In the online Stoic community, much emphasis is placed on how to cultivate virtuous habits and improve ourselves. However, there seems to be a lack of discussion regarding the negative habits that already exist in our lives. Epictetus, a prominent Stoic philosopher, identified two vices – lack of persistence and lack of self-control – as particularly detrimental. He emphasized the importance of persisting and resisting, striving to act in the right way even when we don’t feel inclined to do so. Developing new positive ways of behaving is a challenging process that requires persistence. Equally significant is the practice of resistance, which involves avoiding temptations and harmful habits that hinder our growth.
This channel explores various topics related to good Stoic habits, but it has yet to address the aspects of our day-to-day lives that we should avoid. This is an opportune moment to begin removing anything from our lives that negatively impacts us. Let’s steer clear of negative emotions that distract us from achieving our goals. In this article, we will discuss nine common habits that we should steer clear of if we wish to lead fulfilling and joyful lives.
Stop Wasting Your Time
We waste a lot of time watching videos on TikTok, Instagram, etc. Seneca had this to say: “We complain that our days are few, but we act as if they were infinite.” Seneca reflected a lot about the length of life and came to the conclusion that many of us do not really live, we simply exist. We waste our time doing things that bring us nothing and we postpone what we have to do when we feel lazy. We act as if we are going to live forever and we don’t realize that time is the most valuable thing we have. Nothing assures you that you will be alive tomorrow or that you will be in a position to do what you want to do. In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “You could stop living right now.” Let that determine what you do, say and think. Let this reflection on time make you not waste it and value it as it deserves. The first step to living a good life is to start taking seriously the time we have.
Do Not Be Afraid of Change
Marcus Aurelius wrote the following in his Meditations: “The destiny of everything is to change, to transform, to perish so that you can make it new.” Everything in life is subject to change, both the good and the bad. Trying to keep everything the same, apart from keeping you focused on something you cannot control, prevents you from discovering the many opportunities that exist and can appear in your life. Do not fear these changes as they are inevitable and good. Instead of focusing on avoiding change, focus on adapting to it, on keeping the good part of the new that appears in your life. Through change we can become better. That does not mean that we should reject the old or what we have now in search of changes in our life. If we are satisfied with what we have, it only means that we should not be afraid of it since we have the capacity to adapt to everything that life presents us with.
Don’t Let Anxiety Rule You
In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote the following: “Today I escaped from anxiety or not, I discarded it because it was within me, in my own perceptions, not outside. External events do not cause anxiety, you are the only one responsible since that feeling is born inside you because of your thoughts towards your future problems.” Anxiety does not help you or make you better, it does not even help you to solve the problem, it is simply a thought that tortures you thinking about what may or may not happen in the future. Realize that whatever happens in the future, no matter how much uncertainty there is in your life, you have overcome worse situations before. Understand that you have tools to combat anything bad that may come in the future. Differentiate between the things you can’t control and the things that are under your control and think about the worst that can happen. In many cases you will realize that the situation is less serious than you thought.
Stop Clinging Emotionally to Things
The Stoics believe that we have to learn to let go, not only on the physical level but also on an emotional level. You have made a mistake in your life, don’t torture yourself with it, learn so you don’t make it again. Guilt and regret don’t help you. This does not mean that it is wrong to feel these emotions. These emotions help us understand that we have acted wrongly but once we have understood that we have acted wrongly and we learn from the situation so as not to make the same mistake again, we should not let these emotions continue to torment us. We all make mistakes, don’t suffer excessively from it and always look for ways to grow from the mistake.
Marcus Aurelius wrote in his Meditations the following: “You could do something good today. However you choose to do it tomorrow.” Or in the words of Seneca, “All fools have in common that they are always preparing to begin.” We prefer to say “I’ll do it tomorrow” instead of saying “I’m never going to do it” although many times when we postpone something it is never to do it. If you have something to do, do it now. What’s the point of postponing something you have to do even if it makes you lazy? It is always better to do what you should do now for several reasons. The first, as I have already mentioned, is because our time is limited and the second is that rest is more enjoyable when you have fulfilled your obligations. When you postpone something out of laziness you feel guilty and you know you should be doing something instead of resting. You don’t enjoy rest in the same way because deep down you know you don’t deserve it. The worst thing is that sooner or later you will have to fulfill that obligation so you have gained absolutely nothing by postponing it. There are few sensations that surpass the satisfaction of a job well done and to be well done implies doing it at the right time, not later.
Stop Looking The Other Way
In Stoicism, one of the most important virtues is justice. Philosophers like Marcus Aurelius or Cicero taught a lot in their works about this virtue. To be just means to act with others in the right way. It is to do what we should. In the Meditations, Marcus Aurelius talks about how injustice can also be done when we do nothing. When injustice is being done, doing nothing and letting it pass makes us complicit. A big part of being just involves avoiding injustices that happen around us even if they are not caused by us. Stoics are people who avoid unnecessary comfort, believing that we should live in harmony with others. But there are situations in which a Stoic cannot look the other way. The moment when unnecessary conflict becomes necessary conflict and that moment occurs when an injustice is being committed against oneself or others. A Stoic must defend himself not forgetting the four Stoic virtues of wisdom, justice, courage and temperance. Although it is beyond our control that others commit injustices, our actions to prevent them from happening are within our control and this makes us responsible for acting. Avoiding that responsibility makes us complicit in injustice even though it has not been provoked by us.
Stop Being a Slave
Seneca wrote the following: “He is a slave who shows me who is not one. One person is a slave to lust, another to greed, a third to ambition, and all are slaves to hope. They are all slaves to fear. There is no servitude more shameful than that which we voluntarily assume.” Seneca was right when he said that we are all slaves to something. Many times we are not even aware of it. We have forgotten that to be truly free we must have our mind totally under our control and thus be able to resist the temptations that appear in our life. The best tool to achieve freedom and master our mind is discipline. For some it will be harder than for others, but we must all remind ourselves daily who is in charge – we or our impulses? Or in the words of Epictetus, “No man is free unless he is master of himself.”
Stop Looking For Profit or Recognition in Everything You Do
If you have done something well, if you have helped someone, if you have succeeded with something, stop looking for approval or recognition from others thinking that other people have to thank you for what you do for them or that they have to congratulate you for what you have achieved. The the only thing you will generate is suffering. You do not control what others think. You do not control whether they appreciate or reject what you do. You control only your actions. Let the end of an action be the action itself, not the recognition. If you do something, do it because it makes you happy or because you believe it is the right thing to do. Recognition and congratulations from others usually come after a job well done, but if no one recognizes your effort and your work, nothing happens. You didn’t do it for that reason. You did it because it was the right thing to do. Understand that thinking this way will make you feel satisfied with yourself regardless of what others think. Focus better on doing your best.
Stop Settling For Mediocrity, Strive For Excellence
Every time you do something in your life, ask yourself, have I given my best? If you look back on your life, you will realize that in many situations you did not give your best. The question is why are you doing something that doesn’t deserve your best? And if it does, why didn’t you give it? Ask yourself this question with everything you do and always try to do your best. We do not control whether we succeed in what we do. We do not control whether we win or lose. We do not control whether we will get recognition for what we do. But it is in our control to try our best and do our best in what we do. Everything else that is not in our control should not matter to us. Why settle for doing something mediocre when you have the capacity to do something extraordinary?
Do you have any habits in your life that you’d like to change for the better? I’m eager to hear your thoughts in the comments section! This article aims to assist you in breaking free from unproductive habits that are common in our daily lives. By eliminating these habits and adopting new ones as explained here, you can pave the way towards a more peaceful, joyful and purposeful life.