279)

According to the Stoics, if I seek tranquility, I need to give up other goals that someone in my circumstances might have, such as to own an expensive, late-model car (Location 3298)

or to live in a million-dollar home. (Location 3299)

These thinkers have also tended to gravitate toward tranquility as something very much worth pursuing, although many of them disagreed with the Stoics on how best to pursue it. (Location 3310)

We live, in other words, in a world in which, no matter what you do, you might be making a mistake. (Location 3313)

And I think the biggest mistake, the one made by a huge number of people, is to have no philosophy of life at all. (Location 3315)

According to the Stoics, the answer to this question is that a better life is possible—one containing, perhaps, less comfort and pleasure, but considerably more joy. (Location 3319)

Stoic techniques can improve a life when times are good, but it is when times are bad that the efficacy of these techniques becomes most apparent. (Location 3321)