The Daily Stoic: Passions and Emotions

Please note: Most of the text in these notes is owned by Ryan Holiday. I am posting them here for purely educational purposes. I condensed the book myself, but I don’t own any of the content. Some of my notes are paraphrased, but most are written verbatim.

You can buy the book ‘The Daily Stoic’ by clicking here.

The book is sectioned into three parts:

  • Part 1: The Discipline of Perception
  • Part 2: The Discipline of Action
  • Part 3: The Discipline of Will

Note: The date following each block of text indicates the source from the book, which is organised into a ‘message a day’ style.

In this post, I will share my condensed version of the most important take-away messages and instructions from:

1. The Discipline of Perception

Passions and Emotions

  • “Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on—it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance—unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.” -Marcus Aurelius
  • Strength is the ability to maintain a hold of oneself. It’s being the person who never gets mad, who cannot be rattled, because they are in control of their passions – rather than controlled by their passions. (01/02)

  • If something bad happens, we feel we have to be sad about it. If something good happens next, we’re suddenly happy and excited.
  • We wouldn’t ever let another person jerk us around the way we let our impulses do.
  • We should be the ones in control, not our emotions, because we are independant, self-sufficient people. (02/02)

  • Often when we’re anxious, it’s about something that’s out of our control (traffic, stock markets, etc…)
  • These anxious moments show us at our most futile, acting like fate will give us what we want if we sacrifice our peace of mind.
  • When getting anxious, ask yourself why. Ask if you’re in control, or your anxiety is. (03/02)

  • “Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice” – Epictetus
  • Reacting emotionally always makes the situation worse.
  • You must internalise the importance of keeping yourself under calm control. (04/02)

  • “Don’t be bounced around, but submit every impulse to the claims of justice, and protect your clear conviction in every appearance” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Impulses of all kinds are going to come; your work is to control them.
  • Think before you act.
  • Ask yourself: who’s in control here? What principles are guiding me? (05/02)

  • Many of us are afraid of being still, so we seek out strife and action as a distraction.
  • We choose to be at war, when peace is a more fitting choice.
  • The wise person will endure a turbulent and difficult life if necessary, but they would choose to be at peace if given the option. (06/02)

  • “Many are harmed by fear itself, and many have come to their fate while dreading fate” – Seneca
  • The leader afraid of being betrayed, acts first and betrays others first.
  • The things we dread, we eventually end up inflicting on ourselves first.
  • The next time you’re afraid of some supposedly disastrous outcome, remember that if you don’t control your impulses, if you lose your self-control, you may be the very source of the disaster you so fear. (07/02)

  • “You cry, I’m suffering severe pain! Are you then relieved from feeling it, if you bear it in an unmanly way?” – Seneca
  • Next time you get really upset – crying, yelling, breaking things, being cruel, ask yourself: ‘I hope this is making you feel better’.
  • Because it isn’t. Only in the bubble of extreme emotion can we justify that behaviour. (08/02)

  • “We have the power to hold no opinion about a thing and to not let it upset our state of mind—for things have no natural power to shape our judgments.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Think about all the upsetting things you don’t know about. You have no reaction as you don’t know about it. Therefore it’s possible to hold no opinion about a negative thing.
  • Practice having absolutely no thoughts about somehing – act as if you had no idea it ever occurred. Let it become irrelevant or nonexistent to you – it’ll hold less power over you this way. (09/02)

  • Anger never resolves anything. It only makes things worse.
  • Some people say that anger is a powerful motivator in their lives – using it to ‘prove everyone wrong’, or ‘to shove it in their faces’.
  • Sure, it produces results, but all that anger takes a toll – it pollutes you.
  • Eventually, the initial anger runs out and more and more has to be generated.
  • “Hate is too great a burden to bear” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Anger, and other extreme emotions, are toxic fuel. There’s plenty of it in the world, but it’s never worth the costs that come along with it. (10/02)

  • Don’t forget to ask yourself ‘Is this the life I really want?’
  • Why should you have to put up with a constantly stressful environment? Were you really made for this?
  • Don’t be afraid to make big changes. (11/02)

  • “Whenever you get an impression of some pleasure, as with any impression, guard yourself from being carried away by it, let it await your action, give yourself a pause. After that, bring to mind both times, first when you have enjoyed the pleasure and later when you will regret it and hate yourself. Then compare to those the joy and satisfaction you’d feel for abstaining altogether. However, if a seemingly appropriate time arises to act on it, don’t be overcome by its comfort, pleasantness, and allure—but against all of this, how much better the consciousness of conquering it.” – Epictetus
  • It’s important to connect the so-called temptation with its actual effects.
  • Once you understand that indulging might actually be worse than resisting, the urge begins to lose its appeal.
  • In this way, self-control becomes the real pleasure, and the temptation becomes the regret. (13/02)

  • In order to not do stupid things, ensure that your mind is in-charge, not your emotions, not your immediate physical sensations, not your surging hormones.
  • Think before you act. (14/02)

  • “There is nothing so certain in our fears that’s not yet more certain in the fact that most of what we dread comes to nothing.” – Seneca
  • “Clear your mind and get a hold on yourself and, as when awakened from sleep and realizing it was only a bad dream upsetting you, wake up and see that what’s there is just like those dreams.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Many things that upset us are a product of the imagination. Like dreams, they’re vivid and realistic at the time, but preposterous once we come out of it.
  • We don’t question the nature or sense of a dream when in it, but we just go along with it. The same goes for flights of anger, fear and other extreme emotions.
  • Getting upset is like continuing a dream whilst awake. The thing that provoked you wasn’t real – but your reaction was. (15/02)

  • “If someone asks you how to write your name, would you bark out each letter? And if they get angry, would you then return the anger? Wouldn’t you rather gently spell out each letter for them? So then, remember in life that your duties are the sum of individual acts. Pay attention to each of these as you do your duty . . . just methodically complete your task.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Life (and our job) is difficult enough. Let’s not make it harder by getting emotional about insignificant matters or digging in for battles we don’t actually care about. (16/02)

  • “It is quite impossible to unite happiness with a yearning for what we don’t have. Happiness has all that it wants, and resembling the well-fed, there shouldn’t be hunger or thirst.” – Epictetus
  • Thinking something like ‘I’ll be happy when I graduate’ is known as conditional happiness.
  • It’s like trying to walk towards the horizon. You can walk for miles and never get any closer.
  • Eagerly anticipating a future event or imagining something you desire is fun, but it ruins your chances of happiness here and now.
  • Yearning for more, better, someday is the enemy of your contentment. (17/02)

  • “Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t yet come? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth—one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.” – Epictetus
  • Remember this metaphor when you find yourself getting really excited about something, ready to do anything and everything to get it. Remind yourself: that’s bad manners and unncessary. Just wait patiently for your turn. (19/02)

  • “Ever wonder what God thinks of money? Just look at the people he gives it to.”
  • Think about young people who love partying and end up as drug addicts.
  • On the subject of indulging every whim: is it really worth it? Is it really that pleasurable? (20/02)

  • What we desire makes us vunerable.
  • When we pine for something, when we hope against hope, we set ourselves up for disappointment, as fate can always intervene and then we’re likely to lose our self-control in response.
  • “It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little” – Diogenes
  • To want nothing makes you invincible, as nothing lies outside your control.
  • Remember, this can be good things as well as bad – think of Gatsby’s green light (love). (21/02)

  • It’s easy to act – to just dive in. It’s harder to stop, to pause, to think: ‘No, I’m not sure I need to do that yet. I’m not sure I am ready.’
  • Instead, wait and prepare. Explore your thoughts and ensure you’re not acting emotionally, selfishly, ignorantly, or prematurely.
  • To do this requires awareness, to stop and evaluate ourselves honestly. (22/02)

  • “You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Circumstances are incapable of considering or caring for your feelings, your anxiety or your excitement.
  • They don’t care about your reaction. So stop acting like getting worked up is having an impact on a given situation. (23/02)

  • Our reactions and opinions are what actually decide whether harm has occured. If we feel like we’ve been wronged and get angry, of course that’s how it’ll seem.
  • But if we retain control of ourselves, we decide whether to label something good or bad. (24/02)

  • “Keep a list before your mind of those who burned with anger and resentment about something, of even the most renowned for success, misfortune, evil deeds, or any special distinction. Then ask yourself, how did that work out? Smoke and dust, the stuff of simple myth trying to be legend . . .” – Marcus Aurelius
  • No matter how much you achieve in life, no matter how much of your will you inflict on the world, it’s like building a castle in the sand – soon to be erased by the winds of time.
  • Eventually, all of us will pass away and slowly be forgotten. We should enjoy this brief time we have on earth, not be enslaved by emotions that make us miserable or dissatisfied. (25/02)

  • It’s easy to fight back. It’s tempting to give people a piece of your mind.
  • But you almost always end up with regret.
  • Think of the last time you flew off the handle. What was the outcome? Was there any benefit? (26/02)

  • What if, where others were upset, envious, excited, possessive, or greedy, you were objective, calm and clearheaded?
  • Imagine what it would do for your relationships at work, or for your love life, or your friendships.
  • Seneca was rich and had many things. But he simply enjoyed material things while they were there, and accepted that someday they’d all dissapear.
  • That’s a much better attitude than desperately craving more or fearfully losing even a penny. Indifference is solid middle ground.
  • It’s not about avoidance or shunning, but rather not giving any possible outcome more power or preference than is appropriate. This isn’t easy to do, but imagine how much more relaxed you’d be if you could. (27/02)

  • If you mess up, remember that it doesn’t change the philosophy that you know.
  • It’s not as if your reasoned choice has permanently abandoned you.
  • Rather, it was you who temporarily abandoned it.
  • Remember that the tools and aims of our training are unaffected by the turbulence of the moment. (28/02)

  • “When children stick their hand down a narrow goody jar they can’t get their full fist out and start crying. Drop a few treats and you will get it out! Curb your desire – don’t set your heart on so many things and you will get what you need.” – Epictetus
  • In modern life, we think we can have it all – work, family, purpose, success, leisure time, we want all of this, at the same time.
  • But we must focus and prioritise.
  • Train your mind to ask: Do I need this thing? What’ll happen if I don’t get it? Can I make do without it?
  • The answers to these questions will help you relax and cut out all the needless things that make you busy – too busy to be balanced or happy. (29/02)


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