The Daily Stoic: Acceptance / Amor Fati

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:

Part 3: The Discipline of Will

Acceptance / Amor Fati

  • “Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will—then your life will flow well.” – Epictetus
  • Something has happened that you wish had not. You must accept what happened and change your wish that it had not happened.
  • Stoicism calls this the “art of acquiescence” – to accept rather than fight every little thing.
  • The most practiced Stoics take it a step further – enjoying, rather than simply accepting what happens.
  • Nietzsche coined the expression “amor fati” (a love of fate), to capture this idea.
  • To wish to happen what has happened is a way to avoid disappointment as nothing is contrary to your desires.
  • But to actually feel gratitude for what happens? To love it? That’s a recipe for happiness and joy. (01/11)

  • “But I haven’t at any time been hindered in my will, nor forced against it. And how is this possible? I have bound up my choice to act with the will of God. God wills that I be sick, such is my will. He wills that I should choose something, so do I. He wills that I reach for something, or something be given to me—I wish for the same. What God doesn’t will, I do not wish for.” – Epictetus
  • No matter how much preparation, no matter how skilled or smart we are, the ultimate outcome is in the lap of God. The sooner we know that, the better we will be. (02/11)

  • “Just as we commonly hear people say the doctor prescribed someone particular riding exercises, or ice baths, or walking without shoes, we should in the same way say that nature prescribed someone to be diseased, or disabled, or to suffer any kind of impairment. In the case of the doctor, prescribed means something ordered to help aid someone’s healing. But in the case of nature, it means that what happens to each of us is ordered to help aid our destiny.” – Marcus Aurelius (03/11)

  • “There is no evil in things changing, just as there is no good in persisting in a new state.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • The Stoics want you to do away with the labels of “good” and “bad” in these situations.
  • Change isn’t good. The status quo isn’t bad. They just are.
  • Remember, events are objective. It’s only our opinion that says that something is good or bad (and this worth fighting for or against).
  • A better attitude? To decide to make the most of everything. But to do that you must first cease fighting. (04/11)

  • In undergoing 12 step programs, many addicts struggle with step 2: acknowledging a higher power.
  • First they claim it’s because they’re atheists or beacause they hate religion or because they don’t understand why it matters.
  • But that’s just the addiction talking – it’s another form of selfishness and self-absorption.
  • The actual language of the step is easy to swallow: “[We] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
  • Further steps ask the addict to submit and let go. Step 2 has more to do with letting go than with God. It’s about attuning to the universe and discarding the toxic notion that we’re at the centre of it. (05/11)

  • “If the breaking day sees someone proud, The ending day sees them brought low. No one should put too much trust in triumph, No one should give up hope of trials improving. Clotho mixes one with the other and stops Fortune from resting, spinning every fate around. No one has had so much divine favor That they could guarantee themselves tomorrow. God keeps our lives hurtling on, Spinning in a whirlwind.” – Seneca
  • Clotho is one of the three Greek goddesses of fate, who spins the thread of human life.
  • No amount of prosperity, no amount of difficulty, is certain or forever.
  • A triumph becomes a trial, a trial becomes a triumph.
  • Life can change in an instant. (06/11)

  • “The universe is change. Life is opinion.” – Marcus Aurelius (09/11)

  • “Think by way of example on the times of Vespasian, and you’ll see all these things: marrying, raising children, falling ill, dying, wars, holiday feasts, commerce, farming, flattering, pretending, suspecting, scheming, praying that others die, grumbling over one’s lot, falling in love, amassing fortunes, lusting after office and power. Now that life of theirs is dead and gone . . . the times of Trajan, again the same . . .” – Marcus Aurelius
  • One generation passeth, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and resteth to the place where he arose.” – The Bible verse that Ernest Hemingway opens his book ‘The Sun Also Rises’ with.
  • With a few exceptions, things are the same as they’ve always been and always will be.
  • You’re just like the people who came before you, and you’re but a brief stopover until the people just like you who will come after.
  • The Earth abides forever, but we will come and go. (10/11)

  • “When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgment of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Wipe away the victim’s mentality, and continue to work.
  • Remember to not confuse acceptance with passivity.
  • Stoicism is not encouraging you to be a passive victim of fate. Accepting things does not mean we still cannot fight against fate or try to do our best in spite of adversity. (11/11)

  • “If we judge as good and evil only the things in the power of our own choice, then there is no room left for blaming gods or being hostile to others. – Marcus Aurelius (12/11)

  • “Don’t allow yourself to be heard any longer griping about public life, not even with your own ears!” – Marcus Aurelius
  • Complaining only gets you in a negative state of mind, and never lightens the load. (13/11)

  • “He was sent to prison. But the observation ‘he has suffered evil,’ is an addition coming from you. – Epictetus
  • An event itself is objective.
  • Acceptance isn’t passive. It’s the first step in an active process toward self-improvement. (14/11)

  • “Meditate often on the swiftness with which all that exists and is coming into being is swept by us and carried away. For substance is like a river’s unending flow, its activities continually changing and causes infinitely shifting so that almost nothing at all stands still.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • “No man steps in the same river twice.” (Because the river has changed, and so has the man.” – Heraclitus
  • Life is in a constant state of change. And so are we. To get upset by things is to wrongly assume that they will last. To kick ourselves or to blame others is grabbing at the wind. To resent change is to wrongly assume that you have a choice in the matter.
  • Everything is change. Embrace that. Flow with it. (15/11)

  • “Hecato says, ‘cease to hope and you will cease to fear.’ . . . The primary cause of both these ills is that instead of adapting ourselves to present circumstances we send out thoughts too far ahead.” – Seneca
  • Hope is generally regarded as good, and fear bad. But to Hecato, they’re the same – both are projections into the future about things we do not control.
  • Both are the enemy of this present moment that you are actually in.
  • Both mean you’re living a life in opposition to amor fati.
  • It’s not about overcoming fears, but understanding that both hope and fear contain a dangerous amount of want and worry in them.
  • And sadly, the want is what causes the worry. (16/11)

  • “When philosophy is wielded with arrogance and stubbornly, it is the cause for the ruin of many. Let philosophy scrape off your own faults, rather than be a way to rail against the faults of others.” – Seneca
  • Leave other people to their faults. Nothing in Stoic philosophy empowers you to judge them – only to accept them. Especially when we have so many faults of our own.
  • The purpose of philosophy is to make ourselves better, and to leave other people to that task themselves and their own journey. (17/11)

  • “Our rational nature moves freely forward in its impressions when it:
    1. accepts nothing false or uncertain
    2. directs its impulses only to acts for the common good
    3. limits its desires and aversions only to what’s in its own power
    4. embraces everything nature assigns it.” – Marcus Aurelius (18/11)

  • “If you’ve seen the present, you’ve seen all things, from time immemorial into all of eternity. For everything that happens is related and the same.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • “As it was in the beginning, and now, and always, and to the ages of ages.” – Gloria Patri, a Christian hymn (20/11)

  • “Fortune falls heavily on those for whom she’s unexpected. The one always on the lookout easily endures.” – Seneca
  • There is a story of a Zen master who had a beautiful prized cup. He would repeat to himself “The glass is already broken.” He enjoyed the cup, but in his mind, it was already broken. And so when it finally broke, he simply said, “Of course.”
  • Devastation – that feeling that we’re absolutely crushed and shocked by an event – is a factor of how unlikely we considered that event in the first place.
  • Nobody is wrecked by the fact that it snows in winter, as we’ve accepted (and even anticipated) this turn of events.
  • What about the occurrences that suprise us? We might not be so shocked if we took the time to consider their possibility. (22/11)

  • “In short, you must remember this—that if you hold anything dear outside of your own reasoned choice, you will have destroyed your capacity for choice.” – Epictetus
  • “There is one thing and only one thing that causes unhappiness. The name of that thing is Attachment.” – Anthony de Mello
  • This can be attachments you have to an image of a person, to wealth and status, to a certain place or time, also to a job or lifestyle.
  • All of these things are dangerous as they’re outside your reasoned choice. How long we keep the isn’t in our control.
  • Our attachments are whet make it so hard to accept change. Once we have them, we don’t want to let go.
  • But everything is in a constant state of change.
  • The only permanent thing is prohairesis, our capacity for reasoned choice. The things we’re attached to can come and go, but our choice is resilent and adaptable. (23/11)

  • “Whenever you experience the pangs of losing something, don’t treat it like a part of yourself but as a breakable glass, so when it falls you will remember that and won’t be troubled. So too, whenever you kiss your child, sibling, or friend, don’t layer on top of the experience all the things you might wish, but hold them back and stop them, just as those who ride behind triumphant generals remind them they are mortal. In the same way, remind yourself that your precious one isn’t one of your possessions, but something given for now, not forever . . .” – Epictetus (24/11)

  • “As for me, I would choose being sick over living in luxury, for being sick only harms the body, whereas luxury destroys both the body and the soul, causing weakness and incapacity in the body, and lack of control and cowardice in the soul. What’s more, luxury breeds injustice because it also breeds greediness.” – Musonius Rufus (25/11)

  • “We are like many pellets of incense falling on the same altar. Some collapse sooner, others later, but it makes no difference.” – Marcus Aurelius (26/11)

  • “How satisfying it is to dismiss and block out any upsetting or foreign impression, and immediately to have peace in all things.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • “Always shun that which makes you angry.” – Publilius Syrus
  • If you find that discussing politics over dinner results in fighting, why do you keep bringing it up?
  • If your sibling’s life choices bother you, why don’t you stop picking at them and making them your concern?
  • It’s not a sign of weakness to shut them out. Instead, it’s a sign of a strong will. Try saying: “I know the reaction I typically have in these situations, and I’m not going to have it this time.”
  • And then follow it with: “I’m also going to remove this stimulus from my life in the future, as well.”
  • Because what follows is peace and serenity. (27/11)

  • “If someone is slipping up, kindly correct them and point out what they missed. But if you can’t, blame yourself—or no one.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • A good teacher knows that when a student is failing, the blame falls on the instructor, not the pupil.
  • If a friend is unreliable, maybe it’s because they don’t know what’s wrong or because we haven’t tried to help them fix their flaw.
  • If an employee is underperforming, just talk to them or figure out if they’re lacking in support.
  • If someone is being annoying, try talking to them about the problem with their behaviour, or ask yourself: why am I being so sensitive?
  • And if this doesn’t work, try letting it go. It might be an isolated incident anyway. (28/11)

  • “Don’t lament this and don’t get agitated.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • There’s that feeling we get when something happens: It’s all over now. All is lost.
  • What follows are complaints and pity and misery – the impotent struggle against something that’s already occured.
  • Why bother? We have no idea what the future holds. We have no idea what’s coming up around the bend. It could be more problems, or this could be the darkness before the dawn.
  • If we’re Stoic, there is one thing we can be sure of: whatever happens, we’re going to be ok. (29/11)

  • “The person who follows reason in all things will have both leisure and a readiness to act—they are at once both cheerful and self-composed.” – Marcus Aurelius
  • The guiding reason of the world – the Stoics called this the logos – works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, the logos gives is what we want, sometimes it gives us precisely the opposite.
  • In either case, they believed that the logos was an all-powerful force that governed the universe.
  • An analogy to explain the logos: We are like a dog leashed to a moving cart. The direction of the cart will determine where we go. Depending on the length of the leash, we also have a fair amount of room to explore and determine the pace, but ultimately what each of us must choose is whether we will go willingly or be painfully dragged. Which will it be?
  • Cheerful acceptance? Or ignorant refusal? In the end, they amount to the same. (30/11)


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