The Daily Stoic: Awareness

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


  • “An important place to begin in philosophy is this: a clear perception of one’s own ruling principle.” – Epictetus
  • He’s saying that one becomes a philosopher when they begin to exercise their guiding reason and start to question the emotions and beliefs and even language that others take for granted. (01/03)

  • You must have a true self-estimate. Even if that means downgrading your beliefs about who you are, and what you’re capable of.
  • It is a great failing “to see yourself as more than you are” …but it is equally damaging to “value yourself at less than your true worth” – Goethe
  • We underestimate our capabilities just as much and as dangerously as we overestimate other abilities.
  • Cultivate the ability to judge yourself accurately and honestly. Look inward to discern what you’re capable of and what it will take to unlock that potential. (02/03)

  • We all have a whole host of conflicting wants and desires. If we’re not careful, all these forces will eventually tear us apart.
  • We have a choice: stand with the philosopher and focus strenuously on the inside, or behave like the leader of a mob, becoming whatever the crowd needs at a given moment. (03/03)

  • “The person is free who lives as they wish, neither compelled, nor hindered, nor limited—whose choices aren’t hampered, whose desires succeed, and who doesn’t fall into what repels them. Who wishes to live in deception—tripped up, mistaken, undisciplined, complaining, in a rut? No one. These are base people who don’t live as they wish; and so, no base person is free.” – Epictetus
  • “No slavery is more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed” – Seneca
  • This slavery is seen when you’re doing things just to impress others, in people who are controlled by their powerful positions and great wealth, in the person who’s always cleaning up after a dysfunctional friend, and when we attend constant events that we don’t have time for.
  • Take stock of your obligations. How many of them are self-imposed? How many necessary? (04/03)

  • “So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we owe this consideration – either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren’t useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren’t worth that much. But we don’t discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly.” – Seneca
  • There is a cost to constant accumulating. Take stock of your many possessions, and think: do I need this? Is it superfluous? What’s this actually worth? What is this actually costing me? (05/03)

  • “In public avoid talking often and excessively about your accomplishments and dangers, for however much you enjoy recounting your dangers, it’s not so pleasant for others to hear about your affairs.” – Epictetus
  • Live in what’s real. Listen and connect with people, don’t perform for them. (06/03)

  • Because our senses are often wrong, our emotions overly alarmed, our projections overly optimistic, we’re better off not rushing into conclusions about anything.
  • We should take a beat with everything we do and become aware of everything that’s going on so we can make the right decision. (07/03)

  • “If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled – have you no shame in that?” – Epictetus
  • We seem to willingly hand over our minds to social media, to television, to what other people are doing, thinking or saying.
  • We sit down in a park, but instead of looking inward, we’re judging people as they pass by.
  • We do this without thinking about it. There is so much waste in it; it makes us inefficient and distracted.
  • And it’s completely self-inflicted.
  • The stoics believed that the world can control our bodies – we can be thrown in jail, but the mind is ours. We must protect it.
  • Maintain control over your mind and perceptions. It’s your most prized possession. (08/03)

  • “From good people you’ll learn good, but if you mingle with the bad you’ll destroy such soul as you had.” – Musonius Rufus, quoting Theognis of Megara
  • “Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are.” – Goethe
  • Think about the people you meet and spend time with: Are they making you better? Do they encourage you to push forward and hold you accountable?
  • Then ask yourself: Should I spend more or less time with these people?
  • “If I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.” – Goethe (09/03)

  • “We can remove most sins if we have a witness standing by as we are about to go wrong. The soul should have someone it can respect, by whose example it can make its inner sanctum more inviolable. Happy is the person who can improve others, not only when present, but even when in their thoughts!” – Seneca
  • We should each have a great and noble person we can allow into our minds and use to guide our actions, even when they’re not physically present.
  • Adam Smith had his ‘indifferent spectator’ – someone to stand witness to his behaviour.
  • If you live your life right, perhaps one day someone will choose you to guide their actions, even when you’re not present. (10/03)

  • “Nobody does wrong willingly” – Socrates
  • Nobody is wrong on purpose, either.
  • Nobody thinks they’re wrong, even when they are.
  • Could it be that the harm others have done to you wasn’t inflicted intentionally? What if they thought they were doing the right thing – for them, or even for you?
  • “Let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” – Abraham Lincoln
  • You’d be so much more tolerant and understanding if you saw the actions of others as attempts to do the right thing. (12/03)

  • We so often fight against things that happen as we’re so focused on our own plan, but we forget there may be a bigger plan we don’t know about.
  • Think of all the times disaster turned out to be a lucky break.
  • Remember: we’re not the ones that matter; our loss may be someone else’s gain.
  • Remember: all things are guided by reason, even though it’s often a vast and universal reason that we can’t see. (13/03)

  • “It is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.” – Epictetus
  • If you believe you are perfect, then you’ll be unable to improve, learn and earn the respect of others.
  • Ego and self-deception are the enemies of the things we wish to have because we delude ourselves into believing we already possess them. (14/03)

  • “Were you to live three thousand years, or even a countless multiple of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and the shortest life, then, amount to the same, for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what’s not theirs?” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Notice how often you look for more: wanting the past to be more than it was, or wanting the future to unfold exactly as you expect.
  • When you do this, you’re neglecting the present moment.
  • If you enjoy the present, it will be enough. It will last a lifetime. (15/03)

  • “You are not your body and hair-style, but your capacity for choosing well. If your choices are beautiful, so too will you be.” – Epictetus
  • It is easy to confuse the image we present to the world for who we actually are.
  • Consider not how things appear, but what effort, activity and choices they are a result of. (17/03)

  • “Today I escaped from the crush of circumstances, or better put, I threw them out, for the crush wasn’t from outside me but in my own assumptions.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • On tough days we often say that ‘my work is overwhelming’ or ‘my boss is really fustrating’.
  • But this is impossible. Someone can’t fustrate you, and work can’t overwhelm you. These are external objects, and they have no access to your mind.
  • Those emotions you feel, as real as they are, come from the inside, not the outside. (18/03)

  • “For there are two rules to keep at the ready—that there is nothing good or bad outside my own reasoned choice, and that we shouldn’t try to lead events but to follow them.” – Epictetus
  • “The cause of my irritation is not in this person but in me.” – Anthony de Mello
  • Each individual has a choice. You’re always the one in control.
  • The cause of our irritation, or our notion that something is bad comes from us, from our labels or expectations.
  • Just as easily we can change those labels, in order to accept and love what’s happening around us. (19/03)

  • “I may wish to be free from torture, but if the time comes for me to endure it, I’ll wish to bear it courageously with bravery and honor. Wouldn’t I prefer not to fall into war? But if war does befall me, I’ll wish to carry nobly the wounds, starvation, and other necessities of war. Neither am I so crazy as to desire illness, but if I must suffer illness, I’ll wish to do nothing rash or dishonorable. The point is not to wish for these adversities, but for the virtue that makes adversities bearable.” – Seneca
  • “Of course I deprecate war, but if it is brought to my door the bringer will will find me at home” – President James Garfield
  • Sure, you’d be crazy to want to face difficulty in life. But you’d be equally crazy to pretend it isn’t going to happen.
  • So when it comes knocking, ensure that you’re ready to answer. Not as we are when a suprise visitor arrives, but as when we’re waiting for an important guest: dressed, in the right head space, ready to go.
  • “Let’s roll.” – Todd Beamer (United Airlines Flight 93, September 11th, 2001) (20/03)

  • “People seek retreats for themselves in the country, by the sea, or in the mountains. You are very much in the habit of yearning for those same things. But this is entirely the trait of a base person, when you can, at any moment, find such a retreat in yourself. For nowhere can you find a more peaceful and less busy retreat than in your own soul—especially if on close inspection it is filled with ease, which I say is nothing more than being well-ordered. Treat yourself often to this retreat and be renewed.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • “Wherever you go, there you are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • We can find a retreat at any time by looking inward. That will give us peace, nothing else. (21/03)

  • “Eat like a human being, drink like a human being, dress up, marry, have children, get politically active – suffer abuse, bear with a headstrong brother, father, son, neighbor, or companion. Show us these things so we can see that you truly have learned from philosophers.” – Epictetus
  • Study, but live your life as well. That’s the only way you’ll understand what any of it means.
  • It’s only from your actions and choices over time that it will be possible to see whether you took any of the teachings to heart.
  • Living provides experience that brings meaning to the teachings of philosophy. Not the other way around. (24/03)

  • “. . . freedom isn’t secured by filling up on your heart’s desire but by removing your desire.” – Epictetus
  • There are two ways to be wealthy – to get everything you want, or to want everything you have. (25/03)

  • There is irony in doing things to impress others: the people whose opinion we covet are not all that great. They’re flawed – they’re distracted and enticed by irrelevant things themselves. (29/03)

  • “Chasing what can’t be done is madness. But the base person is unable to do anything else.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • A mind that isn’t in control of itself, that doesn’t understand its power to regulate itself, will be jerked around by external events and unquestioned impulses.
  • You must put in place training and habits now to replace ignorance and ill discipline. (31/03)


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